Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Last Year... post competition

When I started this blog, I was prepping for my first figure competition and I was going to share my process through this blog. I stopped blogging about the competition after only a few posts and I never explained why. I ended up quitting at only 3 weeks out and never went on stage. This was a difficult decision to make after 17 weeks of hard work and dedication,  but I know now it was the right thing to do.

Having never competed before, I had no idea what the process should look like. I knew it was going to be hard, I knew the diet would be strict and the workouts tough. I hired a coach to guide me through me because although I knew how to train people, I didn't know how to train for this specific sport and I wanted to do it right. I told my coach (who I will not name, but will refer to as 'Coach') that I wanted the process to be as healthy as possible and I wanted to remain a good example for my clients. I did not want to do anything that I would not recommend to my own clients. I hired someone I trusted to be an expert in this area of training.

Along the way, I had some red flags that as a trainer, I should have listened to. I was began losing weight very quickly, sometimes 3 or 4 lbs in a week. I felt very tired after just a couple weeks. My supplement stack was longer than my food list. My calories were very low at even 20 weeks out and got as low as about 800 calories/day by 5 weeks out. I was doing excessive amounts of cardio including early morning, empty stomach cardio for up to 1 hour every day, and more cardio in the evening with an hour of weight training in the afternoon.

I started taking fat burners very early on... first it was just a mild one, but as the cardio increased and my diet decreased, I felt like I needed more and was put on a much stronger one, and when that didn't work anymore, we increased the dose, and later added ephedrine. By the end, I was taking 3 fat burners, 2 ephederines and green tea just to give me enough energy to get to the gym to do cardio in the morning. Then I would do the same in the after before weight training. I was taking 6 times the recommended amount of the fat burner listed on the bottle.

In the last few weeks, my diet looked like this:

Meal 1:
4 rice cakes
4oz white fish
1 fish oil cap

Meal 2:
4oz white fish
1 cup cucumber

Meal 3:
4oz white fish
6 spears of asparagus
1 fish oil cap

Meal 4:
4 oz white fish
1 cup cucumber

Meal 5:
4oz white fish
6 spears of asparagus
1 tsp olive oil

As a trainer, I think I should have known better, and that's really easy to say in retrospect. At the time though, I trusted my coach and it was a very slippery slope that I didn't even realize I was on until the end. When I did question my coach, I was reminded about all the other girls she had trained and told that none of them had had any problems after the competition. She would tell me to trust her, that she knew what she was doing and that as long as I followed program, I would be fine. I understand that I was a willing participant, so I do take responsibility for my part, but having no frame of reference to compare to, I didn't know that this wasn't how all competitors train or feel. I thought this was what everyone did.

The beginning of the end came one day when I was supposed to train legs, I remember sitting on my couch feeling so exhausted that I couldn't move and couldn't fathom getting up much less working out. So I broke down and ate an apple with 1tbsp of peanut butter -yes, I even measured it. I felt so guilty after... like I had just undone all my progress and downed a whole pizza! I even did extra cardio after my workout to make up for it. Of course, later on when I was in a "saner" frame of mind, I realized that I did not cheat on anything...  I was starving and my body needed food and so I ate something that I needed. This was at 5 weeks out.

Then I started getting dizzy during cardio and I almost fainted one night. Not wanting to "cheat" again, I texted my coach for permission to eat an apple. When I got home (my husband was driving- thankfully I wasn't alone at the gym that night) I took my blood pressure and it was only 93/60. Very low, no wonder I felt faint. I was feeling worse and worse... my hair was thinning, I looked gaunt and felt like I was dying (I probably was starving myself to death, slowly) and one day at 3 weeks out, my husband had an honest heart to heart with me and told me I needed to stop.

Gregg reminded me that I wanted to do this in healthy way, and I wasn't. I wanted to be a good role model for my clients, and I wasn't. I didn't want to do anything that I wouldn't recommend to my own clients- I wouldn't recommend fat burners,  extreme low calories diets, or excessive cardio to any of my clients. I realized that I was as big of a hypocrite as a trainer who preached clean eating and goes home to eat big macs and drink coke. What I was doing was no better.

I quit the next day. I lied to my coach about why I was quitting- I said I couldn't afford all the final expenses and that our car needed expensive work. I didn't know how to tell her how I was feeling without hurting her feelings.

In the months that followed I discovered how much damage had been done to my body. After I quit, my coach gave me a carb cycling program to follow so that I wouldn't "rebound"... I gained 8lbs in the first week. And then I kept gaining... about 1/2 lb to 1 lb per week. Then I tried going onto my own healthy balanced plan watching my calories... and I kept gaining. Then I hired another coach, Allison who is a trainer, Nutritionist and IFBB pro and she put me on a well balanced, healthy plan... and I kept gaining! It was Allison who first suggested that I might have Metabolic Damage.

I also went to my doctor around this time. She ran a lot of blood work and concluded that I do have Metabolic Damage and Adrenal Fatigue. My thyroid was fine, but one of my hormones was too high which she told me would not allow me to lose weight. I asked her if the dieting and cardio could have caused it- she said yes. She had tested the same hormones 2 1/2 years before and they were all normal and she said I would not have been able to lose weight durning the competition prep if it had been out then. The Adrenal Fatigue she attributes to the fat burners and excessive cardio.

Allison suggested I cut out all cardio from that point on and I was not allowed to "diet" in anyway. I was to eat what and when I felt like eating to reprogram my bodies ability to self regulate my food. This made me panic a little bit... I suddenly felt lost, I felt like I had no idea what to eat! It was crazy! She also recommended I only weight train 4 days/week and focus on lifting heavy with lower reps. This worked... I stopped gaining weight. I didn't lose anything, but as least my weight was stable again.

So this is where I'm at now... I follow a Paleo diet (diet as in "way of eating" or lifestyle), I still only do cardio once in awhile and I still only weight train 3 or 4 days/week. I have learnt the hard way not to overdo it or I feel sick and tired for a week or two after and can't workout at all. My muscles do not recover the way they used to and always feel a little sore and fatigued. My doctor recently suggested I cut fruit and nuts out of my diet for awhile to see if that stimulates some weight loss. She thinks that I'm so sensitive to insulin right now that a piece of fruit or handful of almonds raises my insulin too much to lose weight. This seems to be working...  I have lost 5lbs in the last 3 weeks, so fingers crossed this is the right track.

I no longer speak to my former coach... we had a confrontation through email about what happened and she refused to take any responsibility. As I said... I take responsibility for following something I didn't agree with, but I don't think she should be giving out the programs that she does. I have also since learned of 2 other girls who have had the same problems after working with this coach and they know of a few other girls. My hope for my former coach, is that she learns from this, educates herself, and changes her approach. I don't think she hurt anyone intentionally, I think she was acting out of ignorance didn't know any better.

I struggled with whether or not to tell this story, but I finally realized that if I didn't share it, no one will learn from it, and maybe by telling my story, others will be cautious when it comes to competing or extreme dieting. Lesson learnt- when you push your body to far, it will eventually push back even harder.