Why I Stopped Being a Bikini Competitor

All Disease Begins in The Gut.

Hippocrates

Competing in my first two bikini competitions taught me so much about myself and what I could accomplish by pushing myself to the limit… but at what cost?

During the prep for my first show (see my post about this here), I was training, meal prepping, living on my own for the first time, a full-time job, working at a club on the weekends, balancing my social life, relationship and in Graduate school. FIRST MISTAKE. This means that I was EXTREMELY STRESSED out and I take full responsibility for putting so much on my plate at once. I was so busy that I was rushing my meals, probably not chewing like I should’ve, eating late at night to make sure I got in my 5-6 (sometimes 7) meals… but I thought it was okay because I was eating “healthy” foods. There were times when I knew I wasn’t hungry, but since I’m naturally petite (was always made fun of growing up for being too skinny) and the goal was to gain muscle mass, I forced the meals in anyways. When on prep, you eat to fuel yourself… regardless if you enjoy it or not. Being intuitive with my body, I knew this felt wrong, but I disregarded it because I was willing to do whatever it took to reach my goal.

The reason why I fell in love with this sport was that I got EXACTLY what I put in. The harder I worked, the more results I saw… and that instant gratification was priceless. During my first show, I placed first in my class and fourth in the open category… competing and being on stage gave me a high that I hadn’t felt in a long time, especially since I was told I couldn’t play contact sports when finding out I had one kidney in high school. My ego was flying high, but inside my body, something else was happening…

The Pain.

You know that feeling when you get really choked up because you want to cry, but you hold it in? That’s what I began feeling every day. It’s so ironic because I can’t tell you how many times during prep I wanted to cry, but kept it together because I had to keep pushing. It honestly felt like I was being strangled, and the pain would get severe while working out. Sometimes when I would lay down flat on my back, my eyes would water up as if someone was actually choking me. So once I finished my first show, I took a break to find out why. Maybe it was a hernia? Was I eating too much meat? Damn, I shouldn’t have tried waist training. Could stress be the culprit?

I did EVERTHING. Finished grad school. Stopped weightlifting all together. Became a vegetarian (my protein on prep consisted of eggs, chicken, turkey, fish, and bison)… became an 80% vegan. Got an endoscopy (showed inflammation). Went under to get a biopsy of my esophagus (came back negative). Went to therapy (my holistic doctor suggested suppressed emotions could be stored in my body, causing a reaction). Got bloodwork (that showed signs of hashimoto’s disease, even though I had no other symptoms of a thyroid condition). Saw my chiropractor regularly, did a parasite cleanse, kept a food journal, did acupuncture and took up yoga… still felt choked up. 2 doctors told me I had acid reflux/GERD and said “take prisolec“, another said I had hashimoto’s disease and that there’s no real treatment for it… thanks my guy.

The pain calmed down a bit, and my holistic doctor gave me some anti-inflammatory herbal supplements to manage it when I had a flare-up. I missed working out, my body lost muscle mass and I didn’t know who I was without having a million things on my plate anymore. Since my schedule was free besides my 9-5, I decided to do another show on “my terms” – no competition date in mind, just train and see how I felt, vegetarian diet, keep up the yoga/meditation… but the pain worsened. I would have to stop midworkout because I couldn’t breathe, I wasn’t lifting as heavy as I used to… I felt hopeless, depressed, and unhappy with my body, but I didn’t want to give up. I went on to compete and placed third in my category and fourth in the overall. Yet the high wasn’t so sweet this time around because mentally I knew I could do better, but physically I was trapped in my body.

My first show was June of 2016, and my second show was September 2017… it’s now April 2019 and I’m still dealing with the pain. Not only that, but my digestive system has taken a huge hit. Even with me eating “healthy”, I’ve developed extreme bloating, back acne, fatigue… and finally, I’ve narrowed it down to my gut.

Hashimoto’s & Autoimmune Disease

The presence of TPO antibodies in your blood suggests that the cause of thyroid disease is an autoimmune disorder, such as Hashimoto’s disease or Graves’ disease. In autoimmune disorders, your immune system makes antibodies that mistakenly attack normal tissue. Antibodies that attack the thyroid gland cause inflammation and impaired function of the thyroid.

Mayo Clinic
Normal Range o-12…. I’m at 123.4

SIBO and FODMAPS

SIBO, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, is defined as an increase in the number of bacteria, and/or changes in the types of bacteria present in the small bowel. In most patients, SIBO is not caused by a single type of bacteria, but is an overgrowth of the various types of bacteria that should normally be found in the colon (1). Less commonly, SIBO results from an increase in the otherwise normal bacteria of the small bowel. 

Treatment for SIBO? Following a low fodmap diet… and what the hell is that?

FODMAP stands for “fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols” (1). These are short-chain carbs that are resistant to digestion. Instead of being absorbed into your bloodstream, they reach the far end of your intestine where most of your gut bacteria reside. Your gut bacteria then use these carbs for fuel, producing hydrogen gas and causing digestive symptoms in sensitive individuals. Low fodmaps, easy to digest… high fodmaps are the opposite.

Asparagus, broccoli, sweet potato, grains, onions, garlic, avocado, oatmeal, legumes…. all high fodmap foods, all foods I was eating consistently at high volume during prep.

So what now…

My doctor has me on an elimination diet… following an extremely low fodmap diet (no onions or galic is killing me) for 3-6 weeks. Then slowly, I can reintroduce foods back in to see what triggers it. I ate some grilled chicken while I was out the other day, and could tell it had garlic sauce… immediate pain.

This post isn’t to tell you not to compete, and I’m aware that this isn’t going to change the world… but I knew NONE of this before I decided to compete. None of this information was in the fancy videos about being a competitor – along with tanning, getting a bikini and how to pose. I didn’t know what to look out for, how the foods meant to make you look aesthetically pleasing don’t always digest well, or that you could be dealing with issues for years following competing. Mind you, I took no supplements besides a multivitamin, probiotic, and fish oil.

As previously mentioned, I’m sure the stress of life didn’t help this at all, and there are many factors that impact gut health. But my advice? If competing is something you’re set on, get bloodwork done. Ask your doctor to look at your thyroid levels, and do it again midway through your prep. If you don’t have insurance, look into labs such as AnyLabTestNow. And before you let a doctor prescribe you medication, always look into the foods that you’re eating. I’m grateful for all the lessons I learned while on prep, the team who pushed me along the way, but now it’s time to tackle a whole new challenge to get the pain out of here.

Wish me luck.

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4 comments

  1. Good write up. It’s crazy what issues the body develops when you drop weight & body fat really low looking physically good on the outside but dying internally. Proud of you. I hope you find something to eliminate the pain.

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