[caption id="attachment_69539" align="alignnone" width="625"]
The only opinion that matters, is the one staring back at you in the mirror
Many of us fitness enthusiasts or those of us just beginning our fitness journeys find ourselves looking at the seemingly perfect, toned, taught models on social media, fitness mags, or even television and thinking "I wish", "must be nice", or "if only". Very seldom do we consider the journey and efforts it took that individual to achieve that desirable physique. I am here to share my own personal journey on how I got to where I am today.
Growing up, I was always 'a big girl'. I've been 5'8" since the 8th grade and always felt gigantic. I have never been small, petite, or had the 'typical' feminine body type. I had more male friends than girl friends, and always felt more masculine than 'pretty'. Even though I excelled at sports, I had pretty serious self esteem issues about my frame that carried into adulthood. I had very subpar nutrition: eating maybe twice a day with the mentality that being slim meant exercising more and eating much less. Because of this I constantly yo-yoed with my weight. I actually really love food and naturally have a large appetite so my struggle to eat-like-a-bird would never last long. Since many girls deal with this issue, I always thought it was 'normal'. After completing my nursing degree I experienced a dark time in my life where I was very unhappy - for many reasons I won't touch on in this entry. The long and short of it: I had just completed four years of a gruelling full-time program, and was in need of something 'more'. I then realized part of the solution was I needed a new challenge: and that challenge changed my life.
It wasn't until I began fitness competitions that I learned to embrace all that I was gifted with genetically. My weaknesses became my strengths, and I finally felt a sense of belonging. My broad back and wide shoulders are considered ideal in the sport of figure, and my natural ability to gain size came in handy! I already loved being in the gym and training hard - that was the easy part. The most difficult component of my challenge was changing my relationship with food. No longer could I use food as a pick-me-up if I had a bad day, or reach for the donuts in the staff room. I had to develop the mindset that food is meant to be fuel for your body to function. I love the metaphor "you wouldn't put regular fuel in a Ferrari, so why fuel your body like that?" To this day I keep that in mind in moments of temptation. The gym became my sanctuary. To this day, I feel most secure and self-assured in the gym. Once I had achieved my goal of competing in my first figure competition I was hooked. I set a goal with defined stipulations: a date, and where I wanted to be aesthetically. Having all my hard work pay off and not only meeting but exceeding my expectations gave me a great sense of accomplishment and self-worth. For the first time in my life, I truly felt confident.
It would be unrealistic for me to say I don't have moments of insecurity. But in times I find myself questioning my body, my efforts - I think back to where I came from. The world of bodybuilding and fitness competitions are extreme - they are not for everyone. I am currently taking a break from the stage and enjoying training for myself, because feeling and looking good makes me happy. I am still training hard, and using all that I learned from my competing years in knowing what works best for my body nutritionally. Being able to look to myself for validation on my physical progress is extremely liberating. The feeling of not being 'enough' happens. Confidence is a continual work in progress - focusing on what makes us GREAT is key. The lines in your abs (or lack thereof) does not determine your self-worth. A large part of anyone's fitness journey is to learn to love yourself for what's within YOU first, and the rest will come!