I have two weeks until my competition, and shit’s starting to get real. Last week commenced what I consider to be the first real “diet” portion of my 12-week contest prep, because my trainer removed about 75% of the carbs from my meals. So now, it’s basically protein + green veggies every few hours. That, combined with the fact that I’m eating about 99% less fat than I normally do (I basically get to cook with small amounts and that’s it) means that I suddenly find myself annoyingly tired, if also a few pounds lighter. My not-so-strict adherence to my diet over the preceding few weeks means that I was tasked with losing about five pounds in the last three weeks of my prep, which was incredibly daunting; but this week with my lowered carbs, I’ve lost two already, so I’m on my way.
Close to the end is also when you really start to see changes in your body. For me, it’s smaller, tighter arms and legs (I’ve always had big arms; muscle + fat = I can never wear blazers), and some visible abs now. Still, I’m not crazy-lean like a lot of the women bodybuilders you might see pictures of on social media – no bulging veins, no muscle striations. There’s just a bit less of me.
Since I know you want to see progress pictures, I’m going to give you what you want. A few caveats: these pictures were all taken first thing in the morning, so they aren’t exactly glamorous. The before picture was taken a month before my wedding, when I was at the heaviest I’ve ever been–I don’t think it’s helpful to list weights because it’s so subjective per person and body type, but if it helps, I’m 5’4 and in the first picture I was a size five; in the second I’m a two, and the difference is about 12 pounds. I’m not 100% comfortable putting nearly-naked pictures of myself on the internet for scrutiny, but I realize this is a learning process and helpful to myself and others. And it’s interesting, until I put some of these pictures side-by-side, I didn’t realize how far I’d actually come.
Another interesting development: no period this month. As a longtime birth control pill user, I’m very used to (and happy about) getting a short, painless period like clockwork every month. It’s my reminder that I’ve made it another month without getting knocked up, and I never take it for granted, so I was kind of hoping I wouldn’t lose it. I think its disappearance is less because I’m so lean (because I’m not, really) and more because I’m exercising a lot and eating less than I normally do. I do not consider this a particularly positive development but I realize that it’s fairly “normal” for women in my position and I plan to welcome my monthly visitor again as soon as the competition is over and I’m eating chocolate covered almonds like it’s my last day on earth.
Which brings me to cravings. I’m a big eater. I’m the person who eats until they’re stuffed, and then eats a little more. This process has taught me a lot about eating to satiety, eating to nourish your body, and just how much—or how little—food you really need. With that said, now that the end is almost in sight, the cravings are hitting me full-on. For me, it’s about fat: I dream of chunks of ripe avocado next to strips of thick-cut bacon and runny eggs dripping in coconut oil; I whimper at the sight of coconut covered cashews and peanut butter popcorn. Folks can have their carbs, their pizza and chips; give me a jar of Nutella, hold the spoon. I have a list on my iPhone of “cheat meals and snacks,” and it’s safe to say most of them involve peanut butter. I have to stress again, though, that I’m still eating plenty of food; I don’t think I’ve lost any muscle during the last month or so and that’s a testament to proper nutrition. It’s just that I can’t eat WHATEVER I want whenever I want it, and I’m not used to that kind of discipline. And it’s been months since I ate until I felt like I was going to burst— while that’s probably a good thing, I’m yearning for that unbutton-your-pants, lie-down-on-the-couch-groaning kind of meal.
One last interesting thing: although the competition is closer than ever, I’m less nervous than ever about it. Perhaps it’s because I’m just excited for it to be over, so I can resume a more normal life; perhaps it goes back to my inability to be 100% dedicated to/obsessed with anything. I like to think it’s because I’ve worked really hard, and already accomplished my goal: sticking to a plan, losing some weight, proving that I can control what I put into my body. No matter what happens on that stage, I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been, and I did it all by myself. How can I be worried or stressed out? The results of this competition don’t define me; it’s just another “did that” I can tick off my list of life experiences.
Next week, I’ll be able to give you the lowdown of what I need to expect for my show: final-week preparations, water depletion (?), and the pretty intense degree of “primping” involved in getting me stage-ready. Until then!