In this third and final part of the series, I want to go over the relationship costs. When you choose to compete, you do it from the perspective of something you are doing for you. While you want to make sure you focus on self-care and honoring your needs, competing does not fall under self-care. Competing by many accounts can be a selfish endeavor. Especially when you choose to continue prepping for a competition even when it starts affecting your relationships. You have to wonder if the costs to your relationships with your friends and family worth it all.
There are many ways that prepping for a competition can be hard on your relationships. Many costs to relationships are going to come from issues with dieting, how you spend your time and your behavior changes and how that affects those around you.
While your friends and family may support all the goals and paths you want to take in life, they might not have a clear understanding of what they are getting into when they are supporting your goal to prep for a show. And if this is your first show, you might not know either. How does support go from all in to becoming non-supportive?
What You Eat
Dieting can be hard for anyone and it is especially challenging during competition prep. You can diet by any method that provides results but typically the one thing you might be doing is weighing your food and tracking everything you put in your mouth. This is what you have to do to be the most accurate to be able lose weight to get lean enough to compete. But from the perspective of another person who doesn’t diet it appears to them you are obsessed or have an eating disorder. Eating together has been for many years a way to connect and celebrate with others. When you begin eating different foods than the people you dine with on a regular basis, they can’t understand why you do not eat the same foods as they do. They feel disconnected to you and you feel disconnected to them. This starts to breed tension. You try to explain and they do not understand your explanation. This is where the stress and appearance of non-support begins.
What They Eat
Understand you are on a diet; your family is not. That means they may want highly palatable and high calorie foods that you are unable to eat. You see them eating these foods and you become resentful to them because how could they eat these foods in front of you when they know you are on a diet and can’t eat them. They begin offering you foods you can’t eat and you feel they are not supporting your goals.
If, you are invited to a social event that involves food you might not eat at the event or bring your own food in a plastic container. You will hear, “just one bite, piece, or meal won’t matter”. You want them to understand that it does matter but they can’t understand because they have not gone through this before. In some cultures, food is a way love is shown. Your grandmother makes you a special dish and you tell her you can’t eat it and now you have offended your grandmother and you feel awful.
If choose to compete around any holiday, birthday or special occasion you may not be able to participated because you are unable to track your calories. Along with causing anxiety for you this could cause tension with your family and friends.
When being social becomes too challenging and you just don’t want to even deal with it you begin to isolate. You have decided I cannot eat at the events and I just don’t want to explain why I am not eating or drink or why I have to bring my own food you start decline invitations. More invitations you decline the bigger the distance you create from friends and family. From your perspective it is too much of a hassle to even try to explain because they just don’t understand. From their perspective, you are isolating yourself and becoming obsessed with prep. It could be inferred that you care more about your show than your relationship with them.
As you get further into prep and your calories are low and you become more irritated then fights flair up more often and tempers fly. Basically, you are not going to be a fun person to be around because you will be hungry and moody and be a pain in the ass to everyone around you. I am sure in life people have said things or done things to you that are unforgettable. You may become that person in someone else life including your children due to how you treat them during this time. While it may seem like I am making it sound worse that it is I assure you I have said things to the people in my lives that have hurt them during prep. I was not aware of my behavior but you can’t use that as an excuse for treating people poorly.
One of my clients a week out from her show called me to let me know that her spouse had asked her to leave the house. She told me she still needed to get in her workout for the day. I responded, “Skip your workout, go spend time with your husband and apologize for your behavior”. While not intentionally trying to be difficult her behavior was affecting those around her. As a coach I would rather you miss a workout or two if it means repairing something before it breaks.
Another area that can look obsessive to the outside view is the level of training you are doing to get stage lean. Typically, you may have worked out a couple times per week and maybe did some cardio. In general, you had a balance between working out and everyday life. But in an effort to get as lean as possible you have ramped up your workout schedule. You may have increased your strength training from a couple time a week to 6 days a week. You may have added more cardio to your program in the form of 1 hr. to 2 sessions a day of cardio on top of the strength training. You prioritize your training about everything including spending time with your family. And when you are home you are too tired from training to spend time with them. This focus on training and not your family and friends create distance and leaves them feeling like they are an unimportant part of your life.
Is It All Worth It?
I get it you want to stand on the stage and say you accomplished something. But really what are you celebrating? How will competing change your life? And if it changes your life will be it for the good or will it be for the bad.
Do you see this potential spiral when you first start prepping for a competition? No, you think I just want to get on stage and be in the best shape of my life. In reality, you have systematically over weeks or months gotten to an unhealthy place mentally, physically and you may have ruined relationship along the way. You have to wonder if the cost of competition is too high when you factor in the relationship, financial, mental and physical costs when the return on investment is maybe plastic medal or trophy, body dysmorphia, significant weight gain, and maybe an eating disorder.
The most important thing to understand is you have chosen this goal for yourself and that can cause extra stress for you and the people in your life. You can not expect them to understand what you are going through. You are the one that is changing and they are trying to support you without ending up a causality of your pursuit. This is your goal and not theirs and they will not in many cases understand but they will do their best to support you.
My personal experience resulted in my boyfriend at the time breaking up with me after I competed in my first show. He did not feel like he was part of anything. He felt pushed aside and unimportant to me. This might not be your situation but I know of some marriages and relationships that have fallen apart during the course of prepping for a show.
I really wanted to focus on the costs of competition that does not get talked about enough. You see the glitz and glamour on the stage and you think one day that will be you and maybe you even want to turn pro and be a fitness model. You might have amazing goals and the stage might be the jumping off point for you. But with all things you are investing your time, money and energy in, make sure you have a clear picture of the costs to you and those around you in your life.
Make sure you take a moment to read parts 1 & 2 if you missed them.
Read Part 1 Beyond the Stage: The Financial Cost of Competition
Read Part 2 Beyond the Stage: The Mental and Physical Costs of Competition