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The other day, a client of mine sent this to me asking, “Do you think this girl still has an eating disorder?”

“100%, without a doubt,” I said.

And here’s why……coming from an expert in disordered eating, there’s no way we can compete healthfully in a competition with a history of anorexia or any form of an eating disorder without our old habits eventually catching up with us.  Sorry, it just doesn’t exist.   You can’t tell me eating broccoli, dried chicken and a handful of “safe” competition foods does not somehow create food rituals, food FOMO, binging and overall disordered eating habits.

Personally, if we’ve struggled with any type of disordered eating over the course of our lives and we decide to dive in head first in a fitness competition, who are we kidding?  We’re still engaging in disjointed behaviors, but just in a new form.

Okay, maybe we’re eating more than we did at one point, but the eating is still obscenely rigid, body image focused and perpetuates our perfectionistic behaviors.  Coming from a recovered perfectionist, you can’t tell a fitness competitor to just eat “whatever.” Ha!  We want to know the exact amount, how much of it to eat, when to eat it, the macros involved, etc.  We want to know every specific detail you could ever imagine.

Let me ask you this, let’s say you’re a recovering alcoholic and your friend wants you to attend a drinking function with them.  You say yes and they tell you to just dabble and have a drink or two.  Do you think you can do this without resorting back to your old behaviors and thought patterns?  Probably not, right?  Same goes for those of us who struggle with food issues, I don’t think it ever fully goes away, I just think we manage the best we can, use coping tools, and avoid triggering events.

How do you know if a fitness competition is right for YOU or someone you know?

Ask yourself or the person who is interested these 4 questions:

  1. What is the current level of their self-confidence?  Are they okay as they are today or are they constantly reaching to fill a void?
  2. Do they have a history of disordered eating?
  3. Do they have a type A-personality and/or have perfectionist type tendencies?
  4. Are they avoiding or trying to ignore something bigger in their life they need to address and want to use the show as a control mechanism or a way to numb out?

If the above 4 questions have been answered authentically, then you can take it from there.  Here’s my two cents though, if someone is lacking self-confidence or self-esteem, a fitness show isn’t going to make it go away.  If they have a history of disordered eating, then this one should be a no-brainer and if they have perfectionistic type tendencies, then this might not be something worth partaking as this sport only makes them worse.

Anytime I hear someone say, “I want to do a fitness competition!”  I immediately think of these questions and straight up ask them why.  If their answer falls along the lines of, “I just want to lose weight” or “I just want to try it to say I did it” be honest with yourself, are you doing it because you WANT to do it and the desire is there for the right reasons or because you’re not happy with your life right now?  Competitions are HARD, grueling, and obsessive and I will tell you when we diet hard for the sport and then start eating again, don’t we feel super guilty for not being able to maintain that level of leanness?  I know I did.

Not to mention the fact fitness shows are an incredibly strict, stern and provide uncompromising bounds and restrictions on food, social life and can often create a subtle form of depression.  If you enjoy being hungry, crabby, hangry, pissy, moody and starving then have at it!  Sounds like fun huh?

As you can see I’m quite biased about this, mainly for those who have a history of eating disorders, I 100% believe fitness competitions feed into this addiction, just in a new way.  To me, fitness shows are just a glorified version of anorexia or body dysmorphia because you have a handful of judges before you, critiquing every ounce of fat on your body, making sure you’re symmetric and lean.  Then, if you don’t win?  Quite often, more than not, we get depressed, insecure and not to mention the whole lack of self-confidence when we gain the rebound weight.

When we’re basing our sole identity and body image based on strangers opinions, we’re bound to get hurt.

At the end of the day, the only opinion about our body that should matter is our OWN.  

No panel of judges, random people or the gawkers in the audience should ever solidify our self-confidence or body worth.  Period.

If you’re clearly doing this for vanity purposes, external validation or to gain confidence, just be ready to head into the realm of extremes.  If we’re not happy now or feeling unsettled with our self-esteem, in my opinion, fitness shows should be your last resort.

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