In part 1 of this article, I showed you 5 women (myself included) who have competed in figure and physique competitions. They each talked about their personal experiences with achieving extremel levels of leanness. Some were good, and some were bad. In part 2, I am going to discuss the unfortunate and ugly side of competing. And keep your eyes peeled for Part 3, where I discuss tips if you do decide that you want to get really lean.
These two women both suffered horrific consequences after competing. They used uneducated coaches who used irresponsible methods to get them stage-ready, and their health suffered big-time because of it. The other scary thing? The second woman has asked to remain anonymous because her “coaches” from her “team” have threatened her with legal action if she shares her story. Not to mention the threat of being blackballed by the very people she thought were her friends.
I am grateful that these women are brave enough to share their stories so that others who are suffering know that they aren’t alone.
Jen Comas Keck
I competed, and placed first in my class, in a Figure show in 2008. While I looked absolutely amazing, I had never felt worse.
I prepped for 18 weeks on a sub 1,000kcal/day diet plan (at 5’10”) with my only fat coming from 1 TBSP of peanut butter a couple of times per week. I wasn’t allowed anything with sodium in it throughout the entire duration of my prep, and only got 4 treats, all of which were pieces of carrot cake. I was basically starved onto the stage.
After the aggressive water manipulation coupled with the re-introduction of sodium and other foods into my diet, my stomach immediately blew up like a balloon a few days after my show.
But that was just the beginning.
What followed was a psychological downward spiral, perpetuated by an onslaught of weight gain to the tune of 30 pounds in about 6 months, which was undoubtedly brought on by a diet prep that was far too strict, for much too long.
Mentally I was a basket case. I had gone from looking my best to looking my absolute worst in a matter of months. I was so self-conscious that I would only wear baggy clothes and other than working, all I did was hide at home.
It took me about a year to get to feeling back to myself and to shed the weight, and my doctors are all convinced that my current thyroid and adrenal issues are all lingering repercussions of that diet prep.
Mentally I’m in a really good place now, but it took even longer to get my mental health back than it did my body. I didn’t do my research and went into it blindly, which caused me a lot of problems, all to stand on stage in a sparkly bikini for a few minutes. It definitely wasn’t worth it for me.
Let me preface this competition by saying how much I loved competing and the journey you and your body go through to get there. If given proper guidance by a good coach it can be one of the most amazing experiences watching your body change daily, and becoming leaner and stronger.
The excitement that builds each day as you get closer and closer to your show. Not to mention you receive tons of compliments daily from friends, family, and even total strangers telling you how great you look. It’s quite empowering and even addictive at times. Complete strangers came up to me in the gym and told me how I motivate and inspire them with my dedication to the gym, and the results I was getting!
How can anyone not be encouraged by that?
And the icing on the cake (no pun intended) is the day of your show! The only way I can describe the feelings you have on this is day is like Christmas morning! This is the day you’ve worked so hard towards and not only do you look and great but you look glamourous as well – rhinestones, hair, makeup, high heels and all! Not to mention the trohpies, accolades, and possible sponsorship!!
But truth be told, most competitors will tell you – on the day of your show all you can think is, “I don’t even care where I place – this journey had been been the trophy- I survived this and pushed myself harder and harder each day and I’m damn proud to have made it this far.”
But the journey that gets you there can be fun, motivational, and rewarding, or it can be one of the darkest and most depressing parts of your life, if you do not have the proper coach.
I made the grave mistake of leaving a good coach that put my health and wellness first, to joining a ” competition team” that completely undid all of the hard work I had accomplished in previous years. I really wanted to take my competition life to the next level, so I joined this team because they are extremely well-known and “respected” in the industry, and they told me that I had the potential to take things to the next level with their help. The problem is (which I would soon find out) they were willing to get me to that level at all costs- health and all!
At first I was told this was a team about girl power, encouraging each other, and lifting each other’s spirits when thingsyou were struggling through 90 minutes cardio sessions that started at 3:30 am. Wow! How wonderful to have a true genuine support group.
“Push at all costs and you will be getting your pro card at no time,” they told me.
How could I not push myself if I was seeing my body respond well to the training and getting that kind of feedback? The problem was I was DESTROYING my health and metabolism. But I continued to push, harder and harder with their encouragement.
“If you follow everything 100%, you will achieve your goals,” they said.
What I didn’t do was listen to my body. I used to be a strong, healthy athlete. I felt wonderful. I had no hunger pains, my energy levels were high, and I was able to lift with no problems.
When my body stopped to dropping fat, they continued to make my prep more extreme. They had me use weird methods to shrink my waist, and added more and more far burners to my plan. How could I not trust these coaches? They had coached numerous competitors that have done extremely well.
Then something happened.
My Dad was put into the hospital. My family is really close so this was hard to deal with. As I continued to balance this life change I was told by my coaches not to let things like this stop my from reaching my goals.
It was pretty eye opening that instead of telling me to make sure I took care of my family I was encouraged from my coaches not to let that stop me.
Next was my health. I started having reflux problems and scarring from shrinking my waist day and night. That’s right , I was told to SLEEP in these products in order to continue to get the great results. I now am on medication I will have to take for the rest of my life due to the pressure that was continuously on my torso.
I was surprised that when I brought these health concerns to my coaches no concern was given.
“This is not anything to be too concerned about. Just keep pushing and stay on plan,” they told me.
In fact, more cardio was prescribed.
After being on about 900-1000 calories a day for over a year my body stopped responding. I had serious fatigue, problems sleeping, and I was continuously losing strength in the gym because I was trying to get my body the “long and lean” look for bikini.
Finally, after concern from a loved one (who used to be a professional athlete), I got the picture.
“At what cost are you willing to push your body to,” he asked?
“I will support you through anything but this is wrong on so many levels. You’re not taking in enough calories and your body is telling you that. Please listen to what your body is telling you.“
He was right. My body was fighting me from these extremes I was putting it through.
I was trusting my coaches and not questioning the methods. I looked at the track record but should have questioned the methods to get me there. I cannot thank my significant other enough. He went through this whole process with me, stood by me, supported me and lived through this with me. He put my health first when I was blindly following coaching that I at one time believed was going to coach me to reaching my goals.
Fortunately, I have returned to a coach that put my health first. Repairing my body over the last few months has been a challenge and I still have a long way to go. I am thankful to have a loved one that intervened. I thank God that there are coaches and trainers in the industry such as Layne Norton who helped bring attention to this epidemic. Ladies, don’t be afraid to fire your coach.
I cannot stress the importance of having a good coach that is looking out for you and wants to succeed but only in a healthy way.
NOTE FROM MOLLY: Please notice, that many of us do not even have any pictures of ourselves from our rebound period because we were too embarrassed to be seen in public, much less take photos of ourselves. =(
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16 Responses to Extreme Leanness: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly – Part 2