An Open Letter to Girls Who Want to Rock a Bikini & Spray Tan

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I know there are open letters oversaturating the interwebz right now ranging from Thought Catalog’s encyclopaedia to ones from Sinead O’Connor addressing sweet Miley.

This letter is an important one.

This is an open letter to all the girls who want to compete in a bikini competition.

This is an open letter to all of the girls who are sick of hitting the gym and not seeing results and wanting a challenge.

This is a letter to girls like me.

…And maybe it’s a letter to you.

I know as soon as I publish this, I’ll probably have people hating me, maybe making some enemies, or thinking I’m a whiny bitch. But this is something I need to do. Something I wish I had access to when I was researching my journey into the fitness competition world.

Fitness competitions are like Hollywood.

Everyone wants to make it big. 

Everyone wants to be the A-list, million-dollar-making, party-hopping, scene-stealing actor…or, in the fitness world, everyone wants to be a Pro. Sponsorships, fitness magazine covers, fame, trophies, free shit galore? Yes, please, I’ll take it.

But maybe you just want to do a fitness competition for fun, to kick your ass in gear, or to show an ex-boyfriend who said you couldn’t do it that you can fucking do it (I’m 5% guilty of this!)

Sparkly bikinis, spray tans, sweat sexy gym glows, glory, fame, PROTEIN, cardio, weights, calluses, tears, more sweat, chicken breasts, egg whites, early mornings, no social life, more tears.

But how do you get to that dream?

Most will hire a coach who tells you what to eat, what to lift in the gym, and how to pose.

To the girls who want to kick their ass in gear and try to get a tighter tummy or lift their booty four inches higher or get some sexy Jennifer Aniston arms (the women is an alien, I know it!)

Research. 

Research.

Google. 

Go on freaking Bing if you have to. 

Get your cute butt on Bodybuilding.com (I highly recommend the Nutrition Misc forum.)

Independent from a competition prep coach, personal trainer or nutritionist, get educated on the different ways you can prep for a fitness competition. Learn about the different eating philosophies: the ones that work, the ones that don’t. The ones that cause the least harm and damage to your body. 

IIFYM? Ketosis? Re-feeds? Carb cycles? Carb loading? Water depletion? Sodium manipulation? Reverse dieting?

HUH?! WHAT?! WHAT IS AIR?!

Seriously. Research everything. Get as educated as you possibly can. Especially what your post-competition nutrition and training plan is going to be.

Because I was not. 

If you’ve been following my journey, you know pretty much every little detail that I’ve been through (and if you haven’t, go look through my blog – you’ll find a ton!)

I had a negative and frightening experience these past couple of weeks post-show. Not only was I suffering from exhaustion from training and depleting for three back-to-back shows – I was sleeping 10 hours a night  and crashing at work and couldn’t stay awake past 9:30PM! – but I was noticing my body was changing drastically. And not normal post-show changes like after my first show. Within two days I had lost all definition in my mid-section and had developed this strange little pot belly. (Note: even before I had started training and eating well, I had always had a flat stomach, even if it was more body fat than muscle.) This little pot belly kept growing! It was hard and had little veins …gross, I know. (Probaaaably guaranteeing singledom right now, lol.) WHERE WAS THIS COMING FROM?! I was following my plan and not cheating. I wasn’t too worried though – I thought, “Oh just bloating from water, food, etc.” I told a couple of my fellow girls who were beginning their off-season and we discovered that we were all going through the same thing. We sent each other photos and all of our stomachs looked the same. Even our faces had started to look a little “watery” and swollen.

A few days pass. I start to go to the gym again after a three day break. No changes. Hmm. Why did we look three months’ pregnant?! I was too embarrassed to wear tight tank tops to the gym – what the fuck right?! I worked hard for this bod! – and I was self-conscious that everyone was looking at my pot belly.

PANIC.

PANIC.

PANIC.

I worked so hard for this physique and to have it all come crash down around me for no apparent reason – it’s not like I was shoveling Big Macs and AYCE sushi in my mouth every day! – was absolutely soul-crushing and anxieting-inducing. I had a photoshoot in less than a month – why was this happening?!

Now, I know: stress increases cortisol levels which go CRAY around your midsection. But seriously. I was stressed. I consulted a few knowledgeable friends and told them my tale. They referred me to even more knowledgeable resources who were able to share some answers with me. And thank goodness I spoke to this individual – thank you so much! – because my mind was eased at once.

Here’s a quick summary of what I learned. And if you’re going through what I’m going through right now, maybe this will ease your mind too:

  • Metabolic damage is like Sasquatch. It could exist, but there’s just not enough solid evidence and research to back it up. But everyone talks about it. (For those of you who don’t know what it is, metabolic damage allegedly is what happens to your body’s metabolism after overtraining and underfeeding, like in some contest prep diets – your metabolism just goes crazy and stops working properly ceasing the extreme dieting and training. No cardio? More food? GAIN ALL THE WEIGHT. 
  • Reverse Dieting: do it. Research it. Do it. Find someone who knows and can tell you more about it. God, if there’s one thing I’ll tell you to look up, it’s this.
  • Like religion (more similes!), there are so many different food philosophies for contest preparation. Make sure yours isn’t too extreme and will cause the least amount of damage to your body when transitioning back to “normal” life – one cannot live life in cutting mode. Does it make sense? Think about it logically. Do research.

This is basically what happened to my body:

Me: Okay body, we’re gonna change it up real quick. I’m going to take away some foods and make you work super hard, because I want to be lean and mean in that bikini! Lots of cardio! Some lifting of some iron! Let’s do it!

Body: Okaaaaay. I hate you, tho.

[5 months later.]

Body: I actually hate you. I’m hungry. I’m tired. 

[Three weeks of shows.]

Me: Okay body! Off-season time! I’m going to feed you – aren’t you super excited?! Carbs and carbs and carbs and new foods that you haven’t eaten in forever! It’s like Carb-mas! Oh, and I’m gonna give you a little break from cardio. I hate that shit. 

Body: FUCK YEAH. SUPER PUMPED. GIMME ALL DA FOODZ.

[Literally two days later.]

Me: Body, what the hell?! WHERE MY ABS AT?! Why do I look pregnant?! I AM A WHALE. I give you good foods and you repay me like this?!

Body: Dude. I had to store all this food in case you get fucking crazy again and try to work me on no foods for so freaking long. Plus..this new food is crazy, I feel hiiiiiigh on life, man! Drunk on nutrientz. Water and food all in your belly, just in case there’s a food shortage or apocalypse! You’re like a camel now. YOU’RE WELCOME. 

Pre-Show Abs
Pre-Show Abs
metabolic damage
10 Days Post-Show vs. 12 Days Post-Show (Increased Cardio)…gross but I had to be for real
Side View: EW. Not a huge improvement if I look closely.
Side View: EW. Not a huge improvement if I look closely.

So that’s basically what happened to my body. It’s been almost two weeks since my competition and I’m happy to say that my weird alien belly is slowly going down with my body getting used to eating better foods and I’m doing a little more cardio in the gym to help ease the transition into my off-season. I feel much better and more positive. Less bleak and hopeless about my competition and fitness modeling (because I have had to turn down offers!) future.

I should have researched more.

I should have slowly reverse dieted and slowly eased out of my cardio regime.

But I’m the type of person who sees everything as an experience, a lesson to be learned. And I learned. Now I know more.

And I can move forward.

And I hope that maybe this helps you too. I hope it doesn’t scare you from competing. I hope that it just pushes you to do your research and not go into this experience and journey bright-eyed, bushy-tailed with rose-coloured glasses. Be smart, my pretties. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. It could have been MUCH worse…I have read the horror stories. So for that, I’m grateful.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask me! I AM NOT AN EXPERT. But I do know some and I can direct you to some reading that I did that helped ease my mind and teach me a little. For those who helped ease my mind, THANK YOU. You know who you are.

Keep on lifting!

xo

a blonde with some dumbbells

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12 Comments Add yours

  1. Stacie says:

    I commend you for your honesty, because I have been avoiding this post on my own blog. It’s so hard to be honest, mostly when things are going wrong. Your body will get back to where you want it to be, because you’re too hardworking and dedicated for this to go any other way!

    I love you and your lil bell bell (and I can say that because I have my own alien baby belly).

    xo

    1. Paige Andrea says:

      Thanks Stacie!!!! ❤ can't wait for our love fest tomorrow! Nakeyyyy massages

  2. Damien says:

    There is no better way to beat weakness than with strength! A few visible abs doesnt change how beautiful you are. Keep working hard and don’t let silly things like this get in your way!

  3. Holy crap, I had no idea! I love reading your honest perspective, it’s really opening my eyes to the world of competition. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    1. Paige Andrea says:

      Hey Alison! Thanks so much! It’s not a bad facet of the fitness world – just have to be smart and research your coach and investigate the nutrition plan they use!

  4. Christa says:

    I just had to comment bc your pot belly looks non-existant to me… so don’t worry too much bc what appears bad to you does not look bad at all to others!

  5. Toned & Fit says:

    Thank you so much for your honesty and transparency. I am on the path to my first IFBB Bikini show and I have been doing so much research! As a certified health coach, I consider myself lucky because I already have a pretty good handle on my body and nutrition. I am quick to question certain dieting gimmicks. This open letter will definitely be part of my research, thought process, and prep. Thank you again!! ❤

    1. Paige Andrea says:

      Thanks for commenting – that’s amazing! I’ve definitely started researching myself so I know better and am less naive! Good luck at your show!! 🙂

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