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‘How I regained my health after bikini competitions’

After getting in the best shape of my life, I didn’t know what to do next…

After four months of strict dieting, twice-a-day gym sessions six days a week, endless chicken breasts and egg whites, layers of fake tan and learning how to walk in six-inch heels; competition day arrives. All of the sacrifices and exhausting workouts lead to those 60 seconds on stage. I had shed 12kg and got my body fat down to 11 per cent. The day comes and goes. Now what?

‘I found myself feeling really low’

For me, that question lingered for a long time. I placed fourth and third in my competitions, bringing home two glorious trophies which still manage to pick me up if I am feeling sorry for myself. The highs of show day leave you feeling somewhat useless once it is all over. Every day for the past 16 weeks has been dedicated to reaching one goal, and during that time nothing else outside of the competition bubble has seemed important. Yeah, I know… it seems like a selfish sport.

After the photo shoots, congratulations and celebratory cheat meals (plural indeed), I found myself feeling really low. I struggled to get back into my normal eating habits, lacked enthusiasm and lost focus. On top of that, months of strict dieting and a gruelling exercise regime left my hormone levels awry.

Sports nutritionist and dietician Helen Phadnis explains, ‘Inadequate energy intake affects not just menstruation but also bone health, cardiovascular health, metabolic rate and immunity’. The stress hormone cortisol ‘causes the release of glucose into the blood stream and insulin resistance’. In the long term, continuously raised cortisol levels can ‘directly contribute to weight gain, increasing hunger and cravings for high fat food’. To say I could relate to this is an understatement. Pizza, anyone?

‘Constant overeating’

Feeling low and hormonal led to binge-eating, an emotional comfort. Takeaways followed by Krispy Kremes and late night cereal, constant overeating… we’ve all been there. Jennifer Low, dietitian and health writer, describes binge-eating as ‘a maladaptive coping mechanism that can really harm a person’s health – both physically and mentally. The person will have learned to not recognise negative feelings, they may binge as a way to cope with the feelings’.

After a week of indulging I gave up on trying to weigh my food and instead started to just eat sensibly, allowing myself a treat if I felt like it. The problem is I had no idea how many calories I was consuming, and as predicted, gave in to my sweet tooth whenever it called. Over the summer I partied, like any normal 22-year-old should if they want to (which always leads to the local kebab shop), and continued not to track my food.

‘My gut was irritated and I was extremely bloated’

The consequences? Five months post-show I felt awful about myself and was unable to find balance. I would eat well, binge, and then do extra cardio workouts to make up for it. More importantly, I was having gut health issues. I suffer from ulcerative colitis, a chronic irritable bowel disease, and after spending the summer consuming food that I wasn’t used to, such as dairy and alcohol, my condition flared up. My gut was irritated, I was extremely bloated and I had terrible fatigue (a common symptom of UC). A specialist put me on an eight-week steroid course to calm my symptoms – I was taking up to eight tablets per day.

Being an aspiring nutritionist, I wanted to use food as medicine where possible, too. I saw it as a push to get my eating habits back to normal, stop binging and feel healthy again. At the same time, I started an Access to Science course to study nutrition and also landed a magazine internship, which gave me a new motivation and focus.

‘Reverse dieting ensures your metabolism can adapt steadily’

The right thing to do straight after competing would have been to reverse diet. Jennifer Low explains that ‘calorie-restricted diets might reduce your basal metabolic rate (the amount of energy you expend)’. This in turn slows your metabolism, ‘so it is then a lot easier to gain body fat once you resume normal eating’. I had been on calories as low as 1100 for four months, so you can see why my body had a shock. Reverse dieting ensures that your calories increase gradually week by week, your metabolism can adapt steadily and that you can make some lean gains.

To get back on track I began a ‘gut restoration’ plan eliminating irritants like gluten, dairy, soy, eggs and alcohol; which commonly cause my ulcerative colitis flare-ups to worsen. My plan consists of five meals spread out over the day and includes sweet potato, chicken, white fish, green veg, white rice and gluten-free oats. Little and often is the key. I lift heavy weights four to five times a week and do four 10-minute HIIT sessions a week.

12 weeks after starting my new plan I felt better than ever. I reached a maintainable weight and built muscle, my digestion and gut health improved and I am now back in love with training. I don’t obsess over the scales but I have gone from 62kg to 57kg and can see my results through weekly progress pictures. I weigh my food to ensure I hit my macro goals every day and stay in control of what I am consuming. On the other hand, if a friend wants to go out for dinner, I will happily say yes without stressing that it won’t fit into my eating plan.

‘I haven’t binged for months’

That is the difference between prepping for a competition and prepping to feel healthy. I know that weighing my food and being on a plan can’t last forever, just as my competition couldn’t, but I am able to maintain it for now and it has given me a positive approach to food. I haven’t binged for months, my calories are high and I don’t schedule in huge cheat meals to go wild. I simply stay on plan, but if a social event comes up or I fancy something different, I’ll go with it.

A study published by Dr. Sherry of Dalhousie University, The Perfectionism Model of Binge Eating, states that ‘individuals with a high degree of perfectionism are often setting themselves up for a host of physical, emotional and mental problems– particularly related to binge eating’. Competing is all about bringing the perfect package to stage and you can become obsessed with achieving this image.

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‘How I regained my health after bikini competitions’

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Conquer the FitBit Fifty Endurance Challenge!

If you’re an amateur athlete but love to push your body to the very limit, you need to head to Buckingham Palace for the start of the Fitbit Fifty Endurance Challenge.The sporting event takes place between Friday 30th September and Sunday 2nd October, where two teams of six people will attempt to run from Buckingham Palace to Edinburgh Castle and back – within fifty hours.The challenge starts with a 10K run from Buckingham Palace to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The two teams will then tackle the cycling legs in a two-up time trial format, with pairs of riders swapping every hour as they journey north through the English countryside.There’s a break from the saddle near Doncaster for the second 10K run, then it’s back on the bikes all the way to Edinburgh, passing through the Yorkshire Dales, the Pennines and Northumberland fells. Teams travel the final 5km to Edinburgh Castle on foot, before retracing the route back to Buckingham Palace.Bear in mind that this challenge is no easy feat, and will require all of your endurance. The organisers estimate that the whole challenge will ‘demand up to 16 hours’’ cycling per person, and let’s not forget the 50km of running. It will push you to your very limit, as you” be performing at full throttle for at least two days.Organised by Human Race, it’s an all-expenses paid event that gives you the chance to be part of a challenge that has never previously been attempted

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Conquer the FitBit Fifty Endurance Challenge!

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Do it like a Pro

1 Roll with the punchesTrain2WinIf you’re up for trying something different from your ordinary gym workout while taking things to the next level, then it’s worth checking out boxing programme Train2Win. Brought to you by strength and conditioning coach Dan Lawrence and British boxing champ George Groves, the detailed 10-week programme is designed to improve strength and mobility across all levels. There are three levels to choose from – beginner, intermediate and advanced – so whether you’re looking for a fun but structured method of training or you’re keen to brush up on your boxing skills, rest assured that you’ll be challenged throughout the course. The 10 weeks are broken down into four ‘blocks’ to focus on a particular area of fitness: two weeks of general prep, four weeks of strength, two weeks of speed and strength, and two weeks of speed and endurance. Channel your inner Pacquiao!£125, train2winboxing.com2 Hit the streetsRunFitKeen runner

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Do it like a Pro

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The half marathon experience

What does it feel like to pound the pavement of a cool East London borough for a couple of hours? Running blogger, Sarah-Jane Perera (www.poweredbycakes.com), gives us the lowdown of her Vitality Run Hackney Half Marathon experience…

“On Sunday May 10 the second Vitality Run Hackney Half Marathon took place. Following the inaugural race, I was glad to see the organisers take on board feedback from last year’s event and make this bigger and better than the first one. I was particularly pleased to see the improvement on the route and the added water stations. The big shiny medal and the technical t-shirt were the cherries on the cake.”

“The event organisers moved the race forward by about 6 weeks, so I hoped we wouldn’t have to run in the scorching sun this year. When I set off from home, it was a cool and grey morning – perfect for running a half marathon. Much to my dismay, the sunshine came out as everyone filed into the pens at the starting line, and boy was I glad to have packed my sunglasses. It was exciting to see pro track and field athlete and local East London girl, Perri Shakes – Drayton start the race.”

“I run with Run Dem Crew and Hackney is our stomping ground, so this is a very special race for me. It was great to run with different crew members along the way, and fun scanning the crowds for friends.  I was also looking forward to running past the Run Dem Crew cheer point at Mile 10.”

“It’s a great route and joyous to run on closed roads, past some iconic Hackney sights including the Hackney Empire and through what is a surprisingly green borough of London.  The tempo changes coming through Olympic Park as the crowd thins out but there’s no doubting it still holds a special quality remembering Olympic glory achieved here.”

“Prior to running the race I was a bit worried about being able to run it well, as I completed the Brighton Marathon – my first! – a month before. At around Mile 5, I was in a dark place, I felt really tired and began to walk. That’s when a lovely girl, Josie Arden, patted me on the back and encouraged me to keep running. Meeting Josie made me realise quite how small the running world is, not only did she know quite a few of the same bloggers and runners that I know, but she too had run the Brighton Marathon and was also finding the race quite hard.  We ran the rest of the course together, crossing the finish line hand in hand.” 

“Although it was a tough race, I would do it all over again. One of my highlights was running past the Run Dem Crew cheer point. They went all out, with pots and pans, whistles and confetti cannons.  Vitality Run Hackney is a great local race, where the local community comes out to support the runners, offer us jelly babies and fruit and a whole load of encouragement.”

“Pre-Registration for 2016 is now open. Sign me up!”

 

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The half marathon experience

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Amateur Bodybuilder Of The Week: Paul Is A Massive Canadian Competitor!

QHow did your bodybuilding journey begin?

I started training at the university gym in Ottawa, Canada, in 2004 at 160 pounds. My friends introduced me to bodybuilding training, diet, and supplementation. I remember getting my first look at the Arnold Encyclopedia. Seeing huge guys in print brought back childhood memories of heroes and the cool role models of the 80s. Initially, I wanted to get bigger than my roommate in the spirit of healthy competition but it became much more.

I have an addictive personality and lifting became my healthy addiction. I stopped smoking first and then stopped drinking and started eating well later. In my first six years of training, I bulked up with lots of muscle, but had high body fat. I was 280 pounds before I realized that I looked more like the incredible bulk than the Incredible Hulk. This started my itch to lift competitively.

I was at a stage in life when I needed a new goal. I just graduated from college and settled into my career. Initially, I trained for powerlifting meets. My first was a raw bench meet in Waterloo, Ontario, where I placed second overall. I was interested in bodybuilding but never intended to compete until I watched my friend compete in 2011. After his show, I decided to become a bodybuilder.

I didn’t know how much mental, physical, and psychological change was required to become a successful bodybuilder. I adopted new eating habits, training philosophies, and made lifestyle changes. In 2012, I stepped on stage in London, Ottawa, Ontario, at 218 pounds. My first season was a learning experience that helped me realize what needed to be done to make it to the next level of competition. In 2013, I stepped on stage as a conditioned heavyweight in Couberg, Ontario, where I clenched the provincial qualifying spot after a third place finish.

Cool Fact

Paul holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and has several vocational rehabilitation designations!

What workout regimen delivered the best results?

I like to hit a muscle group with at least six exercises with a minimum of 4 sets at 8-10 reps and a maximum of 10 sets at 10 reps per exercise. I can do phenomenal things with my chest and lift high volume with high weight. My back can also handle this kind of training. I hit arms and legs with high frequency and moderate weight at 12-20 reps. Here is my pre-contest training routine.

21s Technique: 7 reps of top half of ROM, 7 reps of bottom half ROM, and 7 reps full ROM

What nutrition plan fueled your body?

What Supplements Gave You The Greatest Gains?

How did your passion for bodybuilding emerge?

Bodybuilding is a lifestyle, passion, art, sport, and a form of entertainment. This is what makes bodybuilding attractive. When people ask how my show prep is going, I say that I love every second of it. I take pride for declining everyday pleasures and delaying short-term gratification. The best part of bodybuilding is that the gratification isn’t winning the class or the show, it’s getting there and being the best you can be on stage.

What motivated you to be a bodybuilder?

New goals motivate me to be a bodybuilder. Dreaming and taking action to make that dream come true is one of the best feelings. The results are enough to keep me motivated.

“Taking action to make your dream come true is one of the best feelings.”

Where did you go for inspiration?

I love the friends I met at the gym. They’re the most loyal and honest people I know. We have a sense of community that can’t be broken. They inspire me every day.

“I plan to take a year off and perfect my physique so I can blow everyone away when I hit the stage in June 2015.”

What are your future bodybuilding plans?

I qualified for the Ontario Provincial contest by placing third in the combined heavy and super heavyweight class in Cobourg, Ontario. I came in at 224 pounds with 5 percent body fat and looked great in terms of overall symmetry, strength, and leanness.

I plan to take a year off and perfect my physique so I can blow everyone away when I hit the stage in June 2015. There, I hope to qualify for the Canadian National Contest.

What is the most important bodybuilding tip?

Fun isn’t the result, it’s the process.

Who is your favorite bodybuilder?

I don’t have a favorite bodybuilder. I respect what many bodybuilders contributed to the sport. Arnold introduced bodybuilding to the mainstream and had an iconic personality. I respect Frank Zane for brining classic physiques to bodybuilding. Dorian Yates broke the mold and paved the way for the new generation of bodybuilders. I also like Kai Greene because of his humble and perseverant personality.

How did Bodybuilding.com help you reach your goals?

Bodybuilding.com content provides posing tips, diet plans, training routines, and supplement reviews. BodySpace helped me network with the international community and diversified my understanding of bodybuilding. Resources on Bodybuilding.com are limitless.

Paul’s Top 5 Gym Tracks

  1. “Microwave Mayonnaise” by MF Doom
  2. “Winter Isn’t Coming” by RJD2
  3. “Crows” by Asop Rock
  4. “Right This Second” by Dead Mau5
  5. “Otis” by Jay-Z
Contest History
  • 2013 OPA Winston Invitational – Heavyweight
  • 2012 OPA GNC Ottawa Classic – Light heavyweight
  • 2012 OPA London Invitational – Heavyweight
  • 2011 CPF No Frills Bench Press – 2nd Place, 365-Pound Raw Bench


About The Author

Our Amateur Bodybuilder of the Week has the extraordinary qualities to endure the pain and discipline of bodybuilding. Of course, he/she also…

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Amateur Bodybuilder Of The Week: Paul Is A Massive Canadian Competitor!

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Paige Hathaway

1 hour 35 minutes ago

We may not know what each day has in store for us. We could be gone tomorrow. Any minute could truly be our last goodbye. But we do have this moment. This time. Today. Right now. It takes way more effort to shell out hate then it does to allow love to flow freely in our lives. After all, it's what we were born to do.

No one was born to hate, we are naturally born to love. When's the last time you gave someone a compliment? Or magnified their strengths and not their weaknesses.. Do you remember when you said hello or smiled at a complete stranger? You do know that one kind gesture can change someone's entire day. Just because you're alive and here.. doesn't mean you can't be an angel in disguise.

Paige Hathaway

5 hours 38 minutes ago

Hey 👋🏼 San Antonio, Texas
THIS 👉🏼Saturday August 26th from 12:00PM -3:00 PM. Come meet me @rocksdiscount Boulevard location and hangout with the Rock's crew. Tons of giveaways, live DJ, food, and much more. Very excited to meet everyone! 💥

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