Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Looking "Fit" Doesn't Necessarily Mean Being Healthy


Looking “Fit” Doesn’t Mean Being Healthy 


What is healthy?

The word “healthy” is a lofty one. Ask 10 people what being healthy means to them, and I can guarantee that you’ll get 10 different answers, ranging anywhere from blood work data, to inflammation, to the ability to run a mile in under 8 minutes. So what exactly does healthy mean? Spoiler: I’m not entirely sure either, and my definition admittedly changes frequently. However, I am certain of one thing: Looking fit doesn’t always mean that you are healthy, and being healthy doesn’t always mean that you will look fit. 

Huh?

Never Judge a Book by it’s (Pretty) Cover


A few years ago I prepped for my first Figure show. When I started out, I was sort of skinny-fat. Nothing extreme, but not lean by any stretch of the imagination. However, I was a pretty happy camper. I was always laughing (anybody that knows me can attest that I am a gigglebox) and bouncing off the walls. Once I embarked on an 18 week show diet, that all changed. Granted, my body had never looked better and it got more ridiculous with every day that passed. People kept commenting on how amazing I looked, asking what I was doing to make such great progress, and could I help them do that, too? 
But what they didn’t know was that I felt like total shit. Day in and day out, I was miserable. I was so tired that I could barely handle life. I was the grumpiest chick on the planet, and I still feel bad to this day for some of the people that had to endure my mood swings for those 4+ months. I was weak, tired, and irritable. My skin was dry, I was always freezing, and simply put, I never felt good. My digestive system was in shambles and I was an emotional wreck, however I persevered, chalking it all up to the “prep experience” and telling myself that these are sacrifices we have to make in order to get to our goals. 
So yes, my body? Bangin’. But I am pretty sure that no matter what your definition of “healthy” is, what I listed above sure as hell ain’t it. 


Careful What You Wish For

One day a friend of mine was talking about a Figure competitor that trained at our gym, and she said, “Whoa. I’m so jealous! I wish I could be as healthy as she is.” What this girl didn’t know was that I happened to be friends with the Figure competitor and the extremes she went to for dieting for her shows were insane and typically involved huge rebounds and battles with severe depression after each show. My girlfriend deemed the Figure competitor healthy based only on physical appearance and was envious, even though she had no idea what was going on under the surface, which I dare bet was a deluge of hormonal and metabolic issues that were only exacerbated with each prep. Nevertheless, the competitor’s smoking hot body had women flocking to her for dietary and training advice, saying that they’d give anything for that body. 

Healthy > Super Lean.

What about the people that train consistently, eat a balanced diet, and are genuinely happy, but don’t possess the genetics that allow them to get really lean (for the sake of this post, lets say sub 15% for a woman, and sub 8% for a man) without going to extreme dieting and supplementation measures? They aren’t ripped, shredded, diced, or any other silly word that evokes visible abdominal definition or muscle striations, but they feel good - move well, sleep well, enjoy life, strong, happy - and I dare say are healthy

I believe the majority of the population that trains hard and eats right falls into this group. While getting insanely lean isn’t impossible, the lengths that most of us (including yours truly) have to go to in order to get there are pretty hairball, and they most certainly are not maintainable unless we choose to live, eat, and breathe our diet/training/supplement routine. 

Healthy Isn’t Always Lean, and Lean Isn’t Always Healthy 

When do we come to peace with the fact that being healthy doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll be really lean, and being really lean doesn’t mean we’re healthy? The majority of the people that love to train and work hard to eat right seem to be forever chasing the dream of being really lean when in reality, it’s typically not conducive with a healthy body for most of us (myself included). And even if your body is able to stay really lean, a lot of people become a mess mentally (again, myself included), obsessing over everything we eat or don’t eat, and end up developing some downright spooky self-esteem issues, even though we’ve never looked better. Is it worth it to chase that unicorn? My friend JC Deen wrote about this topic today in, "When is it Ever Enough?"  and it really spoke to me. Been there, done all of that!

I get emails from women all the time that state their goals are to "have visible abs". Visible abs may be gorgeous - though I'm more of a legs girl myself ;) - but they are downright unattainable by most females. My girl Molly Galbraith explains why perfectly in this post, and I will tell you that Molly is an anomaly in this regard. Most women, in my experience, have to be rockin' a really low bodyfat percentage in order to show any abdominal definition, while Molly has said her abs show even when her bodyfat sits around 20%. 



As a nutrition coach, trainer, and health & fitness writer, this industry is a crazy world to play in. It’s a place where, unfortunately, most people’s expertise on nutrition and training isn’t based on how many clients we’ve worked with or the experiences that we’ve had, but rather on that person’s outward appearance.
I will be the first person to admit that I feel the pressure to look a certain way, because people put so much stock in our physical appearance, and I admittedly struggle with this topic. As Basilio just told me yesterday on Twitter:
Basilio Montilla ‏@BMquietPK@JenComasKeck It's becoming all too common to rely on aesthetics to judge a person's level of fitness.

If you knew you could be really lean, but knew there was a good chance that you'd feel awful and potentially cause some health problems, would you still be willing to do it? 
Drop me a comment below and lets discuss! 


Watch for my next post: Do You Need Cheat Meals?


You may also enjoy:
Fitness Bullies
What Do You Eat? A Peek into the Diets of the Best Bods
Dear Self, You Look Damn Good Today!



65 comments:

  1. I wrote about this in a post recently slamming 'fitspo' for images of very lean (probably photoshopped) women that just create another unattainable beauty standard masquerading as "health".

    http://samanthamenzies.com/home/2012/07/fitspo-is-not-inspirational/

    I am fit. I don't look super lean and people won't turn heads when I walk by and comment on my six-pack abs. But I have good blood pressure and pulse rate, I have tonnes of energy all day long, I can run a marathon and squat more than my body weight, I don't take medication. All these things are more important to me than looking lean.

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    1. Hey Samantha,
      that is a great post! I couldn't agree more about the Fitspo stuff. I admittedly thought a few of them were motivating months and months ago, but my entire thought process on them shifted when I realized that some people, no matter how hard they train and how healthy they eat, will NEVER look like that unless extreme measures are taken. And those images for some people are confusing and disconcerting. However, I digress...

      How you described yourself sounds healthy and happy to me, and that should be the ultimate goal!

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  2. I think about this a lot since I've leaned out (in pursuit of figure- an idea I've since nixed). The amount of compliments I get and how often I get asked what I do, what I eat, etc... It really brought to light how much emphasis we place on body image. It's not cool. We could be spending all that time and effort getting in touch with our true selves, our inner core, developing and evolving our very best selves and cultivating relationships. Doing the things that are important with our one life to live on this planet! Great post.

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    1. Thanks Kris!
      It's amazing how much people comment on our physiques, isn't it? And don't get me wrong - I do it, too! I can't even imagine how wonderful this world would be if we put forth all of that energy on the things that you mentioned!
      With that being said, I do feel like a hypocrite because I care about looking good and always will... however it's starting to be relative and not imperative. ;)

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  3. I couldn't agree more with this! I am 5' 3''on a small frame and I can sit at below a true 13 percent on a Dexa scan without having visible lower abs. I live a healthy lifestyle, feel entergized and happy. I would love to have a rocking 6 pack to show off but realize that this is something that will probably ever happen without compromizing my "health" in some way. Thanks for making me feel better :)

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    1. Stacey,
      thank you for giving the perfect example. <13% bodyfat is extremely lean for a female and still no visible lower abs! You sound like ME! ;)
      Congratulations on all of your hard work!

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  4. Hi Jen,

    Great post! My goals are to be happy and stronger and it seems that at the moment a by-product of these is that I'm maintaining (I hope sort of cuddly) approximately 22% body fat. Fighting depression leaves less time and energy for getting really rigorous on my diet in order to conform with the media's perceptions of what healthy women should look like.

    I'd rather fuel myself to feel bearable and hence be able to work out regularly than fight hard to be leaner only to start losing the battle against depression.

    In the end, we have to pick our fights carefully and outer appearances need not be the be-all-and-end-all.

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    1. Hey there!

      There is a LOT to be said about a rigorous diet stressing somebody out, making the entire thing totally counterintuitive. I think making good choices and fueling your body in a manner that helps you feel best (both physically and mentally) is definitely the best thing. Find peace and comfort in the fact that you are doing what is best for YOU. <3

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  5. Great post! I'm so glad more women are coming out about the realities and negativities of competition diets. I've had a mild temptation in me to compete some day, but since that temptation is so mild I really just don't think it's worth the hassle of messing with my metabolism and hormones so much. I have a suspicion that I just wouldn't recover well, both mentally and physically.

    I'm probably sitting at around or just below 20% BF right now and carry enough muscle that I get asked regularly if I compete (I'm like Molly...my abs are pretty darn visible at this BF%. Having dense, thick abs from heavy cable crunches and lots of compound lifts helps!). I still have a goal of dropping more body fat (slowly and using IIFYM), but only to a point where I FEEL happy, healthy, and balanced. Anything beyond that point would make life simply not worth living and would be completely unacceptable to me.

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    1. Hey Jessie!
      I'll tell you, if you have a little inner voice that is telling you that you probably won't recover well from a show, heed that warning! I had that little voice and ignored it. To this day I am still dealing with b.s. from those 18 weeks!

      Of course, I'm not trying to scare you off and I have to give the disclaimer that there are women that compete, love it, have a great time, and escape with no problems whatsoever. But if I'm being honest, those women are not the majority.

      It sounds like you have a good action plan and are being smart about it!

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  6. Oh so needed for me to hear. I have come to peace with this idea myself recently - thanks to you!! I was concerned before with trying to acheive some ideal, but it resulted in some pretty gnarly food relationships. Now that's back on track, I'm focused 100% on what needs to happen to stay healthy! And for me, a big chunk of that is mental health: which means not stressing over the rigamarole but just living my life within some global "health framework" that includes the best, most nutrient laden foods - with frequency! - not doing something outlandish because it will get me that unicorn. Because as we've learned, somethings you just can't control...(like genetics, and super psycho over acheiving diseases :-) )

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    1. Hey Erin!

      Yes, we can sure burn a whole hell of a lotta time trying to attain the unattainable. And abs are rad, but really - how often do we wear a midriff?? (Okay, fine. If I had abs I may wear midriffs.)

      Progress is different for everybody and all we can do is focus on becoming the best version of ourself that we can be.

      As for super psycho diseases, lets re-write history and squash it dead with some squats and deadlifts ;)

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  7. Great post Jen! I wouldn't compromise my health to "look" a certain way. I have done that in the past and all it did was make me look sickly thin, no definition and was NOT strong at all! Now, I feel great, sleep well, and am getting stronger in the gym. Listening to my body has become my "control center" if you will, to my health.

    I am guilty of having the thought of "wow she looks awesome, I would love to look like that!" But you are right, I have no clue how she is feeling or what issues she has to climb through just to look like that. Solid words!

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    1. Oh, I can't lie - I see that pic and think, "Damn, I'd love to look like that again!" but then the memories come flooding in and I recall how I was the #1 most un-fun person on the entire planet and I think NO THANK YOU! Proof that you just never know what somebody is going through so we have to be careful what we covet.

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  8. This really hits with me. Just before I was diagnosed with diabetes I had dropped around 25lbs and was the leanest I'd ever been. I was feeling like absolute garbage, but every one kept complimenting me and asking how I did it. Appearances can definitely be deceiving. Thank you so much for writing this!

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    1. Hi Ali!

      Getting a ton of compliments on your outer appearance when you feel like total garbage is a tough thing to handle mentally. I think our subconscious starts to mess with us and starts to associate that we must feel like crap in order to look good. Dangerous territory.

      I'm glad you enjoyed this piece!

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    2. Stop thinking that just because you're skinny means you're sick! I'm skinny, and got more energy than a lot of people I know!

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    3. Anonymous - I think you have missed the point of this post, and of Ali's comment. There is nothing wrong with being slim. The problem arises when we use extreme and dangerous methods to push ourselves to a level of leanness that doesn't occur naturally.

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  9. QUESTION: I can agree with the unattainable abs for most women. I'm at 17%BF and don't see cut abs. But I DID expect to have shed the love handles at this point. I cut body fat everywhere but seem to STICK when it comes to the love handles. I DO see tons of ladies without these, so I don't think that's an "unattainable". Input? :)

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    1. Hi Maria,

      Ahhh, bodyfat. It has a mind all it's own and disperses itself differently on each individual. Fact of the matter is, that just may be your problem area. All of us have them and they're on a different location for everybody. I wish there was a magic fix, but there isn't.
      I'd recommend sticking to a healthy eating plan, training hard, and giving it some more time.

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  10. LOVE this post! Me persoanlly I would love to be totally ripped but not at the expense of feeling like crap. As you know I have lost alot of weight and still have alot too lose and I sometimes ask myself will I ever have a body that I am happy with. I see small changes everyday but somedays its hard to imagine what the "final" product will look like. I just hope that I find some sort of balanace with what makes me happy and what I can actually achiveve. Really I just wanted a balanced looking body.... and maybe nice arms LOL

    Alan

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    1. "and maybe nice arms." <----- hahaha my favorite part of your comment!

      As you know, I stalk... er, I mean, FOLLOW your progress ;) and I can see how you'd be curious how it'll all shake out. What I do know is that you work your butt off, eat delicious and healthy food, and seem to have a great attitude about all of it. That, my friend, is a recipe for nothing but success, however it manifests.

      xoxo

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  11. I wholeheartedly agree with your post. Now, how do I get this message to a beautiful, athletic 8th grade girl on my basketball team who is anorexic and believes not eating is the way to...well, I'm not sure what exactly she is after. Unfortunately, she, and others of her generation, have been fed the lie that skinny = beautiful and are buying it, hook-line-sinker. Truth is, "Beauty does lie in Strength" and thankfully, there are women out there, like you, Jen, who are spreading that truth. Thank you for your post!

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    1. Yikes! My heart broke a bit when I read about this lovely 8th grader. It is my hope and goal to start speaking to younger girls just like her. Hopefully educating them and helping them love themselves will make a difference.

      I blame a lot of this on the internet. While there is a lot of good info out there, there is an equal amount of ridiculous info that scares me to death that younger girls are reading and taking to heart. :( Ugh!

      Thank you for the kind words, and I will pray for that girl!

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  12. Great great great post! Your experience and other's is why I've always been hesitant about doing a competition..I feel so good right now with my eating and am still able to stay pretty lean without being as strict as I was when I was on a mission to get "abs". I may not have ripped abs, but I feel great, mentally and physically! I was thinking about doing a show...but I really don't want it to interfere with where I'm at with my eating right now!

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    1. Hey Linds!

      I think that is so smart. You have such an incredibly beautiful body and you seem to have a good relationship with food - both healthy and treats. Doing a show can tinker with that for a lot of women and it causes weird food phobias and obsessions. Not all, of course, but many. It's wise of you to be aware of this and know what you are jumping into.

      Of course, you have my support with whatever you choose to do! :)

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    2. A very healthy relationship with treats, haha!

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  13. I've always struggled with my weight and hit my lowest/leanest point twice and both times were the best I've looked but the worst I've ever felt. It's hard for me to accept but my body just feels better with more weight on.

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    1. I feel ya, friend! Dropping my bodyfat down is tough. I know exactly where my body likes to "settle" and it's just happiest there. Anything lower is a challenge and the older I get, the more I find peace with it.

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  14. Jen, thank you for posting this! As I embark on my first steps toward a fitness career in 2013, this thought has often come into my head. I'm going to always make it a priority to educate my clients on the ramifications of getting that "six-pack" and how sustainable that actually is... We need more voices of reason in this industry!

    Samantha, you have a great blog! (Oh, and I agree, you ARE beautiful!)

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    1. Hello!
      Congrats on your upcoming career in fitness!

      The elusive six-pack is attainable for some, but just NOT for most. It's a sad truth, but it is what it is.

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  15. A girlfriend of mine both train and share our fitness/diet pitfalls and triumphs although our goals are quite different. She's embarking on her third bikini show in a few days while I'm embarking on muscle gains. She's encouraged me to enter the "show" realm, but I'm just know inside I couldn't handle the deprivation needed to take me there. I've been a master at always eating in a slight deficit, which finally lands me around 20% BF at 43 years old. But now I'm finding a mental challenge in eating at a slight surplus to put on muscle. That's a HUGE mental hurdle. But I keep telling myself, if you want to put on muscle, you have to eat and rest for it. The upside is how much more energy I have to get through my workouts and lifts now that I'm eating more. I've had to make peace with myself that a little fat gain will be concomitant with the muscle gain...but, still, it's hard to swallow. And as the scale goes slightly up, I stress out. Is it fat? Is it muscle? Then I remind myself, you keep lifting heavier so that number has to reflect at least some muscle. And honestly, nothing feels better than feeling strong. And now that I'm eating more carbs, everything is a bit softer from the water retention. So even those of us not on the competition circuit can get really hung up and tangled within these body composition ideals. In my private training group, I lift with predominantly men. I do find this is helping me focus more on performance than appearance. Thanks for putting out articles such as this...a good reminder that certain aesthetic achievements come at a hefty price tag.

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    1. Hi Erica!

      Trying to put on muscle can absolutely be a challenge mentally, no doubt about it. As long as you are doing it smart, and it sounds as though you are, I really doubt you'll take much of a hit in the bodyfat department.

      And yes, even though this article seems to be geared towards competitors, I see more and more women struggling with unrealistic expectations that don't even have any intention of competing. So it can definitely happen to anybody.

      Ahhh, lifting with men is my fave! No competition, no emphasis on appearance, and a whole lot of admiration! ;)

      Good luck on your journey! I'm sure you will do great!

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  16. Great post! This past year I competed in my first two figure competitions and did a 12 week prep for each with a similar experience. In the mirror, I looked amazing, but the process definitely took it's toll on my health. After each show, I went through a bad cycle of binge eating and my metabolism took a hard hit - I could really feel myself putting on fat in a way my body never did. Thankfully, a track coach found me doing intervals and challenged me to take a year off figure competitions to train for track & field. I'm training functionally, eating healthy (not the restricted figure version of healthy), and I'm much happier than I ever was during prep. And while I may not be as "shredded" as I used to be, I can look in the mirror and be proud of how I look because of the way I can perform. Thanks again for the post! It's great for people to know that it's not always about aesthetics!

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    1. Hi Ryan! (which happens to be one of my all-time favorite names for a woman!)

      I'm so glad that the coach got to you when he did to pull you out. It sounds like you needed something different to focus on in order to heal, and track and field did just that. Phew!

      It's definitely not always about aesthetics, and I think the sooner we all (myself included) realize that, the happier we will be!

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  17. this couldn't have come at a better time for me. I am struggling with the whole not feeling like crap vs low body fat. Thank you!

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  18. I LOVE hearing comments from women who have THOUGHT about doing figure competitions and then realized it was not the path to go! YAY! That is me... I thought about it and then remember that I don't want to do anything unhealthy or extreme. Why work so hard to look a certain way for ONE day and then know you are not going to be able to maintain it?? And I couldn't get over being that tan, even for one day! lol I want to be truly healthy 365 days a year. And ya know, I try really hard to value the compliments of "you are a nice person, good mom, funny, etc." over the "you are pretty, you look great, etc".

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    1. "And ya know, I try really hard to value the compliments of "you are a nice person, good mom, funny, etc." over the "you are pretty, you look great, etc"." <---- this is my favorite part of this comment!

      My friend and fellow GGS co-founder said that anytime anybody compliments her daughter on being pretty, Julia always follows it up with "and smart!" That way her daughter doesn't only think she gets compliments about her looks! I thought that was cute and what you said reminded me of it ;)

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  19. Awesome post, Jen! I may not have competed, but I have done a competition prep diet for fun (yeah, I'm crazy!). I got very lean, but it was not healthy at all. Watching my coach go through his contest prep was eye-opening. It wasn't a healthy process at all, but he looked amazing on the day and won. Appearances can be deceiving, but I would much rather be healthy at a higher body fat than spend my days obsessing about having a six pack and solely existing on dry chicken breast.

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    1. Hi Tara! Thanks!

      Oh yes, I remember reading about your craziness ;) But hey, I can't throw stones. I've done my dang best to lean out like crazy before, too, and not for a show!

      Ugh. Dry chicken breast! Ick!

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  20. Excellent post! I agree that we put too much emphasis on physical appearance and not enough on our emotional, mental, and social wellness. I don't want to sound like sour grapes, but I'm sure many of the perfect looking fitness models and bodybuilders who are subjecting their bodies to extreme practices probably don't feel as good as they look.

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    1. Hi Tom!
      Oh I'll guarantee that many fitness models and BB don't feel good at all! That look, for most people, certainly comes at a price. Even if their body can sustain it, most people become self-obsessed and hypercritical, neither of which I associate with health.

      Thanks for chiming in!

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  21. Thank you Jen, I needed to hear this. I too am coming to terms with the reality that I can't maintain health and happiness while dieting to be super lean. I've been feeling like a failure for not being able to deal with the deprivation of a competition-style diet, but I'm discovering it's not worth it to me to feel terrible on the inside to look amazing on the outside.
    Thank you!

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    1. Hi Meg!

      Oh no, no failure there! A competition diet is NO JOKE and most women must go to extremes to get that lean. Often we think that being super lean will make us happy, but it won't. I can tell you that even when I was at my very leanest, I would STILL swat my boyfriends hand away from my stomach because I still thought it was fat. My happiness didn't change at all as my bodyfat decreased. If anything, I became more stressed out and unhappy.

      Happiness and health will always trump being crazy lean!

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  22. i agree so so so so so much and i featured your post on my tumblr:

    http://transluzent.tumblr.com/post/34256350109/fitspo-is-not-inspirational

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  23. LOVE THIS!!!! As a competitor (figure, fitness, and tri-fitness since 2006) I have been on both sides and agree! I do think it is possible to lean out in a healthy way....but with my non-stop lifestyle, genetics, and not enough sleep (striving to fix that one!) it is a hard balance everything to get there. I think most people are in the same situation…..we all live very busy lives! When I first started competing it was easy to lean out (great metabolism from NEVER dieting!) and after years of clean eating and many times too low of calories I am now having more trouble when I want to lean out. I took a break of overtraining and under eating recently. I ate clean foods, but WAY more calories to help heal my metabolism and did this for months…….it was hard for me because YES I did put on some unwanted lbs, but I was still not overweight by any means! I am still experimenting myself with different training and macronutrients without dropping my calories really low. So far it is working, but I too have a goal of getting my abs and tight butt back ….all with a healthy diet and training program. I want to focus more on my strength and athletic goals and not my physique goals. It seems like every show I have done in the past 6 years ends up going a little more to the extreme to get to where I want to be……and even with the fitness shows my physique is what always seems to takes 1st priority….well no more! Health is #1 no matter what my goals are. This is the first time I have tried to lean out without competing. I am a mother of 3 girls and a trainer to women whom I want to be a good example for. Health is my number one priority now! If I can see my abs on a healthy plan where I have strength and feel good then Great……but I have decided to stop weighing and start listening to my body more. Most importantly being thankful for the body I have been given and making it not only look good…..but feel good! Thanks for such a great article and one that makes me feel like I am not alone!

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  24. Thanks for this post, I have been having a similar conversation with myself. I am a newbie to all of this. I eat well, I feel great. I like my body. I started working out because of a cancer diagnosis and would like to give my body the best possible chance at rejecting ill-health, while reshaping, defining and tightening my person. I think this will help my confidence, strength and general outlook on life. Just this morning I woke and started feeling myself up on the way to brush my teeth and I noticed how different my body feels. Yes. I would love well defined abs, but. I am not sure that I am willing to delve too deeply in those waters. For now at least, I will continue with my vegetarian lifestyle and continue to create a consistent training habit.

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  25. Great post. Skinny does not mean healthy and for many people that's how they base their body. More so with women than men

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  26. This is so true and something I talk about all the time. Whenever ladies come to me with advice about figure, I am very straight forward about the actual culture of the sport. You don't have to be a part of it to be successful, but it's like stepping in quicksand when you commit to doing your first show. I think we all step in it. It's just a matter of climbing back out and realizing not to walk that path again.

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  27. At 5'9" I have done cutting diets twice, getting down to about 10% body fat each time. Not only did I experience all of the symptoms you described above, with the bonuses of fuzzy long-range vision and losing my coordination (nothing quite as fun as falling off the bench multiple times when doing step-ups), but it jacked up my perception of food big-time. I'd trade the fleeting experience of a near-perfect figure for a permanently balanced view of food any day. No trophy is worth that.

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  28. Jen! This is a fantastic post! It reminded me so much of my post where I discussed a friend of mine dealing with people critiquing her "athletic" body.

    http://www.thetrendytrainer.com/2012/10/bullying-and-body-types.html

    I find I fall into the same category as you in that I feel that pressure. I believe it is society wanting that perfect image and willing to cut corners to do so.

    It takes a strong person to look within themselves and know they are healthy based on elements NOT related with appearance.

    Thanks for sharing :)

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  29. Great article! I'm forwarding it to a girlfriend with whom I "healthily" obsess with about food and fitness. But we do it all in good fun,

    However, a couple of years ago when I had an attack of diverticulitis, I lost weight FAST. Almost all people, except for one, commented jealously about how skinny I look. And even though I replied with, "I look like this because I'm sick!", they just rolled their eyes at me and I felt like I need to be sick to look this good in skinny jeans. =\ Your article just made me aware of how mentally screwed up I am to make that my current weight goal. It was a reminder of what I had gone through just to fit in those jeans... which, by the way, I'm throwing out of my closet!

    The one comment that stood out was pretty much the same thing the others said enviously... but with concern. And wouldn't you know it? It was a man. ~ginny =)

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  30. Great post, Jen! That's so true! I myself am content with the way I look, but if it depends on me, I'd like to get even leaner than I am now. But I know that getting leaner, might lead to health problems, that I have absolutely no desire to deal with! I'd rather stay between 16-18% bodyfat and feel great, work out and become stronger, than being 12% sick, depressed and not being able to kick ass in the gym! ;)

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  31. This article couldn't have come at a better time for me. I have been training really hard for six months (well, harder than the last ten years) and dieting strictly. Well, it is strict compared to most people, but nothing like a comp diet. Every week I get a little sad that I still have so much body fat (I am down to about 24% on a Dexa scan)) and wonder what it would take to get to the point where I would be happy. Well, here is the answer! Whatever it would take is probably not worth it.

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  32. Great post Jen!!

    I myself am one of those "genetic freaks" who can stay lean all year long...but even still i reach points of "going too far" because i can...and because sometimes it's hard to see when enough is enough. No matter how lean most competitors are, they can usually pin point ever place on their body where they need work, where they are holding water, where they could lose more fat, where they need more muscle, more symmetry...blah blah blah. We are unaware that our version of perfection doesnt exist and that while most would kill for the body we have even in the off season, we are killing ourselves for a better stage version. Good is never good enough...better is never best, unless you win. Winning feels great for the moment then you're back on the roller coaster. Place trophy on mantel...Binge then feel guilty....but continue to do it for a week because you feel deprived....now you feel sick....and even more guilty so now it's time to diet again. It's an emotional, physical and hormonal roller coaster that i for one was very happy to jump off. The question is always posed, "will you compete again?" I may, but for me, right now is perfect! My skin is finally clearing up from the acne induced by hormonal fluctuations to an extreme that my doctor couldnt keep up with, my cycles are normal again, and my butt is back to jiggling a bit...but i'm happy with today and tomorrow that includes health not dieting.

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  33. No chance!
    I get asked all the time if I am a figure/fitness competitor and I laugh and respond "No, I love food too much."
    The highs and lows, the metabolic shit storm that created and everything else in between that comes with getting so dang lean is not worth it. I'd be happier with some extra "fat" on the body but knowing that I can successfully front squat 100kg and carry heavy things, pull myself over a wall, etc. To me, everyday functionality (ok minus the 100kg front squat) is far more important than being "lean". And when is lean "too lean"? I think that's the greater thing to be concerned about... are we pushing people to go too far with these images of "healthy" competitors showing every single striation, rib, etc??

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  34. hey jen love loving ur posts as always. jen i realllyyy hope u look at this comment. i wrote one under "wat do u eat a sneak peak into the best bods" please if u have time find me there and read it.its interesting but read it before u read below.

    i wrote u about bloating and feeling crap basically. now dont get me wrong i have a figure im happy with i get complements and all the rest of it. i dont have a clue what body fat % i am. im not lean lean(i think)after my 40th i did decide "look in the mirror and love ur tummy its urs, you have been unable to hit the 6 pack u tried thats it move on". i gained great peace of mind but my health went down hill, eating became and is still a struggle

    but the shock came on aug 3rd( i was told it ur diet nothing will show up here ur trying to be too healthy , seriously???) when ct scans showed my bowels dont work (these were the words used) so basically im full of SH...

    i told the constultant hey no way ive a healthy diet MOST of the time and i visit my toilet a few times a day(whick i was v proud of because in my years of us being a double income no kids family i had major problems here)MAJOR SHOCK to system here. i went into meltdown cried sobbed wouldnt eat ,couldnt eat when i want to and the cleans every saturday for 5 weeks were tough. confidence took major dive stoped seeing friends going out etc.

    Where im at now :5 cleanouts and still not cleaned. ive lost 2.5 kg and i could see a 6 pack yesterday (ladies dont go nuts here)so 3 kids and no income(and a good marraige)a 1/2 stone heavier dan before kids(by choice its important to add here )

    i am not training as my weight is dropping(was 56kg) if i do train its compound moves with alot of rest no raising heart rate, i woke this morn thinking id love to do sprints on treadmil 30/30 but a voice said ur to me ur down to 53.5 kg can u really afford it on wat ur eating ?????? is it worth it.

    im lighter but my body fat has increased i can see it, i take it that my body is storing the v little that i do it as it doesnt know when i will eat again. im gone from eating more dan a man would eat to less dan 1000 a day(yes i know but im trying and doing my best to get it in) i then go throu a period of im starving and i eat eat eat and then i feel sick so i eat little to nothing again.

    i was in the gymn about 4 weeks ago and the trainer asked am i on s special dieet and again and again i was approached and asked the same. if only they knew lol

    for me wat is now v upsetting is i had put on weight (so i thought) about my rib cage and ribs were no longer visible i absolutely loved this achievement i thought it was muscle well after the cleans that "muscle " disappeared......

    ladies if u dont feel well and an inner voice keeps telling u something is not right listen to ur body , consultants (3 of them) didnt listen to me (one never exaimed me but took loads of cash and insisted it diet)

    also my sister was diagnosed with crohns late last month . she has always enjoyed a crap filled diet pizza pastries, gallons of coke she too was told it was diet and drs refused to send her to hospital for tests

    so there u have it im too healthty and she is too unhealthy diet wise (according to constultants) and we re both f...... up

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  35. I get the most comments and attention when I don't have the energy to work out. This was an amazing article that peels back the corner a little. Well done.

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  36. Could not agree with you more. A very well written article. Actually left a link to this article on my blog post today (www.carbcyclediary.wordpress.com) such an important message you have to share!

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  37. Hi! Your post means so...SO much to me. I can't even. I struggle so much with body issues and feel constant pressure to look a certain way....first it was looking "healthy"....then it was looking really skinny....then it was having a visibly toned body with a marked six pack and constant fear that I would lean towards an "unhealthy looking" body....I am so worried about what teenagers and other people all around the world will start doing when they see posts on social networks with pictures of others looking a certain way, because they definitely influenced me to extreme measures...love you so much for this article <3

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  38. Great Post. I am falling into this category of post competition low self-esteem, body image, adrenal fatigue, hormonal imbalance and so on. Thanks for the post, it helps :)

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  39. Well, very unique ideas. There is no need to be pressurized . i believe that the foremost thing is to have high energy levels. Eat healthy foods, avoid salt and sugar, instead eat cinnamon and high potassium foods.
    Well, nice blog btw.

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  40. Great post. I have been a swimmer for ages and have seen people come into the sport for fitness, and usually not achieving what they wanted fast enough and quiting, which is sad. But sadder than that is the people I've seen getting into serious shape and then gradually becomming visible obsessed with their own image (getting tattoos, dying hair, using fake tans, etc) to the point that I think I preferred the nice chubby guy/girl to the self-absorbed fit person they've become.

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