It has been a while. I think I have not posted here for years. Maybe because I was discouraged from the last competition and maybe because I don’t feel that drive that I once did that kept me enthralled in a healthier lifestyle. But two weeks ago, I attended the Red Clay Writing Institute in Athens, Georgia and the workshop reminded me that I am a writer. I think that I forget! Not only do I want to write again, I am more willing to share some of the stories that have not been shared in the past. I have written a very short story about my first bodybuilding competition and those who have competed will relate. Here it is. My first post since October 2014.
She stood behind the curtain backstage. As the MC called her name, she found herself shaking and thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?” Her hand moved across the back of her suit as she made sure it was still in place. She looked down at her chest to see if anything was sticking out. The last thing she wanted to do was flash the audience. The MC ended his introduction and she stepped with one foot in front of the other until she was fully past the curtain. Good thing she had a little sip of wine because she was about two seconds away from passing out. The music was turned up loud and she looked out at the crowd but the only thing visible were the bright lights, the row of judges in the front of the auditorium and her boyfriend. Making her way across the stage in those five inch heels started to become easier with each step.
The first pose was one that she practiced over and over again with her coach. Left hand on her hip, right leg out to the side and a big grin with eyes on the judges. Her muscles flexed as she held the pose for a few seconds, but her face still looked relaxed. If only the audience knew how painful it was to hold those poses. She walked to the right of the stage and turned, showing her well-earned striations. Then she moved to the middle again with her eyes on the crowd. This was no time to be nervous. She had suffered through grueling workouts and walked a very fine line between fat loss and starvation for twelve long weeks. As she walked to the left, she thought about all of the food she was going to eat after the night was over. She turned around and showed off the v-taper on her lean back, and back around to display her six-pack abs. None of the women were as lean as her. After the T-walk on stage she went behind the curtain and her coach congratulated her. Never in a million years did she think that she would compete in such an event!
All the women went out together and followed the instructions of the judges. “Quarter turn to the right, quarter turn to the left, face the back, face the front.” They were up there for what seemed like forever. One by one, the award winners were called out on the stage and she heard her name. Fourth place! Not bad for a first timer. She was inspired beyond measure and she was inspiring others. Just a few years ago she was overweight, unhealthy and unhappy. The next day she talked to the head judge and asked for feedback. “You were just too lean. That was extreme. Nobody wants to see that.” Did he not realize how hard she had worked for her body? His words cut her like a knife. In her mind, her muscles showed her hard work and dedication that none of the other women had. But in his opinion, she should have been softer. Forget that! If she was going to do this, she was going to go all out. She could be “soft” by just not working out, but this was bodybuilding for God’s sake. When she was obese no one told her to lose weight so she could be healthy, but here she was talking to a man who promoted a healthy lifestyle telling her that she went too far. A Black man who should have been supportive of his Black sisters.
It was in that moment that she realized no matter what you do to your body there will be people who don’t like it. Too muscular? You look like a man. Too soft? You are fat. Small ass? Get some butt injections. Breasts small? Get some implants? Hair nappy and too Black looking? Get a relaxer to look Whiter. Bodybuilding taught her discipline and pride and she learned to love herself for who she was no matter what the judges thought or anyone else who decided to judge her body.
I consider myself to be more of an introverted type of person in certain situations. I only share certain parts of my life with a small group of people. Some of this comes from previous experiences with criticism and negative comments about what I am doing from other people. However; recently I have found that the more I share what I am doing with bodybuilding, nutrition, and general fitness, the more successful I am. Yes, there are some who could care less, criticize or look to see you fail, but that is a very small percentage of people. You will be surprised at who you can inspire if you just share what you are doing. This does not mean being egotistical or judgmental of others. It only means to be proud of who you are, what you do, and the accomplishments you have made.
I received a compliment in the gym today and it made me feel good. To know people recognize you are working hard and appreciate it, is a very good feeling.
7 weeks to go!
Preparing food for the week can be time consuming. I am down for anything that makes the process easier and this is where my handy dandy crock pot comes into play. I cook everything from turkey to chili to collard greens in the crockpot. I buy a lot of meat so I like to make cooking easy. Here is one of my favorite recipes.
Crock pot Chicken
2 lbs of boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup of low sodium organic chicken broth
Pour the broth into the crock pot.
Rinse off the chicken and place in the crock pot.
Add seasonings and lemon juice.
Set the crockpot on high for 6 hours.
It is best to do this in the morning and by the afternoon your chicken is ready and you can eat it for lunch or dinner all week.
I have been at two opposite end of the dieting spectrum. At one point in my life I ate whatever I wanted, when I wanted, and didn’t care anything about it. I have also dieted down for a show to the point of extreme carb depletion with a very limited selection of food. I have seen what food can do to the body, both good and bad. If you ask anybody who has ever been on a diet and exercised what the hardest part is….they will tell you “the diet!” After all, we do have taste buds for a reason.
Eating is one of the most enjoyable activities in life. We plan majority of our social events around food….Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas, Halloween, the Superbowl…and the list goes on. We eat mindlessly just because it is something we are expected to do and we even associate certain food with certain activities. Watch a movie and nine times out of ten you are eating popcorn. When you go on a mission to lose weight or eat healthier, it can be a very daunting task to eliminate all of the foods that you used to eat. Many people become so zealous that they avoid certain foods like the plague. But through my years of trial and error, I have learned that what we may think of as “bad” food is not necessarily bad. Living healthy is not about good vs. bad or restriction. Living healthy is about balance and better choices.
Many people at work are aware that I eat healthier than most and I workout on a regular basis. The most common question I get about my diet is whether I eat carbohydrates, if I restrict foods, or if I eat junk food. I wish I had the willpower to never eat “junk food” again but that is not happening. If I didn’t eat carbs, my body would shut down and I would not be writing this blog as we speak. After many years of struggling with food, losing weight, dieting for shows, and dealing with post-competition blues and trying to adjust to a “normal diet,”…I have decided that I am not classifying foods into good or bad categories anymore. These terms play tricks on the mind. I eat according to my goals, I eat to be healthy, I eat because I enjoy food, and I eat in a way that will leave me satisfied and feeling like I made a good decision. Unless you have allergies or a disease, or are involved in a sport that requires specific foods such as bodybuilding, you don’t need to be extreme. If there are foods you don’t like, that is fine. If you don’t want to eat them, that is perfectly fine as well. Only you know how you can control your eating.
Balance is the key to being healthy for life and as humans we like variety. Don’t get caught up in fad diets just because everyone else is doing it. Start tracking what you eat and you will see the amount of nutrients in your food and might even realize that what you thought was “bad” is not so bad. Become an educated food consumer, not just a blind follower of someone else’s diet plan.