“Dear Unsupportive” is a series of letters addressing topics that offend others relating to female bodybuilding. “Unsupportive” is not specifically about you, Dear Reader (or maybe it is), but represents the many people who don’t understand, and in my cases, resent the sport and the women who participate in it. The author of these letters, “Muscle Girl Misunderstood,” represents the collective voices of the many women who live and love the bodybuilding lifestyle, but find support for their craft to be lacking. May these letters help give a voice to those who need it as well as a different perspective to haters everywhere.
Now that we’ve both had time to process our last conversation about bodybuilding (it seems like I did all the talking with that one, didn’t it?), it’s time to select another elephant to discuss from the herd that exists between us.
So this time, let’s talk about my diet.
I mean how many times have we been at get-togethers and I pull out my plastic container of prepared food while everyone else is gobbling up that turkey? Embarassing, right? And yes, that pun was intended. Or how about those times I’ve asked to meet up at a specific, less-than-glamorous “restaurant” (aka: Subway) because it actually has something I can eat? Seriously! And don’t forget about those pot lucks I avoid all together because I “can’t be around all that food.”
Well that’s just downright rude.
Here’s the thing: I get tired of thinking about what I eat too. Do you think it’s easy to miss out on the wings our server dropped off for an appetizer? Or Grandma Esther’s famous cheesy cheese casserole at family dinner? Do you think I enjoy watching others around me groan with delight over the donuts someone brought into the office?
No. I don’t like it. Not one bit.
However, I do it because I’ve chosen to compete. And gosh darn it, if I’m going to do this, then I want to win (or at the very least, look like I actually belong there). I think we can both agree that to compete successfully in anything, one has to be willing to commit to the process, no matter how difficult that process might be.
Unfortunately, in this case, “the process” involves reducing body fat to unnatural levels.
While the sport of bodybuilding is seeing how much muscle can be developed after months (years!) of training, the point of competing is having a platform to reveal those results alongside others who’ve done the same. In fact, bodybuilding competitions are really the only place women can display their muscles without fear of judgment, which is kind of ironic. I mean, we are there specifically to be judged after all. The difference is the “judging” is done through the lens of identifying who’s best met the physical criteria relating to a specific category rather than negativity surrounding a woman “showing off” her muscles in the first place.
But back to the diet and why it’s part of “the process”: Most muscle tissue lies beneath the body’s fat stores, so in order to actually see muscles in all their well-built glory, that fat needs to be eliminated. Obviously, the more fat that can be reduced, the more pronounced the muscle will look.
Unfortunately for food-lovers everywhere (so in other words, pretty much all of humanity), the only way to reduce fat (besides having it mechanically sucked out of you) is to force the body to burn it for fuel. How is this done? By eating fewer calories than what the body needs to function each day, forcing it to turn to fat stores for energy. This is known as being in a “calorie deficit.” Or as I like to call it, “being $^%&(*&$%#!! hungry all the time.”
But I digress.
If I stand a chance on that stage alongside others who’ve been working their asses off (literally), I have to view food more like a scientific equation than a source of social pleasure. Everything I eat determines how much fat I lose, how much muscle I maintain, and how much energy I have. Not only do I have to be concerned with my overall caloric intake, but I also need to be hyperviligant in how many of those calories are coming from carbohydrates, fat, and protein to safeguard not only my muscle tissue (which the body will also break down for fuel in times of perceived “starvation”), but to keep my hormones and health from being severely damaged in the long-term.
So in other words: Everything I eat matters. Every. Single. Thing.
And that’s why I’m so fixated on what, when, and where I eat.
Because if I’m going to be consistently depleting my body of calories, then I better be darn sure what I eat meets my basic nutritional needs or else risk some pretty crappy consequences later.
Well that and, of course, I want to win. And to do so, I need to be all in. Not only “sometimes” in. Or “mostly” in.
There is no room for even one cupcake.
Which sucks, because I love cupcakes.
Now I wish that this calorie deficit business could occur over the course of only a couple weeks, but it doesn’t. The process takes months to achieve. The body is a selfish bugger and would rather keep its fat, thank you very much. But ever so slowly, over a course of three to six months, it can be convinced to give it up willingly…sort of.
Wait, we’re still talking about dieting, right?
Anyway, what I’m getting at is that if it seems like I’ve been fixated on food for a long time, I have been.
But I have to be.
And that’s why I need your understanding, not your unkind words.
Because this is hard.
I have more to say on this matter – I mean, you think being around me sucks when I’m dieting, even I don’t like being around me when I’m dieting.
But we’ll discuss that next time.
Post series #1: Dear Unsupportive, Let’s Talk About Bodybuilding