Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Being Authentic

Last week, my blogger friend, Dani, wrote a post about authentic blogging. Basically, it means being real on your blog. This is a topic I've been thinking about for the past year or so. I'm a perfectionist, so when I have issues or struggles with things, I intrinsically don't want to share them for fear of appearing flawed (even though we are all flawed in different ways). I dislike feeling vulnerable, and don't like to admit when I need help or am having difficulty handling something.

But really, life isn't perfect. We are all flawed, vulnerable, and struggling with different things. So why not share those struggles, those less than perfect thoughts? Why not be more authentic?

I've discovered over the course of this blog that the most difficult posts to write are the ones that people seem to like the most. I get feedback that people identify with the same issues I have, that it's nice to know they're not alone in their feelings and thoughts. I think this is an important issue, and therefore, I'm going to make more of an effort to be authentic and open.

The Mental Battle
One of the things I've been struggling with for the past six years is maintaining a leaner weight off-season. Competitors joke all the time about "on-season" and "off-season" wardrobes: clothes in a range of sizes. Ever since my first competition, I've had two separate wardrobes. As I get leaner during prep, I start wearing my smaller clothes, and as I gain weight after a show, I start wearing my larger clothes (while holding back tears in the process). But you know what? I truly HATE the fact that I need to have larger clothes! Why? Because it means I didn't show enough discipline in my diet after the show. It means I shoveled food into my face with no regard for the consequences. It means I disappointed myself because my actions weren't congruent with my goals.

Proof that you can't out-train a bad diet. June 16 and Aug 27.
More proof that diet is the key - not time in the gym. June 16 and Aug 27.
After each show, I tell myself that I'm going to make healthy choices after the show, that I'm going to maintain a leaner weight all year and be happy with my body the other 364 days of the year. And then several weeks later, I find myself crying while trying to squeeze my thighs into pants that have gradually become too small. I increase cardio in an attempt to "burn off" some of the copious amounts of calories I've eaten. I begin wearing loose t-shirts to the gym instead of my cute little tank tops because I'm embarrassed about how I look - so vastly different than how I looked on stage. I worry about what people are saying/thinking: "THAT'S the girl who won the Maryland?! She doesn't even look like she competes!" The negative thoughts and feelings begin to affect my relationship. It's difficult to act happy and loving when you're miserable and disappointed in yourself.

This has to stop.

I don't yet know the reasons behind my actions. It's obvious that I'm fully capable of following a diet. But after the show, I don't want to "diet" anymore. I don't want to have to follow a "plan" anymore. While I don't strive to be "normal" by any means, I need a break from the structure and regiment of prep. But instead of taking baby steps, I swing in the complete opposite direction and find myself choosing M&M's over almonds and digging into the stash of Girl Scout cookies when I get home from the gym. My meals could be completely healthy all day ... until I get home and then dig to find non-healthy foods. Clearly, there's an issue or two here.

I don't yet have a solution, but I do have some steps I'm going to follow and some research I need to do. Even though this post has been very difficult to write (and even more difficult to publish), I feel it's an important topic to share. I'll keep you updated on my progress and journey of discovery.

Do you have two wardrobes in different sizes? Do you struggle with food choices off-season too? What methods have you found for coping with or combating the mental struggle with actions vs. goals?


  1. Thank you for sharing! I don't compete but I am a trainer and try to be as fit and healthy as possible. I find that whenever I restrict my diet too much the pendulum tends to swing the other way at some point. I have and am still trying to find a balance.

  2. Kari,

    Thanks for sharing. I go through the same thing as you and everything you wrote describes my feelings and thoughts perfectly. I don't know the answer for myself, but I know I have to change my mindset. I have come to accept that for me maintaining a figure close to
    competition ready is very difficult, and that I need breaks and time to let loose. My husband and kids need that from me as well.


  3. You look great, and I don't think anyone expects you to look so lean year-round. Competition diets just aren't realistic for the long term.

    I do have a pretty good range of sizes in my closet. I have sizes 2-8 in there although I'm thinking about getting rid of all the 8s and committing myself to not reaching that size again. Usually I do an intentional bulk or accidentally gain weight in the fall/winter but I'm really trying to avoid it this year because I'd like to be able to do a PL competition in the 123 lb class.

  4. Thank Kari for such an honest post. I haven't competed (yet!!) but I still have gone through valleys and mountains. I remember this post you wrote about feeling like CRAP when prepping. CRAP. Total CRAP. I know there are days I feel that way too when I cut my diet to get lean. However, I noticed when I eat what I want when I want, I also feel like CRAP. Worse Crap because now I LOOK like crap... not just feel it. I think what helps me stay on track and in perspective is keeping new and exciting goals in mind. Focus on your sponsorship, on maybe starting up a consulting business, on taking this blog to newer and bigger heights... I work at a major studio in Los Angeles, with all sorts of ideas and projects always sought after and created. There's a lot you can do with your talent- :-) Cheers!

  5. I love your honest posts, truth and authenticity can only lead us to band together when things go awry. I always love your help and words of encouragement and I so want to be able to do that for you.

    I desperately struggle with the mental battle, the two sets of clothing, and the desire to overcome my binging patterns. On an intellectual level, I wonder if this binging pattern after competition has something to do with our genetics - caveman days. The body wants to gorge on food knowing it might not get it again. However, for me, I happen to know its an emotional attachment - I eat when I feel out of control and inadequate.

    One thing that has really helped me, is some of Scott Abel's books on food addictions/controlling food intake, etc. He has a very real look on the habits we form versus how we "feel". Even just his daily posts on fb are really helpful and help me think differently about myself and my day. :)

    There is a way, and we will find a way. And by the way, your off season looks amazing to me. I think you're gorgeous!

  6. I thank you for sharing such an honest and open post. As you know I am getting ready to get up on stage for the first time and I am freaking out! Its nice to see that my fears and my failures are things that other people struggle with. I have so many fears that I am trying to work through and its not easy....easy would be to give up. I also struggle with eating bad when I am home. The first thing I do is head into the kitchen and look for junk food. I can't even tell you why...I'm not hungry its just a habit that I need to break.

    I know that sharing what you did was not easy for you but its good to see you open up like this.

  7. Great post - thank you. This is surely the "final taboo" amongst competitors, particularly us women. I think most if not all would answer "yes" to at least one of your questions. If you find the answer/solution, let us know!

  8. You and I are completely on the same page. I posted about this very thing this morning. For me, I have decided to step it up a notch. It is not fair that I Kill it in the gym only to kill all my hard work with a less than perfect diet. I want to see the results of all my hard work, feel it every time I slip on a nice pair of jeans. We all work way to hard and spend way to many hours in the gym to cheat ourselves out of the look we know we should have. Thanks for posting, was a perfect confirmation to what I was already feeling. Take care.

  9. I can completley relate to this post! I have done this my 2 shows. Mind you, this last show was no where near as bad of a rebound as my first one, where i re-gained all the weight i lost plus an additional 40 lbs!
    I always say to myself I will keep my eating under control post show, but somehow find myself binging on peanut butter m&ms!

    I believe in balance and I'm slowly but surely finding my way! I don't want two wardrobes!

    good luck to everyone.


    I could have written this word for word. I look in the mirror and think...really, this is what a competitor looks like? NO. But in reality, yes, it is. I definitely struggle with the diet in the same huge swings that you describe.

  11. Have you seen this thread on Sioux? So interesting.

  12. Thank you so much for your honesty here! i know it was hard for you to publish,but i also know there are so many women out there who have been through the exact same thing-myself included!!!!
    the first few shows i did,i had NO CLUE how to go from prep to "normal"-and i gained weight back,and had to go up in clothes and mentally it CRUSHED me.
    then i started setting goals after shows that helped me ease back into more "normal".
    i would schedule 5k races and 1/2 marathons shortly after shows--since i love running so much,i knew that i couldn't let myself gain a million pounds because i wouldn't be fast for the races,lol!

    i believe that most if not all competitors face the same struggles you have mentioned!
    hang in there with everything and keep us posted on how you go about finding that balance!
    and thank you for being so real on your post-i need to do a better job at being more authentic on my blog too!

  13. I love this because I too can so relate... its so hard to find that balance after such a long, strict diet and fitness plan. Its hard to feel "normal" after a show and I too always seem to gain a bunch of weight, get depressed, take it out on the ones I love most and feel sorry for myself. It is a vicious cycle. I know you may not feel this way but girl.. you look amazing still... always. You are beautiful inside and out!

  14. I love you. You are so brave and fabulous, that is all.

  15. Oh, Kari, I competed for the first time a few weeks ago and I am battling big time! I have forgotten how to eat! I am sick of sticking to a food plan and being told what to eat, but without it is like I'm lost! The bingeing is the worst. Everything you said resonates so much. Urgh, it is such a struggle but knowing I'm not alone with this is so comforting. Thanks, Kari.


  16. I second what D said. You are amazing, fabulous, inspiring, and honest. I love that you shared this with us and you what, we got your back! We support you as you embark on this next part of your journey!


  17. Kari - thanks for sharing this! I'm dittoing (is that even a word?) D & T. You're a brave, strong, beautiful woman. Here's to your pursuit of balance and finding a sustainable pattern that works for you. Here to support you through this journey. You;re beautiful, don't forget that!!

  18. Thank you, everyone, for your thoughts, your support, and for sharing your own struggles. I'm looking forward to figuring out a long-term solution!

  19. I honestly think you look better with a little layer of fat (and I mean, you seriously have very little fat, even now).

    You can only be honest with yourself about your diet. Are you really pigging out on all the wrong things now, or are you just eating intuitively? If you are, then your body just probably wants to be at the weight it is now. Why fight it? you look gorgeous!!

    I understand the demons in your head are what you're really up against. We all have them. Just know that from the outside, you look healthy, strong and lean.

    1. Thanks! I actually don't want to be as lean as I am in the Before pics; that was right before a show. And no, I wasn't eating intuitively. I was shoveling food in my mouth cuz I could. The goal now is to figure out WHY I was going against my off-season plan.

    2. Because it's a normal physiological response, you are human and that's how we work. Only way off the roller coaster is to iron out the peaks and valley's i.e, don't go so low, and you won't rebound.... stop competing!!! that's what i did, it worked. that's the hard truth.

    3. What you don't understand is that this is NOT a normal rebound. It's not from going "so low" - there are other issues at work. I will NOT stop competing, as competing is not the cause of this issue. Clearly, you're misunderstanding my experience. Perhaps you'd care to share your name instead of hiding behind "Anonymous"?

  20. Hi Kari, I went through the same thing when I was competing and I made the choice to stop competing. I still live the lifestyle minus the stage prep diet. It's definitely a personal choice but I realized that as much as I loved competing and the process leading up to a show, I needed to find a balance with my body and health for the long haul of life. I too struggled with post competition blues and issues with food and weight. You are not alone. Take some time and be true and honest with yourself. It took about a year for my body to find a happy balance but now I eat clean, workout like an athlete and I feel great. Wish you all the best and we will be here to support you no matter what you decide to do. - Lauren from VA

    1. Amen! It took about a year for me too, but now back to a healthy weight, look great and feel even better. it was the internal emotional work that got me through. Gratitude is a powerful energy:)

  21. Thank you for sharing Kari! Going through my first off season has been a major mind game. I am "bulking" and while I am doing it the "right" way, that first 2 weeks post comp was practically a free for all. Like you I ate well most of the day but come night time it was downhill.

    I just bought a size 7 in jeans, a size I have never had to buy with the exception of post pregnancy, not even when I was at my "fattest" before finding weight lifting and clean eating.

    Some days I am perfectly ok with the image I see in the mirror and other days I want to cry and go back on a leaning plan asap. I know my body is racting normally, I know I am not actually fat and I know who I am is not tied to my jeans size but I tell you having a muffin top flow over the top of your jeans sure can suck all of the confidence out of a girl.

  22. Kari,
    As you know from our many text conversations, I'm battling the same demons. My solution is to try to eat all the planned foods that I bring with me to work but if I don't, I try not to stress too much.

    I drink a lot of water, that seems to help, but generally, I accept I will not remain a size 2 but I can't surpass size 4! LOL)

    Thank you for sharing, my friend!

    Love ya,
    Debi Buck

  23. Kari,

    This could not have come at a better time for me. I haven't been able to articulate my internal struggle into a coherent thought, and you've managed to do so both honestly and beautifully. Thank you for sharing.


  24. Kari,

    I cannot express how much I appreciate this post. This spring I competed in my first figure competition and have since then have gone completely backwards. I was in incredible shape, have never felt better in my life & had so many friends and family supporting me along the way. Now I am eating things I've never even thought about before. I have gained weight and am just disgusted in myself. My gym routine is inconsistent and I find myself feeling completely down and depressed. Although it does not fix the issue, it is comforting to know others have struggled with this and that I can bounce back. I cannot thank you enough for being bold and posting this blog. It truly has touched me!


  25. Hi Kari!
    Thank you for such an honest post.
    I think a lot of women keep doing Figure competitions to have another chance at maintaining that leaner body. They don't, they rebound, and then they decide to compete again to shed the weight. It's a vicious cycle, and I speak from experience ;)

    Good luck with your goals!

  26. I think that you look great both sizes! Being Human is not anything to be afraid of! It takes great dedication and hard work to get into Figure Compotition shape... you deserve to have a little fun when you are done!!

    1. Thank you; however, my issues are not just "being human." Deserving to have fun is different than what's going on right now.

  27. I just wanted to say thanks so much for posting this!! I can totallyyy relate to all of this and do the exact same thing after shows. I've done a few shows now and always have trouble staying within the 5-7 lbs that other competitors always say they stay at in the offseason--its more like 20-25 lbs for me usually! and I can totally relate to eating clean all day and then I'll have a something that not on my diet and then it just goes downhill from there! I just wanted to say thanks for posting this and I think it's really important to post stuff like this too to show people that their not alone! Just reading this makes me feel a lot better about some of the mistakes that I've made like this too! I havn't really come up with a way to fix this problem but I think it is something that I need to work on too! just taking it one day at a time and trying to stay closer to my show weight in the offseason than in the past! :)) keep up the good work tho you look amazinggg!! even if we gain more weight than usual in the offseason I just tell myself at least all this extra weight is helping me put on more muscle! haa thats one way to try to make it as positive as possible!! thanks so much again for posting this!! :))) ---Michelle

  28. This is all to familiar especially since I am less than 3 weeks from a show and have done two before. Still novice level but really focusing on making this a lifestyle. I hope this third time I will be able to have my cheat enjoy the evening post show and stay on track. Keto has been a great way to feel satisfied and enjoy clean carb ups once every 10-12 days. Hmmmm I guess I will have to wait and see :)

    Thank you for posting this...


  29. I followed a clean diet for my first bikini show in June. I lost thirty pounds from my petite 5'4" frame to a point that many said was "underweight". After the competition, in which I did well, but was told I needed to bulk up more (no suprise!) I listened to everyone and totally ate back what I had trained off, plus 10. I made losing a short-term goal instead of fitness a lifestyle choice. It's totally about the diet!! Thank you for posting this to let me know that I'm not the only one out there that knows what to do but doesn't always get it done-- and we're still better off than the majority!