This photo was a day or two before or after my last show in June 2016.
It was time. Time to end the extremes, end the restriction, stop focusing on aesthetics only, and start focusing on health. Time to start really living life. I knew there was a way to stay lean but still have balance, a way to be fit for life while still enjoying and actually living my life, without being a slave to the scale/mirror/food scale. I knew it was possible, it was just finally time for me to figure out how. I felt like I had spent my entire life focusing on food, fitness, and my body. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it’s definitely a huge part of my life now since it’s my career, my passion, stress reliever and my favorite hobby. But now it’s different in the best way possible, and I’m so grateful.
Before it seemed as if I was always a slave to something. I never felt like I had found complete balance. The first time I competed I absolutely loved it – I loved the challenge, I loved the structure and I loved being on stage. However, there were a lot of things I had to give up in order to be successful, which you almost always have to sacrifice something in order to be successful. During prep I was obsessed (which you kind of have to be), but it was still an obsession. Competing was very selfish for me, it was all about me. When I could do my workout and cardio, I could only eat what I weighed out and made myself, I could never go out, I also isolated myself naturally because I was exhausted and hungry so I never wanted to do anything.
QUICK REWIND: After I competed the first time (back in 2014), I was a slave to reverse dieting. I didn’t want to gain a ton of fat post show and I wanted to come in better for my next show. So I was extremely meticulous, just as I was in prep. I found it extremely hard to allow myself to do things I couldn’t do in prep, such as going out to eat, being flexible, occasionally having to skip workouts due to life, etc. I also struggled a LOT with body image, probably even worse than before. You must gain some fat post-show because stage lean is not healthy or realistic to maintain year-round. Plus, if you want to gain muscle and come in with a better physique the next show, you need that time off and that time to build. But it was damn HARD. I knew I had to gain, but the little I gained in a little amount of time was a hard pill to swallow since I was so used to seeing myself so lean with barely any fat (even though I was still DAMN LEAN)!!! It was a mind f**ck.
When I finally started to get some balance in my life and come back down to earth, I felt as if I was a slave to building muscle and being so hyper-focused on the mirror and/or scale. I would check in the mirror multipletimes a day (lifting up my shirt to make sure I still have some sort of abs) to make sure I was still lean but making gains. I would be focused on the scale to make sure I was gaining but in the perfect amount each week or month. I was always focused on something. I was also still focused on macros and weighing my food. That never went away – my fitness pal and my food scale was like a security blanket for me. Although, I was a bit more balance with living life, being more flexible, allowing myself to go out to eat and socialize, and missing workouts when necessary. I even tried intuitive eating at one point and felt ok, but then felt like I wasn’t doing all I could to make proper gains, so I went back to prepping. I also wouldn’t often allow myself to truly eat whatever I wanted. If I did go out to eat, I was still scared to eat different foods, so I would always order what was “safe”.
A few years later, I decided to prep again. I felt like I had enough time off and I felt pretty balanced and was ready for the challenge and structure again. A few weeks into my prep, I had a mini mental breakdown I want to call it. I remember crying hysterically because I felt restricted, felt hyper-focused on my body and on the scale again, and I just didn’t feel happy doing it. My coach at the time gave me a diet break, I realized I was getting my period (which starting a diet during certain times of your cycle can actually make things that much harder for the rest of the diet), so I chalked it up to hormones. I wasn’t a quitter, so I was damn determined to prep and follow through with what I set out to do. Once I get something in my mind, I feel as if I must finish it – a blessing and a curse at times. So, I decided to continue prepping. It turned out to be the hardest prep of my life. My body was NOT responding as fast and as well as it did the first time and I had to get extremely low-calorie and high energy expenditure very early on in the prep and continue it throughout the entire prep, which initially was supposed to be only four months and ended up being around six or seven months. I ended up competing and getting third place which I was happy about but after that show, I was DONE. I was ready to move onto my next fitness venture – training for life.
About a month and a half after my second show in 2016. Finally gained some necessary body fat back which was hard to see, but I was obviously still very lean, just healthier. The mind is crazy.
I reverse dieted again for a while, and my body didn’t respond as well the first time either. I only increased my calories to 1400 calories (I had to get down to 1000 on prep), and I continue to gain weight despite keeping calories that low. Sadly, it felt like a good amount of calories after prep – CRAZY. I ended up gaining probably about 10 pounds post show, which is certainly normal, and then my body adjusted and I was able to effortlessly maintain that weight. There came a point where I decided enough was enough and I just stopped tracking, just like that. I maintained my weight and felt extremely balanced. I allowed myself to travel, to go out and eat what I liked, and live life finally without being obsessed. It felt so damn incredible.
I decided to go on birth control quite a few months later (which I hadn’t been on in YEARS since I hate it so much). I immediately got all of the side effects like before, gained weight, and was not happy with any of it. I got off birth control immediately but of course since I gained weight I wanted to start tracking and dieting again and thought about maybe competing the next year. When I tried to diet again, it was hard. Every time I tried to diet it seemed like my body was trying to fight me. I was SO damn frustrated, but I was NOT listening to my body!!! This was the problem. My body was pissed at me – it was fed up of the extremes and the ups and downs of dieting, gaining, dieting, gaining, etc. It was like “damn Brittany, chill”. Of course I kept ignoring it because I’m stubborn and I do what I want.
This was after I had gained some weight. I probably gained at least 10 pounds, maybe 15 from when my body adjusted after gaining the post-show necessary weight gain. But I was still pretty lean, I just didn’t see it. I was HEALTHY. My period was more regular than ever.
After a few months of not losing ANY weight despite continuing to drop calories and increase exercise, I was done. AGAIN. Yeah, yeah, you’ve don’t this before Brittany. No, but really… this time was different. I was in a new relationship with my current boyfriend who is also a bodybuilder but he is extremely balanced now when it comes to food. He supported me when I thought I wanted to prep again and even helped me weigh out all of my food, but when I mentioned I might not compete and I may stop tracking so meticulously, he proclaimed “YES!!!! DO IT”. So I said okay, and I started slow. I knew how to eat and how much to eat, why was it such a foreign concept to eat without my fitness pal? It’s crazy how powerful the mind is.
What do I mean by starting slow? Well, first I started roughly tracking. I would first try to listen to my body and think of what I actually wanted to eat and what my body wanted/needed, not what I thought I should eat. I used to only eat things that were easy to fit my macros or that were safe to eat because they were easy to track… now I wanted to eat according to what my body was actually telling me. Psssst. our bodies are damn smart. I would then come up with a meal and loosely track the macro and focus more on calories than macros. I realized I was leaning toward eating less fats, some more carbs than usual, and less protein than usual (but still a sufficient amount. After doing this, I then would just eat and then input what I ate at the end of the day. Some days I realized I only was getting 900-1200 calories (not a sufficient amount), so I would eat some more. I was also doing intermittent fasting at this time because that is typically what works for me the best and what myself and my body prefers.
Eventually, I would input my food at the very end of the day after eating all of my meals on some days, and not at all on other days. I was still weighing things out at this time, but if I wanted extra of this or less of that, I would have it. I wasn’t extremely strict, and this in it of itself was freeing.
The biggest difference I noticed was that I would eat more vegetables, potatoes, or fruit because I wanted it. A lot of times in the past, I would opt for things that fit my macros better but were more processed because they were less carbs or less of a certain macro. For example, as an afternoon snack a lot of times I would eat a packaged protein bar because it had less carbs when I really wanted an apple. Whereas at this point, I would opt for an apple that I was craving instead of the packaged protein bar. Nothing wrong with either option, but in my opinion, Whole Foods (ones in their purest form with minimal ingredients) are always better and make me feel better.
Finally, I got to a point where I would track loosely at the end of the day maybe once per week and eventually it fizzled out to where I wasn’t tracking at all. I possibly still weighed things so that I was still aware, something like raw oats, peanut butter/nuts, or things like egg whites. I stopped opening my fitness pal, I stopped tracking completely. I generally stopped weighing things as well and just allowed myself to really finally listen to my body and eat what I wanted. I found that while yes, I was opting for a different macro split than I would typically have (higher carb, moderate protein (less than before), and moderate to lower fats.
I felt incredible and low and behold, my body was responding extremely well. I started losing weight and fat effortlessly without trying. Yes, I was still eating voluminous and mostly Whole Foods, lost of fruits and veggies, lean proteins and healthy fats, I was still training hard and doing a good amount of cardio, but I was also feeling so.damn.free. I was eating out without anxiety and ordering things I wanted, I was indulging when I wanted with what I wanted, I stopped worrying so much about calories and macros. I didn’t get anxiety if I couldn’t go to the gym sometimes or do as much cardio as I normally do. I was damn happy, healthy, and finally FREE. Was I perfect? No, not even close. Not in any aspect. I wasn’t shredded, but I was lean. I didn’t have a sick pack, but I had a lean tummy and obliques. I wasn’t where I wanted to be, but I was perfect the way I was. I was living my life and doing exactly what I had sought out to do – training for life but still with specific goals in mind, eating freely with mostly healthy foods but allowing myself to indulge more than I ever have before, maintaining a lean body that I could maintain year-round, a body with regulated hormones and a regular period, and a damn good body image for the most part.
I finally reached my goal that I have been dreaming of.
After years and years of putting my mind and body through the ringer of obsession, restriction, etc. I almost couldn’t believe at where I was at. Sure, some days I would still have bad body image days. I’ll deal with that the rest of my life. Not every day I am perfectly perfect at eating intuitively or not having similar thoughts as I did in the past. However, I was in a better place physically and mentally than I ever had been in my life. It was a surreal but incredible feeling. I remember thinking when I was consumed in the obsession that this mindset, way of living, and fitness journey was impossible to reach. When you’re engulfed in that mindset, it’s hard to ever see a way out of it. I understand that, but it’s possible. It’s hard, you may fail sometimes, you may fall back to old habits, but you learn.
With all of that being said, that doesn’t mean that tracking macros or having certain goals is a bad thing. Will I track macros in the future? I’m sure at some point I will. If I really want to reach a certain goal (i.e. photoshoot, very specific fitness goal, aesthetic goal), I will track. It’s the most accurate and best way I know how to reach my goals and also the most flexible in my opinion since I can eat what I’d like with no restriction and still progress. Will I compete in the future? It’s possible, never say never. Competing can be done in a healthy way if you are in that mindset and your body is in a good position to do so physically. I know many competitors that are soooooo flexible and have such a healthy relationship with food, fitness, their bodies, etc. (a few that come to mind on IG: @fiitnesschic, @hana_devore, @cori_fit). Doing these things are perfectly fine and a great, fun challenge if you’re ready for it, physically and mentally.
If you’re struggling with the same mindset I had in the past thinking you can never get to the balanced point that I did, I promise you… you can. It will take time and it may be tough, but it’ll be worth it. Just keep going. Nothing is more important than a healthy mind and healthy body. NOTHING.
So…. here’s to health, happiness, and living your best life.