5 months ago I did something I very rarely do. I did something I swore I’d never do again.
5 months ago, I stepped onstage as a bikini competitor.
This blog was extremely hard to write because after 3 years, 3 eating disorders, 1 baby and finally taking the stage again, I just needed time to reflect on how competing again made me feel.
Did I accomplish my goal of competing healthy, happy, and for myself finally?
Will I ever compete again?
The truth is, I wanted to answer these questions before they could be answered, and now having some time, and some tears shed- I think I’m ready to answer.
You can read my back story and past relationship with competing HERE, but its safe to say competing and I have had a very complicated relationship.
My biggest fear about getting onstage again, wasn’t that I wouldn’t be good enough or have what it takes… My biggest fear is that after finally finding peace and balance with my body and food; is that I was taking a chance of loosing something I fought so hard to find.
I do extremes very well. Balance is a constant battle for me. Bodybuilding for a person in eating disorder recovery is literally dangling a match above gasoline and hoping it won’t light on fire.
So did I get burned? No, but I did get surprised….
The surprising part about competing again is that the bodybuilding world has changed, yet in some aspects, feels exactly the same.
Yes, judges still like one look. You still need thick skin, and how you place is still a crap shoot- it’s just what you signed up for and I don’t mind it.
BUT, talking backstage with the girls, I found that not every girl had starved herself, did hours of cardio, and restricted themselves for weeks to get there. Some girls wanted to be like me, compete as healthy as possible. I’ll admit these girls were few, but just seeing the small change gives me a lot of hope for this sport.
I can know admit that starting my prep, I had the extremely high hopes that it is possible to bodybuild and be healthy. I can say that I whole heartedly tried to do that for 34 weeks straight, but I feel that this experience has really taught me what “healthy” really is.
At roughly 4 weeks out from my show, I dropped my calories into the biggest deficit I had my whole prep, I also started to implement 4 cardio sessions a week. Compared to most competitors preps, I was still eating higher calories and doing less cardio than most, but deep down I didn’t feel right.
I felt fatigued. I was moody. I was hungry from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed. And for the first time in 3 years, I started looking at my body with harsh judgement and at food with some anxieties.
In my past competition days, I would of wrote this off as “being dedicated”. This was familiar territory. Before I knew better, it was just part of the process.
It’s extremely painful for me to share this, because its hard to understand eating disorders unless you’ve experienced them. Its even harder to understand, how hard someone fights to recover from them.
1 night during my prep, I remember being so hungry, that I couldn’t stand the feeling anymore. I began binge eating, something I did often during my disorder days…. I then began to panic about the food I just ate and immediately went to get my sneakers to go do cardio.
As I was tying up my shoes, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.
It’s hard to put into words what that moment felt like, but it was like seeing a ghost from your past.
I just started to cry uncontrollably because I felt ashamed, embarrassed, and frankly, my heart just felt broken in that moment because I knew I worked so hard to never see “this girl” again, and her she was, staring right back at me.
In that moment I broke my own heart.
I decided to compete again to do one thing: to prove to myself that under even the most extreme challenges, I would never abandon the commitment I made to myself to be healthy and happy.
The best part about breaking your own heart? You know how to mend it.
The next day I took my calories up. I took my cardio down. 100% knowing that my body might look “less competitive” by doing this, I had to remind myself that I didn’t start this again for a plastic trophy, a judges opinion, or to be the leanest onstage- I did it for me and from that moment on, I felt a strength and pride in myself that I’ve never felt before.
I think in that moment, I really gained everything I set out to get stepping onstage again: THAT NO MATTER WHAT THE CIRCUMSTANCES, HEALTH AND HAPPINESS WAS GOING TO BE MY FOCUS- NO MATTER WHAT.
Show day was a very different experience for me than my past competition days.
What was once a day of worry, nerves, and pressure felt; I was chilling!
I had fun with the other competitors. I felt very confident and really had fun!
Even though I was the only mom in my class and I was quite a bit older than the other girls (ok so when did bodybuilding start in high school? Lol) I couldn’t help but feel extremely proud of the package I brought!
I ended up placing 3rd and nationally qualifying for the 3rd time in my career, which felt really great!
I think I had so much fun and was so relaxed because deep down, I truly DID NOT CARE what the judges thought, how I placed, or how I compared to the competition.
I found something better than winning: I FOUND MYSELF and being able to redeem yourself on your own terms? I finally felt real pride for myself.
So….. will I ever compete again? I’m not sure.
Was getting back onstage again the right decision? Absolutely!
Can you actually compete healthy and happy? It’s complicated🤔
I wanted to write this post because too often I see past competitors try to put bodybuilding into a box- a negative one. I also see competitors preach a lot of bullshit about competing as well.
I just wanted to give you my experience; full circle.
You rarely get the chance to re-write wrongs in your life and I actually was given the chance to do that and for that; I’m really proud of myself and although “that girl” from before may have been broken, “this girl” now? Well, she’s unstoppable!💪🏼
I want to connect with you! Leave me a comment or "like"👇🏽 below! You can learn more by checking out my Instagram page! @alyshaawilson
Thanks for the read loves!