THIS IS WHO I AM- The struggle for perfection and the female athlete triad

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Reading through my fitness magazines I always feel bombarded with the message that the ideal female is ultra lean, big breasted, and in top physical form. This so called perfection however is not real. I wanted to let you in on a little secret; even those photos of me on this site were only what I looked like for a very short period of time. The appearance of physical perfection was not that at all. I want you to know, that even I struggle with body image, that I sometimes don’t follow all the “rules”, and that my decision to take on that appearance had its consequences. We are all human, we all have our stuff, and I’m hoping that by sharing my experiences I can help you reach your goals, and prevent you from making my mistakes.

​It all began when I started dieting down for the INBF show in August of 2011. My body was already physically fatigued from the stressors of day-to-day life as a full-time working mom and I had just barely recovered from a summer cold. I didn’t feel like the diet or added training effected me at all. I felt like I had lots of energy and was thrilled with the way my body was changing. At only a 1-2 lb. loss/week the change in body weight wasn’t even that drastic, however come September my menstrual period didn’t come. I disregarded this period loss as a normal fact of the competition scene, not really realizing the health issues that come along with it. As training continued, again, I felt great. I looked better then ever, and I was feeling strong and athletic. I was at the top of my game, but still, no periods.

​The Female Athlete Triad had taken its place in my life. Others around me could see I was overtraining, and I know deep down, I knew that too. But I saw the end in site, and figured as soon as I was finished competing everything would go back to normal. It didn’t. Post competition I didn’t have a period for two more months. I started taking herbs, going for acupuncture, reducing my training time, eating a well-rounded diet again, and going for bowen to try to regain menses. After a month of treatment, I got one period. Then again 6 weeks later, I got another. After that, my body weight returned to 15lbs higher then what it was during competition and I reduced my treatments again, thinking things were going back to normal. Again, I lost my period for 3 more months. Wanting to fix the problem, so that my partner and I could start trying to conceive, I decided it was time to get my hormones checked. After doing so, I found out my estrogen was low and my progesterone was especially low, and that I most likely was not even ovulating at all.

​I started incorporating more estrogen and progesterone forming foods into my diet, and trying to reduce stress in other areas of my life. A few more months went by and my period still hadn’t come. But to our delight, it was because we were pregnant. But shortly after finding out, I was exhausted. This is a usual result of the first trimester, but I was BEYOND exhausted. After doing my blood work at 8 weeks, I found out that my TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) was too high. My adrenals were so fatigued trying to make that pregnancy happen, and eventually my hormone levels couldn’t keep up with the task. At nine weeks, I miscarried. The delight and excitement that warmed my entire being was taken away from me and I was left staring at a black and white screen at my empty womb.

When I got home, I sunk into a vast hole of self-pity, drinking wine to subdue my sadness. I decided to REALLY slow down this time and put a hold on all the things I had deemed urgent matters before and took a month to just be. After that month, I was ready to be me again. The real me, not the “perfect” me I thought I should be, but the me with flaws. The me that doesn’t have to do it all. The me that can miss a workout and not beat myself up, the me that can spend a night watching “Ellen” clips on “You Tube” lying on the couch. I have realized that I am not perfect all the time in the way that society deems perfect, but I am who I am supposed to be, and I do my best with what I have. That’s not to say, I don’t wake up some mornings and wish I could have that great six-pack that you see in my pictures. However, when my mind starts to travel down that path, I am reminded that the best goal in life is to be healthy and happy with the person I am inside and outside.

​As I am learning to, I hope you can love who you are this moment. To continue to grow and succeed in your goals, and to do so in a way that you are gaining a positive result in all areas of your life, not just in your reflection.

​If you think you may be over training, or have any symptoms of the female athlete triad. Please talk to your doctor, myself, or any other health care provider that can guide you back towards a healthy lifestyle.

Thoughts Equal Reality

Last night, my girlfriend asked me “Do you think you are too hard on yourself?” After some quiet contemplation, tears started to fall from my eyes as I realized that my expectations of myself are far greater than anything I would ever imagine from anyone else.This got me thinking. Why do we do this to ourselves? What is it that we need to prove? Why is it so hard to look at our lives and be completely content with where we are at this moment, rather than fretting about the past? What we “should” have or could have done. Or worrying about what the future may bring? Wouldn’t it be nice to look in the mirror and see the beautiful, worthwhile person looking back at you, rather than judging every aspect of that reflection?

Our bodies can’t tell the difference between our thoughts and reality, so our thoughts, then become our reality as our body sends messages to all of our cells to respond to the information coming in. With this is mind, if we are constantly putting ourselves down, worrying too much, or in many of our cases, over working and putting too much unnecessary stress and expectations on ourselves, our bodies then must send out a “flight or fight” signal.

In time, this constant nervous system firing depletes oneself, causing “dis-eases” within our bodies. This “dis-ease” can manifest in many different ways. It can come in the form of chronic pain, fertility issues, and other illnesses.

On the other hand, if we project positivity and give our body the nourishment and love it deserves, our cells will not have to work overtime and the expression of our genes can literally change. Those perceived “flaws” will disappear and we will become the healthiest, happiest version of ourselves.

​Creating this shift in our way of thinking takes constant practice. It is something that I personally struggle with every day, and need to remind myself of all the time. Making time to meditate, taking a relaxing walk in nature, or practicing positive self-talk, are a few ways to connect with our own spirit, to give ourselves the time to heal our lives. In yoga, it is common practice to set an “intention” prior to each class or to repeat a “mantra” such as, “I am loved”, “I am happy”, I am grateful”,” I am at peace”. Give yourself care by taking a look in the mirror; telling your reflection “I love you”. Feed yourself natural foods, paint your toes, or get a massage.

Do whatever suits you best, to let your body and your mind know that you are worthwhile and that you value yourself, where you are right now (physically, emotionally, and spiritually).

That being said, I believe it is still very important to make goals and to strive to reach them, but enjoy every step of the way. Don’t let your life go by constantly being too busy, or too “stressed”. Let your journey unfold organically, appreciate every day that you are alive, and give thanks to yourself for holding you up and allowing you the ability to just be you in all of your magnificence.