I Quit Bikini Competitions and I'm Happier and Healthier Than Ever
One woman shares what comes next after achieving the "perfect" body.
In mid 2014, I had just qualified to become a personal trainer and decided to sign up for a World Beauty Fitness & Fashion (WBFF) bikini competition in London. I figured that prepping for the competition would be great practice as a trainer-but there was also an emotional side to it. At the time, I was going through a rough patch in my relationship, and despite a six-figure real estate job, I wasn't happy at work. Part of me thought that if I had the "perfect body," everything would be okay. I know now that I was seriously lacking in the self-love department. I also didn't want to end my year on a low point. I needed something to snap me out of an unhappy cycle.
So I signed up for WBFF and dedicated myself to three months of intense training. I worked with Hitch Fit, a husband-and-wife personal training team in Kansas City, MO, to create a whole fitness program. I'd do 30 minutes of cardio at 6 a.m. in the gym before any food, work a full day in the office, then head back to the gym after work to do 90 minutes of weight training targeted at different areas of the body.
Diving Into My Training Schedule
I'd have between 1,300 and 1,600 calories split between five meals. An average day might include five egg whites, one egg yolk, and 1/4 cup oats; Greek yogurt with 12 almonds; chicken breast with a green salad and 1/4 avocado; grilled chicken, sweet potato, and three cups of vegetables; and even more chicken breast and avocado. When I trained, I'd also have one scoop of protein powder and three oat cakes, as I needed the extra boost of carbs to sustain my energy.
My diet and exercise schedule was seriously intense, but the training worked. My body changed from week to week. Over those three months, I dropped down from 19 percent body fat to 11 percent. Admittedly, it was also such a rush-having these goals and achieving them. I'd be lying if I said the goal of ending the year on a positive note wasn't always in the back of my mind.
Struggling to Find Balance
Since my training was so strict, I didn't have much of a regular social life. My friends would go out to bars or to brunch, and I couldn't join them. The urge to eat greasy food or have a sip of a cocktail would be too much. My diet was so regimented that even a single egg white could make or break things. There was no room for a "cheat" meal.
I resisted temptation up until a friend's birthday party 10 days before the show. She had the chef make a special healthy Indian soup for me. But it still had butter, oil, and other ingredients not on my plan. I ate the soup-then I went home and made myself sick. I was paranoid that just one meal would stop me from reaching the stage-perfect body fat percentage. I had hit a low point.
Dealing with Insecurities
Despite all the physical changes I saw during the training, I never felt like it was enough. I had to confront this inadequate feeling head on a week before the competition when I did a fitness photo shoot. I had pictures taken essentially my underwear, highlighting my body after months of hard work, but I still found myself thinking that my abs weren't defined and that my body could be "better."
My diet became even more intense in the week before the competition. I basically had only boiled chicken (to avoid excess salt), asparagus (which helps you debloat), a bit of sweet potato, and some avocado. By the morning of the show, I was only allowed pancakes (said to help puff up my muscles) and small sips of water (since too much liquid would hinder my muscle definition).
At the competition itself, I felt pretty proud of what I'd achieved physically. Everyone I met was great and there was such a buzz in the air. But even though I had made all these aesthetic changes, I still didn't feel happy. All those problems that I'd been ignoring were still there.
Discovering Real Happiness
It's when the competition finished that my real work started. I was a part-time personal trainer in Dubai at the time, but I soon realized what had been missing from my training to have the "perfect body." I started to realize that fitness was far from the whole picture, so I trained to become a health coach. I learned that real health and wellness have to do with how you feel inside. The physical, aesthetic bit is only a fraction of a much larger scope.
During this time I also decided to enroll in a 10-week program to study yoga in India. I found myself living in a tiny room, eating simple vegetarian food, doing yoga a few times a day-and I was the happiest I had been in years. It helped me see that I didn't need a lot of clothes or fancy cars to be happy. I was the most content surrounded by a community of like-minded people, being physically active and doing something I loved.
Regaining and Reimagining My Life
Through yoga and health coaching, I found my truth: All I needed was the outdoors, a simple life, fitness, and a community. So I shaped my world around this. I came back to Dubai and made some radical changes. I sold a lot of my stuff, quit my corporate job, let go of my relationship, and moved to Thailand with just one suitcase. It was a terrifying life shift, but it felt right. Today, I live and work at a wellness retreat called Phuket Cleanse. People come here for fitness, clean eating, meditation, and life transformations, and I get to help them through the journey. Every day I feel so happy and so aligned with who I really am.
When I talk to women about health, I try to understand what's driving them. Why do they want to achieve that "perfect body"? What's the motivation? So much of what we feel inside is reflected onto our food and our fitness. I try to help people set boundaries-a struggle I know all too well. What makes someone feel good? What are their values and how can they become aligned? What really, truly makes them happy?
My body has changed since my bikini competition. I'm definitely not as "cut" or chiseled, but I don't mind. I do yoga, weight train, and hike, but never if I'm exhausted or if I simply don't want to. Now, I focus on being healthier and stronger, not looking a certain way. My diet has relaxed. I love my cooked rice and sweet potatoes, and if I want a piece of cake, I eat it. I'm healthier and stronger than I've ever been. Now when I see myself, I feel sexy, beautiful, and above all, truly happy.