Taking off my robe, I do a twirl in my six-inch heels giving Dave, a trainer I've met on a few occasions, a 360-degree view.
"How do I look?" I asked, "Do my glutes look rounder? Have I put on more muscle mass down there?"
"Yeah, you've definitely put on some muscle in your glutes since your last competition," he said.
A wave of dopamine rushes over me. The approval is addicting. I want more.
"What about my stomach? Does that look leaner too? I've been eating half the amount of calories I ate for the show last year," I said, desperately crawling my way to just a drop more of admiration.
"Yeah, for sure. That looks good too," he nodded in agreement.
The day I had been waiting for finally arrived. My second fitness competition was here and I was ready to take the gold. I was going to receive the satisfaction I had been chasing after for years.
When it was my turn, I glided to the center of the stage swaying my hips side to side, winking left and right, spinning around to strike a pose, and before I knew it my moment of glory had ended. Time to walk off the stage.
The judges called five girls back to do final comparisons, and I was not one of the five women. My heart caved on itself. My self-esteem dipped out. My self-worth lost its grounding.
Everything I knew about my sense of control over my life had disappeared. For so long, I believe that if I just controlled my food intake and weight, I would have a sense of purpose. I would be seen, heard and respected. I thought that if I could get down to an abnormally low body fat percentage for a female, I would be admired and longed for. I imagined that once I found myself free of all cellulite, everybody would want to be my friend. And if I had more friends, I would have more purpose.
Looking back now, I can see that I was the one that made the biggest mistake. I gave other people the right to tell me if and when I was worthy. I gave them permission to rank my self-worth with a bunch of numbers. Essentially I told everybody around me, "Tell me if my body is better than hers. If it is, I can be happy. If it isn't I am not yet complete."
When I was training for this bodybuilding show, I was emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually deprived. Sure, I looked like a fitness model... but at what cost?
I hated my body more and more the smaller I became. The less I ate, the less energy I had to carry a conversation. The less I used my intuition, the more I clung to my meal plans and calorie counting apps.
I lost my true sense of self in the process of trying to change my physical self.
So many people believe that women who have the "perfect body" also have the perfect lives. When I had the perfect body, I also had:
• Metabolic damage. By decreasing my calorie intake more and more, my body relied on less to function and therefore stored as many calories as possible for "safe keepings."
• Isolation. I lost the good relationship I had built with my parents, I lost the opportunity to meet a nice gentleman (because I was too consumed with my body) and I lost the chance to make new friends.
• Social anxiety. Parties, get-togethers, dinners, and morning coffee meet-ups were non-existent in my life. I turned every opportunity down because it would get in the way of my timed meal plan or my two-a-day workouts. Every time I was invited out, a rush of anxiety washed me over that was almost too much to bear. If I went out and had a drink, what would happen to my abs? If I had a burger or some appetizers, what would happen to my cellulite-free butt? It was easier to just stay in alone.
• Digestive issues. I couldn't digest any of the foods I was eating. I had developed food sensitivities to the foods I ate every day because I ate them too much, I developed sensitivities to the foods I avoided and therefore lost the ability to digest with ease, I ate in a stressed state constantly which resulted in bloat, I ate way too much protein than what I needed and therefore always had gas, and I stopped going to the bathroom regularly. I was all too familiar with "smooth move" teas.
• Trouble sleeping. I couldn't stay asleep for long. I had to use sleeping meds to fall asleep because I was so hungry.
• Low self-esteem. Even at my smallest, I was my weakest physically and emotionally. I didn't like whom I was as a person, so I tried to like myself by changing how I appeared and receiving external validation.
Just because I was in a fitness competition, didn't mean I was fit. In fact, as you can tell from the list above, I was at the unhealthiest state of my entire life.
Today, I have put on 15 pounds more than I what I weighed during these fitness competitions, I stopped lifting weights rigidly, I have stopped running on the treadmill or forcing myself to do cardio on machines, and I eat intuitively.
I no longer count any calories or macronutrients, I don't follow a diet, I don't help other people "get on track" with their diet, and I sure don't obsess over my glutes.
In fact, when I didn't have cellulite, I was a wreck. I hated my body. I hated my life. I kept fighting against my body, trying to turn myself into something I am not. It didn't bring me any joy, laughter, love or happiness...instead, it took all of that away.
Since giving up the rules and the labels, I have felt more free and "fit" than I have in my entire life.
When I had a six-pack, I wasn't well.
When I didn't have cellulite, I was unhealthy.
Today, with my average stomach and visible cellulite, I have more confidence and self-esteem than I ever have. I am in love, I own a thriving business, I have amazing friendships, I serve others, I invest in personal development and I realize that everything I need, all of the happiness I desire, is already inside of me. I don't need to change my body to receive it. YOU don't need to change your body to receive it. If you are not in an atmosphere that promotes true joy right now as you are, then maybe you aren't in a thriving environment. Find your tribe. Find people that love you unconditionally, with or without cellulite.
Expose yourself on social media to women who show their real bodies and their real lives.
Put more "realness" into your life. We are exposed to too much fake already, and we don't need any more of that. Take care of your own happiness, and find your own calling regardless of what your body looks like.
I can guarantee that just because somebody doesn't have cellulite, it doesn't mean they are living a healthy, fit life. Since giving up my food rules and limitations, yes I have gotten my cellulite back but I have also gotten my life back. And that makes every single dimple a blessing in my eye.
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.