You woke up disoriented with no recollection of the night before. You’re surrounded by candy wrappers, an empty bowl with remnants of popcorn seeds, orange finger tips from what seems to be some sort of cheesy-powdery substance, & a purple tongue from God know what! We’ve all been there…morning stomach aches & protruding belly’s still outlined by abdominal muscles that were so intact & lean from the night before. Swollen knuckles, feet, cheeks, & joints from all the excess sodium!
You swore you wouldn’t do it again. You swore you’d go easy this time around…Perhaps just a victory steak dinner & a small cupcake for dessert to celebrate your 12 weeks of sacrifice. You vowed to keep your physique on point, not to get too crazy & so far off track that your jeans wouldn’t slide up past your thighs. How could this have happened…again? All that preparation & nothing to show for it the morning after…is it possible you’ve destroyed 90 days worth of hard work for 90 minutes of binge eating just to taste every flavor you could in as many forms of food known to mankind?
Now the panic sets in. As the day goes on you remember foods you had totally forgot you had even ingested, the box of mini cakes your ex brought you the night before, the late night drive-through cheeseburger, fries, & milkshake from In n’ Out, & that pit stop at the market to pick up cookie dough….you begin calculating the calories, the carbs, the fats, & sugars. You step on the bathroom scale & you’re in shock- 15lbs. in only a few days! You know it’s mainly water retention but it’s too much to handle. How could you have consumed so much so fast?
Now you’re left all alone, feeling guilty & chunky, unable to leave your apartment for fear that others would see what you have done- how you have destroyed yourself. The guilt becomes unbearable to the point you sneak into your local gym one hour before closing so nobody will see you & your bulging belly trying to burn off the fat on the stair mill. The worst part is this continues for days, now a week has past, & you’re on to the next…every day you wake up with a belly ache & say to yourself, “This has got to end, time to get back on track, no sugar or sodium today, egg whites & oatmeal for breakfast then a morning cardio session, today will be different”. You fight the cravings till noon but it’s just too late, you’ve had a taste & you want more. Besides, the show is over & there really is no reason to deprive yourself anymore. Unless you can find another competition to work towards in the next 6 weeks you may never have that body back from 10 days ago.
And so the vicious cycle continues…
If you’ve ever competed you may have experience something similar to this- maybe a milder version than what was described. I know personally that I have felt this to the “extreme” as that is what I’m known for…this is totally a diary of my experiences dieting & the aftermath of binging & how I got back on track. As a foodie, I love to cook & love to eat even more so for me this is a reality. When I finished my first competition I experienced the post competition rebound. My body & mind went haywire. I frantically searched for an answer to this madness. I felt so alone & guilty for binging because really I had never heard anyone talk about this side of competition. I knew about the cravings & food obsessions & all that as I was experiencing those things throughout my journey but I didn’t know how life would be after competition. I didn’t know how to find the balance or what that even meant. All I knew that the only way to get over one obsession was to start another, but I’ve learned now that it doesn’t need to be that way.
MIND OVER MATTER!
- You did it when you were prepping for your show- visualizing success before you reached it, talking yourself out of eating junk food when you were dieting, dragging you booty to the gym even when you were having a depressing “fat day”, knowing & believing that your legs would shrink even though you were only 4 weeks out from the show, overcoming the panic feelings of “Will I be ready?!”. So if you survived that, made it onto the stage to strut your stuff, & accomplished all that in such a short period of time then really, you can do anything! Once you set your mind to something that becomes your reality even before you reach it. But the same goes for negative thoughts & one not believing in oneself. I can talk myself in or out of anything….I mean anything!
Remember, the way that we see ourselves is so far off from reality. You become a perfectionist & your own worst critic after taking your body to that next level- beyond any average gym rat. You have high expectations of what being fit & in shape means. Nothing is as good enough as what you are when you are on stage so in your mind if you don’t look that way then you’re just not good enough. Maybe nobody mentioned that but if you have an obsessive compulsive personality like me then you will experience this 10 fold! When those negative thoughts consume you that it when you need to take a step back, slow down, & start talking yourself back to reality. It is impossible to actually gain 10 or 15lbs. of pure body fat in 3 days! LOL….the REALITY is you’ve basically overdoses on sodium & sugar causing you body to go into a whirlwind of chaos. You’re a woman so please believe your hormones too have gone a little haywire. Think of this as a major PMS meltdown. You may THINK you life has fallen apart before your very eyes & there is no way to gain control but, just like with PMS, life will go back to normal as it always does, & you will look back & see how silly you were behaving & how wrong you were for even thinking that way. If you can keep this in mind while you’re going through these ups & down’s you will survive.
THE AFTERMATH…GETTING BACK TO BASICS!
From my experience I’m able to say the worst thing you can do after going off the deep end with the sodium, sugars, fats, carbs, & calories is to try & stop everything cold turkey & go right back to your competition diet. Sometime this may work- if you never got that lean in the first place, if your body fat never dropped below 12 or 13%, or if you didn’t diet that long or completely deprive yourself of sodium & sugar then maybe the cold turkey method would work. I have found that for long term control, “weaning” oneself on & off the goodies has been the best method to find balance again. Wean yourself off of everything but DO NOT QUIT cold turkey as I believe this is what sets your body into that rebound mode. Once you’ve rebounded it’s even more challenging to get back on track. The Aftermath…It will take approximately the equivalent amount of time you were rebounding to get back on track. Remember, no quick fix, no cutting corners, just hard work- the same dedication you had in preparation for your show is exactly what you need to make it through this. You can do it!
So you’ve skipped steps one, two, & three & made every mistake in the book. Not to worry! There is always a solution to everything. Although there is no quick fix, if you remain consistent & are intent on making a change then I promise you’ll be back to your fit self in no time at all.
Here I have outlined the Do’s & Don’ts based on mistakes I’ve made while riding the rebound-coaster & having survived the post competition blues multiple times.
…go overboard eating! Don’t feel like you need to finish the entire bag of cookies you opened just to get rid of the evidence. Don’t feel guilty for enjoying foods that are not clean. You don’t need to eat everything you crave at once. But if you have already messed up on this step it can be fixed- not to worry! Don’t feel like you need to continue eating 1.5-2 grams of protein or however much you were eating per pound of your body weight- you can reduce this.
…quit all your supplements at once!
…jump back into the gym & go all out with training!
…isolate yourself & hide out!
…over analyze your placing at the competition. What wasn’t good enough & how awful you THINK you looked compared to the rest of the competitors. Don’t allow negative thoughts to consume you. Never say never!
…pace yourself! Reintroduce foods that have sodium or sugars but all in moderation. Do continue to eat smaller meals/shakes throughout the day- not every meal needs to be a cheat. Do decide what foods you’d like to eat & allow yourself one cheat meal a day…as long as you’re eating somewhat clean throughout the day, you’ll be fine with a cheat or two. Drink a lot of water & eat lots of natural diuretic type veggies such as Kale & Asparagus to help with water retention.
…slowly wean yourself off of particular supplements & substitute certain ones! Evening Primrose has been known to help balance out hormones after rebounding. Continue taking a multi vitamin & vitamin C for diuretic purposes. You can take a break from fat burners, BCAA’s, & all that but begin by cutting your dosage first.
…get plenty of rest & ease into a cardio session or two to start! Although you may be in fear of losing your hard earned physique if you missed one cardio session or a day of hardcore training the reality is you will be just fine. In fact your body needs rest more than anything after this major high & then the extreme comedown after competing. The gym will always be there but your health is more important. It’s okay to take a break.
…meet & mingle with friends, strangers, & “normal people” outside of competition or at least people who can relate & get you out of that slump! Participate in activities outside of the gym & find something to do other than sit at home & dream of food. If you can’t just relax with friends then get outside & go for a walk, clean out your closet, take a bike ride, make a day of pampering yourself & get a mani/pedi & your hair did, or just head to the beach for a change of scenery.
..take time to plan for the future, set goals, & be proud & positive!
Remember your mind may be going a bit kookoo which just isn’t reality. So make new goals, write things down & decide what else you’d like to accomplish. It doesn’t have to do with anything fitness related. Maybe it’s a destination you’d like to travel to, a new hobby you’d like to take up, or even an old relationship you’d like to work on with a close friend- after all, you’ve probably been MIA for quite some time so it’s nice to get back in touch with the real world.
THE STEPS TO A FULL RECOVERY:
Sounds like you’re a recovering drug addict, doesn’t it?! Well technically you are! Think out it- competition prep is this huge build up…days & months pass by & you’ve been going through the daily motions of waking up & heading straight to the gym, eating meals like clockwork, popping supplements all day, & training till the wee hours of the night just to catch some sleep & do it all over again….you’re addicted to the structure & the feeling you get seeing your body change little by little every day. You’re a machine, a masochist, an addict for sure! After competition is over, whether you win or lose, you’ve just been on this major high running on adrenaline & then, all at once, it’s over. So what happens next? The comedown! Just like the comedown off a drug, you have withdraws. You’re mentally & physically exhausted & emotionally drained. It took every muscle &bone in your body to make it to this point. I mean, really, dieting, training… that is the nuttiest thing anyone can put themselves through just for 5 minutes of stage time!
Day one will be the toughest because you have to make the conscious decision that enough is enough. You need to decide if you really got the cravings & binging out of your system. For me, it’s usually a situation where I wake up in the morning & I’m thoroughly disgusted by the way I look, feel, & the kicker- the way my clothes fit…or should I say, Don’t Fit! I decide in that moment that I am done- play time is over & I am happier when I feel good about my health, my body, & what I put into it. The days that follow usually get easier because you’re on a roll. Every day you see little changes that may not be visible to the rest of the world but are very apparent to you. You feel a sense of accomplishment just by the mere fact that you took control of your life once again & you’re back on a path of recovery.
EAT YOUR WAY BACK TO LIFE:
- DRINK PLENTY OF FLUIDS: WATER, GREEN TEA, & EVEN COFFEE!
- CUT OUT ALL FATS FOR A FEW DAYS. THIS WILL HELP TO REDUE THE WATER RETENTION YOU MAY BE EXPERIENCING & WILL HELP SHED YOUR BODY A BIT.
- SCARF DOWN VEGGIES THAT ARE NATURAL DIURETICS LIKE KALE, ASPARAGUS, & ZUCCHINI- ADD THESE TO AL YOUR MEALS.
- EAT WHITE FISH, TUNA, & EGG WHITES AS PROTEINS- KEEP IT LITE IF YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE CONSUMING CHICKEN BREAST OR TURKEY.
- START WITH A GOAL OF GETTING IN 4-6 CLEAN/SEMI-CLEAN MEALS, WITH SOME SODIUM INTAKE, & SOME NATURAL SUGARS FROM FRUIT.
- INTRODUCE MORE “CLEAN” STARCHY CARBS LIKE BROWN RICE, OATMEAL, & YAMS. JUST EAT VEGGIES AS YOUR CARBS FOR AT LEAST THE FIRST COUPLE OF DAYS & IT WILL HELP YOU SHED THE SODIUM EVEN QUICKER.
- GET PLENTY OF SLEEP & TAKE YOUR VITAMINS!