Hello friends! The post i have been trying to get out to you guys for a while now is finally coming at you. I have finally had a few days off work to get things done and spend time blogging so that is what i am doing. No long intro for this post- let’s just get right into it.
If you are a competitor chances are you have heard the expression of “Post Show Blues”. If you aren’t a competitor, chances are you probably haven’t heard much about it. Let me fill you in. Post Show Blues is something that a competitor can experience immediately following a show. Athletes spend WEEKS and MONTHS prepping and preparing for a competition. Then, all of a sudden, you step on stage and BAM it’s over. You have spent so much time and energy dedicated to this one goal and now it is over. You no longer have a deadline, a goal, a plan, a big shiny stage and trophy to work towards.
This can lead to a lot of different emotions and feelings. Now, let me just say that these emotions/reactions/experiences vary from person to person. Prep is not a one size fits all and neither is ones’ post show experience. Some competitors can experience feeling unmotivated, feeling lost, feeling “fat”, and/or all the above. All of which can have an effect on the person’s mental and physical health in a negative way.
First time competitors, and even seasoned competitors, are both susceptible to the post show struggles… Especially first time competitors. (I am talking from my own personal experiences and from my friends’ experiences who i know who have also competed and struggled post show as well.) After my first show, i had NO IDEA what to expect following my first competition and that showed. (More about that experience down below). It is so much easier to “stay on track” during a prep than it is in “off season” when you have been deprived of food for so long and no longer have that goal of stepping on stage in a little bitty bikini. Even 3 competition seasons later, i still don’t have “post competition life” all figured out but i do think it gets (a little bit) easier each time.
One area that can really take a hit, following a competition, is BODY IMAGE. Every day in prep, we are used to waking up and see the number on the scale go down, new low weigh ins, new shreds, new veins, and new striations almost daily… especially in peak week and the closer you get to show day. Now, all of sudden in post show, the opposite is happening. The number on the scale is going up. You no longer are water and food depleted and you feel like it shows. You can feel as though you look “fluffy”, you can feel like people are thinking that you “got fat” and saying you rebounded post competition. Your abs look softer and this can really impact us competitors mentally. No one wants to feel less confident in themselves following a show. We go from looking 100% and the best we have ever looked to slowly watching that body fade away. We can be guilty of comparing our current physique to our show day physique despite knowing that that show day bod is NOT maintainable for the long term. If you don’t go into the post show period, mentally prepared for this to happen, you can really struggle (definitely guilty of this in the past).
Another area i have seen other competitors struggle with, and i have gone through as well, is BINGING post competition. Now, binging is not something that happens solely post show, competitors (and non competitors a like) can both struggle from binge eating. Again, not every competitor goes through this, but many do and i think it is something that needs to be talked about. Following a show, your body is in a very vulnerable state-low food, high cardio, your body is drained. Your body and metabolism is super sensitive to added food which can put you in a vulnerable position for rapid weight gain following a show (which is why i do recommend reverse dieting following a competition- go ahead and read more about that here).
It is so easy post competition to struggle with your eating and food consumption. You know longer have a “reason” to hit your macros or follow your typical meal plan. If you hit your macros by say, 8 pm, and you’re still hungry, its easy to say f this, I’m going to eat more. Many competitors go through this post show and it is important to realize that you are not alone. Yes, it is okay to not hit your macros. No one should be expected to follow their diet 100% following a really strict diet. Eating over your macros is OKAY. That isn’t a bad thing and is completely understandable to do so. We have all been there post show. The problem comes into play when simply over eating leads to binging.
Binging is not just “over eating”. It is the consumption of unusually large amounts of food-typically 1,000s of calories, in a short amount of time, and typically associated with feeling as though you are unable to stop or loss of control. Now, i would not say that I suffered from BED (Binge Eating Disorder) but i definitely have had problems with binging and binge episodes in the past.
Following my first ever competition, i struggled HARD post show. I followed a strict meal plan for 16 weeks. It was broccoli, chicken, tilapia, peanut butter, rice, and pretty much all “bro” foods. I didn’t get any free meals, any chocolate, any ice cream, anything “fun” my entire prep. I stuck to my meal plan 100% all 16 weeks. By the end, i was CRAVING everything that i was not allowed to have for 16 weeks. I wanted pizza, cheesecake, pancakes, froyo, burgers, cookies, you name it…i wanted it. This led to me binging post competition. I would eat cookies until i felt sick. I would spoon peanut butter out of the jar, alternating between 3 or 4 different types of peanut butter, until i felt so awful because my stomach was so distended from how much i had eaten. The entire time i would be telling myself “lauren, you shouldn’t be doing this. you aren’t even hungry, you’re stomach hurts…” and yet, i couldn’t stop. I felt out of control and i would tell myself that i wouldn’t let it (the binging) happen again. And yet….it did. I would binge again-alternating between salty and sweet foods like chex mix, nutter butters, chips, random baked goods from the closest grocery store- over and over again. I would over compensate with extra cardio, restricting my food intake, until i felt back to normal. Then for a few days my eating would be on point.. until at some point or another, i would binge again. These binges would happen when i was home alone, or when my sister was asleep in the next room. I was so afraid, ashamed, and embarrassed that someone might catch me and see what i was doing. I was embarrassed and i was ashamed that this was something i was going through. I felt alone and didn’t want to tell anyone what is going on. You’re afraid of being judged and afraid of what other people might think…. and yet, you can’t stop.
Binging can lead to a vicious cycle that you never want to go down. First,you binge… so you restrict your food intake/do extra cardio hoping to undo the damage you caused yourself until you start to feel better…until you’re stomach is no longer distended, your stomach doesn’t hurt anymore, and the water retention has gone down…until you no longer feel guilty. Then, you go a few days sticking to your diet, feeling better, thinking “yay, finally…. i think the binging is over”. Then bam, another binge and the cycle continues. The binging leads to feeling bad about yourself, feeling uncomfortable in your body, and being ashamed of the weight you gained quickly following your show.
It is really hard to describe binging to someone who has never gone through it before. It is so much more more than “not being disciplined” or “not having self control” as some people would say. It really is a mental struggle and it’s an awful experience to go through. If you are going through this, or experiencing BED, i want you to know that you are not alone and to reach out for help. Tell a friend, a therapist, anyone…. because feeling as if you are alone and struggling alone, is one of the worst parts of the binge eating. You do not simply overcome BED by staying silent or working through it by yourself (at least in my experience). Reach out to someone for help and you can recover and move past the binging and the feelings of hopelessness that you now feel as though you can’t escape from…
Whether binging is something you experience or not, i would say 99.9% of competitors struggle with body image following a show- some way some how. It is crucial to go into an off season, or “life season” knowing what to expect and with the right attitude. You can go into it, dreading the weight gain, dreading gaining body fat OR you can go into it looking on the bright side. Don’t fall victim to looking in the mirror and talking negatively towards yourself. We are our own worst critics. Tell yourself you are beautiful, worthy of love and acceptance, and rock that crop top irregardless of the number on the scale.
I am by no means an expert, but here are some tips and advice i have found to be helpful in avoiding (or at least minimizing) the “Post Show Blues”.
- Have a Plan and Stick to it. With your nutrition and training, have a plan post show. Are you going to take the Sunday following your show off from tracking and the gym? Are you going to take a week off? It is all personal preference but whatever you decide to do, stick with it. The sooner you get back into a routine the easier it is ( in my opinion). I had NO set plan following my first show and that was a big mistake. This past show season, i took Sunday off from the gym and tracking my macros. I relaxed and lived a little. Then Monday, i was back at it with the gym and hitting my macros. Think about what you want to do and whatever you decide, do it.
- If you can afford it- Stay With Your Coach. It is no secret that competing is an expensive sport. It is easy to say i can do this on my own instead of paying your coach to help you tackle the offseason. However, i find the added accountability and the second set of eyes, very beneficial..especially immediately following a prep. If you can afford it, stick it out with your coach at least a little bit longer and if you can’t afford it, reread tip #1!!
- Set New Goals. Now, is the time to set some new goals for yourself. You are no longer working towards that goal of “show day” so set some new goals for yourself… both fitness and life goals. Maybe you want to hit that deadlift PR of 300 lbs by the end of the year. Or maybe you want to try Crossfit. Focus on goals that have nothing to do with your level of leanness or how shredded you are. What other areas of your life do you want to work on that you perhaps put on the back burner while you were in prep? Take sometime to think about those areas of your life you want to improve on and start there.
- Be Realistic. We step on stage at unbelievably low body fat percentages. We are shredded and incredibly lean and for most of us, it took A LOT of struggles to get ourselves to that level… We need to remember that STAGE LEAN IS NOT MAINTAINABLE FOR THE LONG TERM. I REPEAT….. STAGE LEAN IS NOT MAINTAINABLE FOR THE LONG TERM. You could try to maintain that level of leanness but at what cost? Do you want to be doing hours of cardio daily, eating little (to no) carbs, having zero energy, no strength in the gym, and hAngry every day of your life? I know i absolutely do not. Chances are your hormones are wonky and that level of body fat is not optimal for your overall health. So, go into off season knowing that you are not going to maintain that depleted physique you worked so hard for. Know that you are going to gain weight and that is A-OKAY. A leaner you is not a better you, it’s just a different you.
- Focus on the Positives. I believe that everything in life is better with a positive mindset. Instead of focusing on the perceived negative of gaining weight, focus on all the positives that you are gaining instead. I.e. More energy, more food, more strength in the gym, gaining muscle, more energy to do things with your family and friends, spending less time doing cardio, being more social, improving your hormone levels, sleeping better… There are so many positives that come with taking time off from dieting and losing some of the shreds and it’s up to you to remember that. Besides, who doesn’t like eating more? Ha, i know i do.
- Don’t Expect Perfection. This is SO important. I hold myself to a high standard when it comes to staying on track with a competition prep and i am no different when it comes to off season. This can cause me to be too hard on myself when i don’t hit my macros, go to the gym on a scheduled day, or don’t do my “off season” in a textbook-picture perfect-way. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS PERFECT. Know that some days you may over eat or under eat. Know that things with your diet and training may not always go as you planned. Forgive yourself, know that one day and/or one week “off” doesn’t hinder your overall progress. Forgive yourself and move forward. No one is perfect regardless of what they portray on social media. We all struggle in some way post competition and know that you are not alone. Don’t put the pressure on yourself to be perfect.
So there you have it. A little bit about my experiences and my struggles post competition and some tips that i wish i would have known following my first competition. If you are struggling and need someone to talk to, please don’t hesitate to send me an email by clicking on my Contact Me tab or messaging me on any of my social medias. Off season is not easy by any means but it’s important to know that if you do struggle you are not alone.
Please comment below if you have experienced any “Post Show Blues” and leave any tips you may have for tackling off season or “life season”. Let’s all help each other out and feed ideas off of one another. Also, leave any topics or ideas you may have for blog posts in the future and thank you so much for reading.