One year ago today, I competed in my first ever fitness competition. You know the thing where you stand up on stage in a very sparkly bikini and terribly orange fake tan? Yeah, that! I posted tons of photos on Instagram and Facebook. Smiling! Excited! Super fit! Look at me! I worked so hard and look so amazing. Inside my head, I was miserable and I wanted to go home. I desperately needed water and food. I hadn’t had a sip of water for nearly 30 hours. My carb sources were green beans and nothing else. Looking at a piece of chicken made me want to vomit. I had been on a severely restricted diet for 10 weeks. However, my desire for external validation kept me on that diet and on that stage.
Afterwards, I received so many compliments pretty much all along the lines of, “Omg, Katie! You look so amazing!” or “your body is so hot!… I wish I had your abs..” etc. I lived on compliments like this… I loved it! I would feel so happy and good about myself whenever I received a compliment. I craved the attention, but I was also craving junk food. It felt like for every compliment I received, I would binge eat more and more. All the things I “couldn’t” have. All the “bad” foods and carbs and sugar and fat and …. Omg… I just couldn’t stop eating. I gained back 20 pounds in a matter of weeks. I was full of guilt and shame whenever I ate something that was bad. My hormones were insane too. My mood would go from happy to sad to super fucking angry in the span of 5 minutes. After my show, I didn’t get my period for 3 months. My boyfriend suffered too from my raging mood swings and low libido. I was no longer getting those compliments I had been receiving. I would look in the mirror and hate what I saw. I was OBSESSED with food. It consumed all my thoughts, what I should and shouldn’t be eating. I couldn’t sleep at night because I was thinking about what I would eat the next day, punishing myself for craving sugar. I would exercise excessively if I binged the day before. I was not present in my relationships or at my job. I was consumed by the need to look that particular way again. I felt so unworthy. So fat! I hated myself for having no control. I hated feeling fat. It felt like the worst thing ever. I was suffering and I didn’t know what to do about it.
I knew what I was doing and thinking was crazy, but unfortunately, this is the society we live in. As women, we are taught that our worthiness depends on what we look like.
Eventually, I hit rock bottom. I sought out help from my therapist and from all spiritual and self-help books I could get my hands on. I worked very hard over the past 5 months to change my mindset. I journaled, I struggled, I cried. I prayed, I meditated, I said “fuck this” a lot.. I asked for help. I isolated. I performed self-care and I was always way too hard on myself. I never gave up. I started having more good days than bad. I still struggle every day, but I hold on to my inner strength and I remind myself I am worth it. When I look in the mirror I see that I am worthy. I am intelligent, funny, and compassionate. I love my body because it houses my soul. I love it too because it is strong and healthy.
Would I ever do a competition again? Absolutely not. It is ridiculous. However, I am grateful for the lessons it taught me.
Guess what? I am the SAME person in each and every single one of these photos. I am worthy of love at all of these times. I am no better or worse in any picture. I am me and I am beautiful.
Photos (from left to right): Day of the competition (December 2015), 6 months later, and this morning (December 2016).