Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Body Dysmorphia

I officially started (or re-started) contest prep again on Monday, and I've already dropped 2 lbs. Granted, those 2 lbs were most likely water from my high carb (read: junk) day on Saturday, but I dropped them faster than usual. I feel like I'm already starting to lean out, which is exciting! I was watching my shoulders in the mirror yesterday while doing cable crossovers (THE best exercise for checking upper body leanness, btw), and was feeling pretty good about myself.

One of our other M3World members came over to our gym to train and to meet some of us in person, so we all took a group photo. I was on the end, and of course did my slight sideways pose like Tanji Johnson taught us several years ago ("Whenever a camera is pointed at you, remember to turn a bit and pose. You don't ever want a bad picture of yourself, do you?"). When I pulled the picture off my camera today, though, I was surprised. My arms look like crap. :( There's hardly any shape to them - my shoulders are flat, and there's barely a delt line. Basically, they just look like big, off-season arms. Which is fine in the off-season, but not 6 weeks before a show!
 Now I realize some of these thoughts may just be in my head - what I see, not what others see. When I look down at my arms, I see the delt and tri cuts. But when I look in the mirror or at a picture, I don't see them. Granted, some of the issue may have to do with lighting, and some of it may have to do with some additional water retention or modifications to my diet. Jerry and I both agreed that I look a bit flat right now, meaning my muscle bellies aren't full and pushing against the skin to create that rounded look we all strive for.

I'm disappointed to be continually reminded that I don't and can't always look fabulous. LOL There are times when changes to my diet and training make my body look flat, watery, full, bloated, or stringy. We can control it to a certain extent, but the changes we make are necessary. So the different looks are just temporary. Thank goodness for that, but I don't EVER want some of these looks!

I never used to be this critical of my body. In college, I just knew I was in good shape, could eat anything I wanted, and my weight stayed about the same. It was only when I began competing that I really began to be critical. I'll be the first to admit that I have a tendency to obsess about my body. How many women do you know who do ab checks on every other of the 15 trips to the bathroom throughout the day? How many women do you know who run through their quarter turns every night before taking a shower? How many women do you know who get excited when they see a vein running through their forearms? How many other women do you know who suck in their tummies all day at work in an attempt to squeeze in just a bit more ab work? Yep ... I do all of those things. Every day.

I weigh myself every day, and even though I know the judges don't care how much I weigh on stage, I like to know the number. I like to know how I look at certain weights, and I use it as a guideline. Should I do this? I could argue both sides. Whenever I see someone comment about their weight, decide on a goal weight, or obsess about a pound or two, I always tell them to step away from the scale and to not rely on it. But do I follow that? No ... Will I continue telling them to step away while I continue tracking my weight? Yes ...

What I (and nearly every other competitor I've talked to) am dealing with is a very mild form of body dysmorphia. (I just read this Wikipedia article, and had no idea it could be so severe.) Basically, I mean that we don't have a realistic view and/or expectation of what our body does and should look like. It means we nit-pick every little thing and are overly critical of our physique. I'm pretty sure it's not the healthiest approach to take, but it seems to go hand in hand with competing. I'm very well aware that I have a distorted sense of how I should look, and I'm consciously working on accepting myself for who I am as a person, and not for what shape my body is in. I struggle with the desire to look small and  lean all year round with the cravings to lead more of a normal lifestyle, where I can eat a variety of foods (mostly healthy ones) without feeling guilty or worrying about how they'll affect my physique. Don't get me wrong - I don't want to lead the average Normal lifestyle where I eat pizza, pasta, soup, and cheeseburgers every day; I just want to be able to eat yogurt with granola without worrying that I'll bloat up from the dairy (which I will).

Any lifestyle changes I make will be down the road from now, as my main focus now is competing. I want that Pro card this year!! So I'm going to try not to freak out too much about the little changes my body is going through now, and just realize that these changes are all part of the plan to get me on stage looking my best. I'll listen to Jerry's critiques (which are always delivered in a positive way, bless his heart), and keep working my hardest during training and cardio. My diet is on point, and I'm making progress; that's the most important thing. Onward and upward!


  1. Oh my goodness...such a good post. I have blogged about this before too, most recently back in January or February I think...
    Anyway, I do all those things you mentioned (ab check, quarter turns) daily too.
    AND, I was never this critical before competieing either. It's a bug who's bite def. has a sting at times. However...ONWARD AND UPWARD! XO

  2. This is crazy! I do every single thing you're talking about, and thought I was the only one! I too have been very critical and obsessive since starting to compete, however, as you said, I've struggled with my weight more now than in university.

    I am sure that you'll do great with your training and come in great on stage. Good luck in your last 6 weeks, this is when it gets even harder.