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Blogilates' Cassey Ho Reveals How a Bikini Competition Totally Changed Her Approach to Health and Fitness

In August 2015, Blogilates founder and social media Pilates sensation Cassey Ho created a viral body-positive video, The "Perfect" Body—it now has more than 11 million views on YouTube. In January 2016, she posted a #realtalk blog post about her eating disorder, and why she'll "never diet again" (watch that video below). On April 1, 2017, she posted an April Fool's Instagram post poking fun at the ridiculousness of quick-fix weight-loss products, Photoshop, and unrealistic body expectations.

But her body love wasn't always *quite* on this level; it took going through a bikini competition—and wrecking her metabolism in the process—to take a big step toward finding and embracing her place in the fitness world. A place that might not be picture-perfect, but results in a helluva lot more happiness. (Can you say #LoveMyShape?)

 

 

No matter how proud I am of my fitness achievements, there's always someone that will say "Not to be rude but why is Cassey still fat after all these years of working out? She looks bulky and has rolls." I'm not writing this so you can tell me to "ignore the haters" because I don't think this person is a hater. I think this person is genuinely asking why I'm not stick thin or ultra muscly like all the other trainers out there. And the truth is, I ask myself this all the time. If most people did what I did workout wise and eating wise, they would probably be stick thin or ultra muscly. But not me. I have a soft body. And I'm accepting that because my body is so much more than a loud billboard. My body is a novel with an intricate story. I've been there - skinny and toned. But I was miserable. I could not function at my optimal levels in other areas of my life. So I choose to be happy with this body while being happy with the other cool things I'm getting to accomplish in business, relationships and creativity. And for anyone thinking that I'm making an excuse for my soft body, nope. I'm still working everyday to get stronger. My body is simply a result of the work, not the goal. Look nothing's over til I die, so I'll keep trying new things!! Please remember that...EVERY BODY IS DIFFERENT! There is no one right way to lose fat or gain muscle. We're all formulated differently. It's in our genes! So each of our prescriptions for diet and exercise will be different. What I can say though is that I don't count calories anymore and I surely don't spend more than an hour working out a day. Sometimes it's only 28 minutes! And I FEEL. GOOD. POWERFUL. UNSTOPPABLE. If you're looking for something new to try, try #PIIT28! It's Pilates. Intense. Interval. Training. I love how it makes me feel! piit28.com I hope this helps you guys find what works for you! Remember to love your body and never stop working hard! Love you so much!

A post shared by Cassey Ho (@blogilates) on

 

In 2012, Ho did her first and only bikini competition, hiring a retired bodybuilder as a coach and losing 16 pounds over the course of eight weeks to get "stage ready." Technically, losing two pounds a week is deemed safe—"but I wasn't doing it in the right way," says Ho. "My trainer had me barely eating anything. I was eating like 1,000 calories a day and I was working out for four hours a day ... everything was impaired, like my cognitive function—I couldn't even think well."

Ho said she first decided to try a bikini competition when she moved from Boston to LA, wanted a fresh start, and wanted to see how far she could push herself as a fitness individual. To get there, however, she was told to limit her diet to tilapia, chicken breast, egg whites, lettuce, broccoli, and protein powder—and nothing more. "It was really unhealthy," she says, "but because I hired this trainer, I thought, 'Maybe that's just how you do it.'" (Peek into another bikini competitor's diet plan.)

Long story short, she made it on stage in a leopard-print bikini, and all her social media followers reinforced the idea that she looked ~amaze~. "When you start losing weight, people are like, 'Wow! You look so good!' and you kind of feed off of that," says Ho.

 

 

Sometimes I look back at this photo and think, wow, why couldn't I have held on to this low fat bikini body? It's such a shame that I worked out so hard and dieted so hard to get here...only to gain ALL of the weight back. Today I released a vlog that I've been avoiding for 4 years...because I was too ashamed to tell myself the truth...and even more embarrassed to admit to you that I had a dangerous problem. I want you to know that if you're on a diet and a workout routine that you can't sustain for the rest of your life, then that's not what you should be doing. I basically starved my body to get to what you see above. I worked out for 4 hours a day 6 days a week. I ate close to 1000 calories a day. I lost 16 lbs in 8 weeks. I looked great on the outside, but I felt so empty on the inside - emotionally, intellectually, and physically. I hated who I was then. I was so vanity driven. All I cared about was how much weight I was losing and how flat I could get my abs. I was mean, I snapped at the people who cared about me, and it wasn't a good day if the scale didn't drop. But it wasn't until after the bikini competition that the real problems started happening. I tried to go back to eating "normal healthy" not "bikini comp healthy" and my body acted like a sponge. It soaked up EVERYTHING. I got so scared that I feared eating apples. Eating bananas. Ithought that anything except for lettuce, broccoli and chicken breast were going to make me fat. It was a terrible time. And I am going to admit to you now, that after that bikini competition...I had an eating disorder. And it took more over a year and a half to heal myself. I've finally found balance again. I'm working out and eating well for the right reasons once more...and it feels so good. I can't tell you how much I appreciate the thriving life I have now - one filled with happiness, love, and inspiration - because I've let go of what was controlling me. I've learned how to respect myself again. I want you to go watch my latest vlog on YouTube.com/Blogilates (link in bio). Please learn from the mistakes I made and don't go through the damage I did to my precious body. #blogilates #weighthis #ad

A post shared by Cassey Ho (@blogilates) on

 

But post-show, she started eating normally again—albeit still quite healthily—and her followers watched the pounds pile on. "Just adding in some quinoa, apples, etc., and I started ballooning up like a sponge," she says. "It was pretty devastating because I had to do it in front of the camera. I do YouTube videos every week... so all of a sudden I started gaining weight in every video and people are like, 'do your workouts even work anymore?'"

"I didn't realize this was a kind of metabolic damage," says Ho. Her body was starving and holding onto every calorie that came its way. "And that continued for two years," she says.

After a couple of years of trying like crazy to lose weight, Ho threw in the towel and said: "Whatever, I'm going to have some pizza and burgers and not work out." Tada!—she started losing weight. (Another key component of her weight-loss revelation: getting enough sleep.) At first, it was confusing (understandable!), but then Ho said she found her "balance" and realized how she wanted to fit into the fitness world: "I've come to realize that I am strong and it doesn't matter how I look—it matters how I feel," says Ho. "I'm not in competition with other women; I'm in competition with myself and who I was yesterday. That experience really helped me understand my body and where I stand in the fitness industry and why I work out."

 

 

For some people, bikini competitions are a great fitness goal to have and perpetuate a lifestyle that makes them happy. For others—like Ho—the negatives outweigh the positives.

"Everything that happens in your life is meant to happen, and for me, I know that it's meant to happen so I can share my story," says Ho. "From 2012 to 2014, I was so vanity-driven because during that contest, you are being judged on how your six-pack looks and how round your butt is. Imagine that: You're in a bikini in front of seven old men who are looking at you ... and I put myself in that position! Then you walk out, and you think, 'Why is my self-worth based on these seven people and the score that I get in a scantily clad bikini?'" (She's not the only one who's quit bikini competitions and is happier than ever.)

"For me, it's about finding a workout that fits my lifestyle so I can still run my business, do everything else, and have a social life," says Ho. "That, to me, is happiness, and when you can find that balance, that's true success." (Have all the feels? Ditto. These women will give you the same body-love vibes.)

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