Is a Figure Competition for YOU?

Good Afternoon!

I’ve had a busy day so far at work and I am finally able to sit down.  We had a candidate interview today (for my job), which went really well.  I hope it works out, she would be a great addition to the staff.

I’ve yet to get back into my regular workout routine, which is just fine with me.  Life happens 🙂  Tomorrow I do hope to hit the weights though.

Today I did manage some exercise though, which was a 2 mile walk with my pups and I also participated in the candidate’s 30-minute group exercise demo, which was really good.  She did a combination of step aerobics drills and weights.  Now onto today’s topic…

Is a Figure Competition for YOU?

Figure Competitor


Today I wanted to talk about figure competitions.  I’m going to talk a bit about my background and why I quit my prep half way though.  I’ll also talk about what it takes in terms of diet and exercise to get in that kind of shape.

My background:

When I was 20 years old I was really into reading about figure competitors and wanted to do a competition so bad.  However, I knew that at that age it was not for me as I did not want to give up my freedom at college in terms of what I ate (and drank!). I’m glad I decided against that lifestyle at that point because it would have definitely hindered my college experience in a negative way.

When I went on to graduate school I thought that would be a better time for me to compete.  I rarely partied and I was out of my sorority house and was able to cook on my own.

I decided to hire a coach, who would communicate with me through email and phone (she lived in another state).  She sent me weekly workouts and my diet. It seemed easy enough to just follow everything exactly and I would get to the end result.

It actually was easy at first. I ate what I was told and did the workouts she made for me, no questions asked.  I had never dieted before EVER.   I have always just “ate”, plain and simple.  I never let food become complicated.

But surprisingly with my lack of dieting knowledge, I was able to follow the diet very easily and I weighed and measured everything to a “t”.

At first I was allowed one cheat meal per week, which I took on the weekend.  But after 2 weeks my weight did not budge, so my coach nixed the cheats. That was rough, as I ate the same plain food day in and day out.  However, that was the magic bullet- my weight started to drop a good 2lbs each week.  I was always very excited to step on the scale to see a smaller number.  It was confirmation my efforts were paying off.

As the weeks went on things got tougher, as expected.  My attitude towards food began to shift. I remember I was doing an internship at this time at a hospital in cardiac rehab.  One day we went to a presentation and lunch was given to us for free.  I of course could not eat it and brought my own food.  Obviously, that looks odd and I got a ton of questions. I became almost angered that people questioned my food choices, which is very unlike me.  I almost snapped at others and even judged THEM for wanting to eat the potato chips and sandwich (which is what I really wanted, not my chicken and green beans!).

I also became very protective of my food. I relate this feeling to a dog, who is guarding their dog bowl and growling – it was strange how I had this intense love of my food all of a sudden and I would get angered if someone God forbid ate one of my strawberries or a piece of my chicken.  I am not like this in my ‘normal’ state of mind, and openly share my food!

I also began to dream about food like peanut butter, cupcakes, and other goodies.  All I could think about was food, food, food!  I remember being on the treadmill and literally day dreaming of tasting peanut butter.  It sounds crazy doesn’t it?


Aside from food fixations, I was exhausted all of the time. I was moody and irritable too.  I ended up quitting after 6-weeks, which led me to an even unhealthier state of mind because I experienced what is called the “rebound” effect of dieting.

My body wanted food so badly and boy did I eat.  At first, it felt good to eat.  But it got to the point where I was binge eating every day and still felt hungry!  My blood sugar was also going crazy and I would have extreme dips which would cause me to get the shakes.

It took me about 6-weeks to gain the weight I lost (which was not much, about 8lbs) and the binging to stop.  I also stopped obsessing about food and daydreaming of it.  My blood sugar no longer went crazy either.

Why Compete?

So why the heck do some people choose to compete if it feels like complete hell? Well, I think others ENJOY that process.  It’s tough and I believe some people like to be challenged to that level, both physically and mentally.  And I bet it feels pretty damn good to be on stage showing off your hard, lean body.


However, it is not the sport for me nor do I see myself ever attempting to do it again.  I’d much rather have a physical goal that doesn’t have to do with what I look like, such as a race.

What it takes to compete:

The steps it takes to get into contest shape is hard – you have to be willing to be 100% dedicated to your workouts (both cardio and weight training) and your diet.  You have to be willing to weigh and measure EVERY morsel of food that goes into your mouth.  And that got old real quick with me, but I did it (note: measuring condiments is a major pain in my ass!)

You also have to be willing to shell out a lot of money. If you hire a prep coach, that is going to cost you big time.  You also have to buy a special suit, which are way over priced (usually over $100) and special shoes.  The food shopping was not cheap either.  At one point I was buying 90 eggs each week and a boat load of supplements from


Unrealistic Expectations

When I was 20 years old, I had no idea the amount of hard work it took to look like a figure competitor.  I thought all I had to do was a few more crunches at the gym and up my protein intake.  But the truth is that it takes a LOT of hard work. It’s a lot more than working out and eating “clean”.  You have to be extremely meticulous with what goes into your mouth.

It’s unrealistic to think you can stay that lean all of the time.  Sure, some people DO stay that lean for their job, but the majority of people do not look like that, nor is it the healthiest way to live.  From what I have seen online on various websites, most competitor’s weights vary a good 15-20lbs during the off season vs. competition season.  Some may vary even more, depending on how loose they are with their diets in the off season.

I’m OK being Imperfect

I am not sure I ever want to see myself at my leanest or having the “perfect” body because it’s not maintainable. I’m ok with having imperfections.

Over time, I have began to appreciate my body and how it looks every day not what I wish it looked like. I want to have a body that looks good every day (to me), which is how I feel right now, at my current body weight and size.  I have curves, I’m strong, and I am in shape.  It works for me and is maintainable for my life.   There is no mental struggle going on inside me about food.

Do Your Research

I know I am partial to not doing competitions, but I do think that some people are able to have some sort of balance with the sport, and I applaud those who have a passion for it and do it in a somewhat healthful manor.

If you are interested in doing a competition, please DO YOU RESEARCH.  There is so much to learn and a lot of bad information out there, so I can’t stress that enough.

If you are looking for a coach, make sure to ask for references and really ask them questions regarding their diet and fitness philosophy.  As with anything, there are good ways to do things and there are really bad ways to do something.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of coaches out there who do things the bad way.  I personally do not have any recommendations for a coach.  I have not read about nor met anyone that I really agree with.  I am actually all for doing your own meal and training plans (if you are knowledgeable in this area) like my friend Tina did.


Have you ever competed? Did you enjoy it?

If you have not competed, have you thought about it?

39 responses to “Is a Figure Competition for YOU?

  1. I used to want to compete, back in the days when I was 02 more. Now, I know I would never want to do that to myself.

    I’ve basically ate like a competitior when I wasn’t even traning for a comp, and I experienced all of the things you just mentioned. I don’t want to do that to myself anymore! Just eat baby 🙂 and whatever you want.

  2. This was such a great post. I can honestly say that I do not have the desire to compete in a figure competition. I enjoy my social life of food way too much. I don’t want to stress about food combinations/ratios/etc. I like eating a healthy diet with a few splurges and running to my heart’s desire. I am not a big weight lifter and I just don’t ever see myself turning into one! While I do think those fitness bodies are amazing I also think they pay a very high price to get them and for me it isn’t worth the cost. However for those you want it…more power to you! 🙂

  3. GREAT POST! You know I agree with every bit of it. As great as it did feel to accomplish a show, it wasn’t for me for the reasons you lifted. Even with doing my own prep and making the progress I needed to, I didn’t love still having to be restrictive and not just live. I love that you point out the unrealistic side of having that type of body year round.

  4. not for me at all. im quite amazed tho when i read more about them and why they chose to do this. even your story is quite amazing.

    i used to always think it would be fun to see a documentary film on fitness/figure competitors instead of beauty pageants.

  5. Great post. I have thought about it briefly until I started blogging and following a few competitors and realized all that they go through. I have the workouts down. It would be the eats that got to me I believe. I lean too heavily to being OCD with food anyway (and not in the best way). I want to be able to enjoy food (like my Pizza Fridays) without feeling like I’m “cheating” all the time…if that makes sense.

  6. A reader of mine sent me over here. I am doing my first show this weekend!

    The path though that I have taken is not at all like your path…I have not taken one single supplement or eaten any animal products. I am a high raw, GF, soy-light, all vegan competitor. I have not restricted my food or dieted in the least. I would eat and live this way anyway. And have been for the past 10 yrs or so.

    I have been a yoga teacher for about 10 years and recently (just a few months ago) got into lifting and am competing.

    I love reading everyone’s story, how they got where they are, why, and their path and outcome.

    Write me or stop by my site if you’d like to chat!

    p.s. so far all the commenters aside from the 1st are daily or nearly-daily readers of my blog too…we have lots of friends in common 🙂

  7. linds, i agree with you completely..
    i used to want to compete and sometimes still think i’d like to have that experience, but at the same time i don’t think i can give up the splurges i have every once in awhile or even limit specific intake of the different food groups. i do respect and admire those who have the strength to do it though..major props to them!

  8. I’ve never put much though into competing, or what it takes to do so, so this post was really eye opening for me! I am with you – I am ok with my body not being 100% perfect. There are certain things I would not want to sacrifice and I don’t think I have the discipline to do something like this.

  9. Crazy!!! Great post. I definitely would not judge anyone who chose to do this, but I know that pushing myself for a purely visual result (versus the accomplishment of finishing a marathon, etc.) would really, really hurt me. I have issues with food anyway like many of us do, and any time I have tried to “really watch” what goes into my mouth it turned into obsession and all sorts of negativity. So at least I know it is not for me!

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  11. Great post! I just watched an episode on MTV’s MADE where she was training to do a competition. It just seems to unrealistic to treat your body like that, but I bet the feeling of accomplishment is insane when you’re standing up there on stage!

  12. I have definitely thought about it- especially a lot lately….but I don’t think I could give up my frozen yogurt & peanut butter. Also I think it’s kind of scary how some women get so muscle-ly..and buff- kind of too manly in my opinion. I prefer to be tone & fit- not super buff with huge muscles or anything like that.

  13. Excellent blog post Lindsey! I really, really enjoyed this. You showed both sides and detailed why it’s not healthy or realistic for a lot of people. This would be the worst thing I could do at this point(or ever, probably) and don’t agree with being so obsessive about your body and food. Really, why are we getting up on stage with people judging our bodies? This seems wrong to me. Do what you love but dont let it become an obsession! Thanks for this post!

  14. Competing is something I would like to do eventually. I’m no stranger to dieting and 2X day workouts. But, there are other things I would like to do eventually too. I would like to run a marathon. I would like to rock climb. Great post!

  15. holy crud, this post is great! thanks for sharing your history with competing. i haven’t ever wanted to, but i have dieted the way you explained and i totally related to everything you said up there about food!

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  17. I just saw this posted on Janetha’s blog, and I’m SO glad I clicked over. Last fall, I did a 12-week bootcamp and they basically put us on a competition prep diet. It was horrible, but I lost 12 lbs. Since it ended around Halloween, I’ve regained the weight, probably plus a lb or two, and it’s been really hard to un-do what the whole experience (from the dieting to the gaining it back) has done to me mentally. I’m still not totally over it, so hearing your story really helps, because I know I’m NOT the only one who went through this.

  18. I came over from Jantha’s blog and what a great post! I have been eating off and on like this since January 4th. For me, it sucks and is not healthy at all mentally. I would never recommend it to anyone. It definitely takes a special type to be able to eat like this for prolonged periods of time and adhere 100%. I am phasing into “normal” eating again and have NO idea what will happen or how I will adjust. *sigh*

    • You’ll get there. Learn to trust your body again and listen to you hunger cues. It’s definitely a hard transition though. What helps me is knowing that being super lean is not healthy and I would rather have a healthy body than an unhealthy one.

  19. I came over here from Janetha’s site too. Your experience seems very common. I’ve done two shows and they have both been good experiences. I learned SO MANY wonderful things about myself and God. (I’m a bit of an odd bird!) I am one of those people who love the process and the challenge. I’m also not very competitive so I never looked great by figure competition standards but I sure had fun prepping. Oddly enough I don’t like the shows themselves. The bikinis are stupid looking and fake tans and fake boobs are not my style. Ha! I don’t have any plans for a show in the future but right now I’m working on earning my black belt in taekwondo and prepping for the RKC (kettlebell cert). It’s supposed to be grueling with a 30% failure rate. DId I mention I thrive on personal challenges. 😉

  20. Great post and if you aren’t coached correctly it can do damage on your body and your mind. I have a great trainer BUT i’ve had issues in the past with food so I can’t really blame it on figure competing.

    I love the process of watching my body change. Then again afterwards I do have a hard time seeing myself gaining some back.

  21. I have never thought about competing, but at the same time, I don’t have anything against those who choose to do it. In my mind, a figure competition is sort of like the marathon of the weight lifting world. It’s just another way for a fit individual to train and put their fitness to the test in preparation for one big day. I think it can really screw with a person’s body image and relationship with food though. You need to be really adjusted to come out of the whole process unscathed.

    • Hey Lindsey! I think I remember seeing you on the O2 boards. I probably just lurked in one of your journals. ;o) I’ve definitely can relate to your competition prep experience. I decided that it wasn’t the healthiest path for me and stopped shooting for the stage. Now, I’m just working on being the best me I can be…imperfections and all. Glad I found your blog!

  22. I began training for a novice figure competition almost 14 weeks ago–I have just over 7 weeks left. As an advanced health specialist and a weight management consultant, I can say this is REDICULOUS!!!! I have enjoyed your post greatly.

    I began this journey with much different goals than I have now. I will finish this, but I am now doing it MY WAY….I’m no longer listening to the “pros.” I may not have the body some of the crazy people have on stage, but I will have my health and my liver.

    I am no stranger to clean eating or hard workouts, but there is a limit. My side effects have been terrible. Thank you for your blog–it has simply reassured me that the decision I made 2 weeks ago to do things my way and more balanced was a right one.

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  24. Sounds very strange to me. I think we should appreciate our bodies for their function, and if we are competitive we can train to accomplish something like a road race (e.g. marathon) if you’re a runner, a century if you’re a cyclist, etc. Better than a competition where you’re judged on your appearance!

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  31. Interesting. I used to want to compete, and a wee & small part of me still does. I know I couldn’t do it though. It takes crazy dedication.

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