guest post! jenn n.

by Janetha on July 23, 2010

in meals

Hello Meals and Moves Readers! I’m Jenn and I blog over at Girl Heroes about my (almost) sane quest for insane health. I started my blog over 2 years ago when I began training for my first figure competition. Back then I called my blog Competing to Lose and today I thought I’d share a little bit about that process, what I lost and what I gained. I’ve read quite a few posts by other bloggers on how doing a figure competition wreaked havoc on their emotional well being or how a doing figure competitions was a dream come true. I experienced neither extreme. Competing in figure was a great experience but it certainly wasn’t something I’d classify in the "amazing" category either. For those of you thinking about doing a figure competition in the future maybe this well help you decide if it would be right for you.

I believe the most important factor in your decision is to look at your current habits and your background. This is where I think people get into the biggest emotional trouble. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you decide if a competition is right for you.

Are you struggling with eating disorders or have you recently struggled with eating disorders? If this is the case, I’d put off doing a competition until you KNOW that you have FULLY RECOVERED even then it can be a slippery slope for some. I’m going to be honest, if it was a severe case of disordered eating I would cross figure competitions off the list. I had struggled with some minor binging and purging years (10+ years) before but it was a non-issue for me at that (and this) point of my life. Prepping didn’t trigger any disordered eating for me. In fact, I think it helped me improve my habits but this isn’t the case for a lot of people.

How do you currently eat? Be honest. When I started prepping I was already back to my old eating habits eating 90% real food. The year before I had put on quite a bit of weight because of a bout with depression where I just didn’t care about what I was feeding my body. (I’ve struggled with depression on and off my whole life.) I had already completely cut out refined sugar 6 months prior. So the biggest changes in my food was how much I was eating, not what I was eating because things like almonds have a lot of calories. ;-) I didn’t have to make separate meals for me and my family. I would simply eat less or pass on some of the things I normally ate. For instance, if I made tacos I would have a taco salad with very little cheese. If I made spaghetti and meatballs I would pass on the pasta and have meatballs with a huge salad. Until the last 3 days before my show, I never ate just chicken and veggies. If we went to a sushi restaurant and I would order sashimi. Pretty simple. There were times it felt like denial but overall it wasn’t that difficult. This is because my regular meals were not that different and as I said I didn’t eat (and still don’t) refined sugar.

How much do you currently exercise? If you aren’t already lifting or going to the gym regularly you should wait until that has become a habit. When I started prepping I was already lifting and going to the gym regularly (5-6x a week). Until the end of my prep (a few weeks before the show) I didn’t work out any more than before. My workouts were simply more focused. I didn’t jack around in the gym. I was there to work. About 2 weeks before my final week, I added a few extra sessions (3-4) of cardio a week in the form of walking and slow jogs.

Can you afford it? I really couldn’t so I cut corners to make it affordable. I made my own suit. I trained myself. I borrowed make up and shoes. The only supplements I took were glutamin (stopped taking it half way through), creatine (the last month), and apple cider vinegar (does that even count as a supplement?). In the end, I spent about $400-$500 including entry fees and a hotel.

Why do you want to do a competition? There is not a right or wrong answer. Rather this question is an opportunity to see if this is something you really want to do and look for areas in which you can grow. My whys were I needed motivation and I wanted to develop more discipline. Running a race just didn’t interest me. I’ll be honest. Vanity played a part. I wanted to lose weight and I liked that figure competitions combined my love for being fit along with looking fit. My goal wasn’t to look like Jamie Easton (a pro competitor) or some other person. My goal was simply to look like the best me I could and I thought a competition would give me the motivation I needed to lean out. I DIDN’T do it to win. Cross my heart. :-) (Ironically, I ended up winning my division.) I could not have cared less about winning. In fact, I was a bit embarrassed about the idea of a figure competition (they remind me of dog shows…woof woof) and didn’t tell people for quite some time. I didn’t tell anyone but my husband about my blog for over 3 months. When I finally told people they were very encouraging and it helped with my motivation.

Do you have time? This goes right along with your current fitness and food habits. It didn’t require much more time in those departments for me. What did end up taking A LOT of time was reading and participating in forums and blogs. ;-) I spent HOURS looking at suits online. Of course, this doesn’t have to be the case for everyone but be prepared b/c it can be REAL time suck.

Overall Experience and Advice

Didn’t like: Oddly enough, I don’t like the competitions themselves. The tans, the suits, the oil, the sparkly bikinis are all so goofy to me. I don’t like being backstage with painted plastic breasted naked women. It’s very surreal and weird. My first show I didn’t get enough sleep the night before and left the dressing room crying after I saw someone with grotesquely huge seriously botched implants. It made me so sad. I don’t like walking on stage in heels. I feel like I’m going to trip. I don’t like posing. Woof woof. I don’t like fake nails unless I have an itch. I don’t like fake tans especially ones that drip.

Liked: Overall, it was a good experience for me. I don’t regret it for a second. I lost some weight, improved my discipline and learned a lot. I’m weird because I LOVED the prep. I liked that my workouts felt intentional. I liked planning my meals. I thrive by challenging myself. I am working towards my black belt in taekwondo and I am going through the Russian Kettlebell Challenge next month for the same reasons I liked the prep. I just don’t like to run which is why I don’t think I would do a race like a lot of bloggers although I may be doing an adventure triathalon in the fall. Never say never! I don’t just enjoy challenges I would say I’m the type who thrives by challenging myself, which is why I did a second competition and would consider another in the future despite not liking the shows themselves.

Rebound: Many competitors experience a rebound effect after their show where they gain 15 or more pounds within weeks from food binges. To avoid this have a plan for after the show and, even more so, this is why it is so important to have already made "clean eating" your lifestyle before beginning your prep. For months, after my show all I gained back was 4 pounds. Once I started homeschooling my kids and my activity level decreased I put on about 7 more pounds over the next 6 months. Obviously, I wasn’t thrilled but it’s life and I roll with it, slight muffin top and all. :-)

Advice: Be honest with yourself about where you are at food and fitness wise and why you want to do one. Hire a good trainer if you can afford one and think the extra accountability will help you. A good trainer is one that doesn’t give cookie cutter plans. A good trainer also doesn’t give endless hours of cardio and offers you more options than chicken, asparagus, oats, and sweet potatoes. A good trainer listens. Don’t do a show just to win because it’s always subjective. Don’t listen to everyone’s advice. Including mine. We are all different and have different personalities and requirements for our bodies. What works for one person may not work or work even better for another. It’s really easy to over analyze and doubt your choices. Listen to your body and give it time to work. Changes don’t happen overnight. Enjoy your food even if it’s not nachos. Enjoy your body and what it’s capable of. Focus on the things you like about your body and the things you can change rather than the things that bother you.

Figure competitions are certainly not for everyone but they can be a fun and rewarding experience for those who already have a healthy lifestyle, positive body image, and enjoy challenges.


1. What do you do to challenge yourself?

2. Have you ever thought about competing if a figure competition?

Hugs and High Fives, Jenn

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Andrea@WellnessNotes July 23, 2010 at 4:37 pm

I loved reading about your experiences with figure competitions! I know I will (probably) never do one, but I like the idea of challenging yourself. Actually, I’m trying to find something to challenge myself right now… I guess my biggest challenges at the moment are long, hilly hikes.

lindsay July 23, 2010 at 7:10 pm

I love to hear about these experiences! I worked with some clients who compete but never had the desire. I love your approach to it though.

closet365project July 23, 2010 at 7:34 pm

Jenn you are awesome. I would never have the courage to do a fitness competition but I am fascinated by those that do. I love your healthy attitude and it’s always a pleasure reading your blog. Great guest post!

Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) July 23, 2010 at 9:33 pm

yay Jenn. who let the dogs out, woof woof woof woof woof. :-)

I’m so impressed that you could be unaffected by the competitions even after having disordered eating in your past. You are a force to be reckoned with :-)

I challenge myself by not gaining the 90 pounds I lost- that’s a daily battle I can assure you. I don’t do races or runs or anything like that. I used to do Bicycle centuries and then once I did several, I was like ‘ok, been there done that, I get it, now I’m bored after about mile 60’. I used to mountain bike and go flying over the handlebars because I did the hard trails until one day i said “what am I trying to prove here?!?!” and then I stopped going endo all the time and enjoyed it more. My challenge is to just be as consistent with food and exercise as possible and enjoy the ride.

Fitness comp: no- not for me- if I was already teetering on disordered eating, I’d plummet myself into the depths of a disorder- definitely not what I need at this stage of the game!

GREAT post and glad that you wrote it- lots of people will benefit from it even though you told us not to listen to other people’s advice- hee!

Marcie July 24, 2010 at 5:35 am

I would really like to do a competition, but am not sure where to start. I would like to find a trainer, I am in MN…any suggestions on how you began or how to begin?

homecookedem July 25, 2010 at 8:10 am

Awesome post Jenn! I really didn’t know much about fitness comp’s until recently and reading more and more about them on blogs. I definitely think I’m for sure off the list of future fitness competitors. I don’t think it would be a good thing at all for my emotional well-being, but for those who can handle it I think it’s a cool challenge. Thanks for more info on it all!!

Talia July 26, 2010 at 11:28 am

I really really loved this post! I’m in the VERY beginning stages of prepping for a bikini figure competition and am going it alone (no trainer). I, too, view Jamie Eason as my fitness muse (not only is she my same height, she’s also a Texan and Christian– A+ in my book!) I started a blog to document my journey and really just want to do this for me before my hubby and I start for kids. I’ve given myself 6 months to do it, but really think I may be ready by November so that is what I am aiming for!

Thanks for your honest description of your experience doing the figure competition. I, too, read tons of blogs and can’ t seem to get my hands on enough articles about various competitor’s experience. It helps motivate me and keep things in perspective- namely, that my HEALTH is the most important thing and to always keep that in “check” when I start to get a little “over the top” with regard to my feelings on food and exercise. I won’t compromise my overall health for anything!


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