Megan Leslie- Finding Balance & Self Love
For as long as I can remember I’ve struggled with my self image like many young girls do. At a very young age I was bullied for my size because I was not a skinny child. I played sports my whole life, so already at a young age I had some pretty muscular legs, with a broad upper half. Being bullied for looking like this set the tone about how I felt about myself for practically my entire life until a few short months ago.
This poor self image continued to grow with me, especially in high school. People would make fun of me for my “thunder thighs” and of all my friends I wasn’t the skinny pretty one. No boys would ever come up to me and want to talk to me… I was the athlete not the cheerleader. During my time in high school, that is when the “disordered eating” habits began. I would go through periods of starvation and then binging again and again. This went on for a few years until I graduated. It was only until I started dating my boyfriend that these poor lifestyle habits subsided because I had something else to focus on. He loved me for who I was and not just the way I looked.
Skip ahead to a year and a bit later when I started in my current program, Fitness and Health Promotion. In class we were learning about health, nutrition and training and I thought this meant my body would have to represent my program. My disordered eating habits began once again. It didn’t start as an aggressive method at first – I was simply counting my macros and consuming less food. Then the compliments started coming and it went downhill from there. I remember at one point I was doing about 2 hours of cardio a day and eating maybe 1000 calories a day. I felt lethargic and tired but it was worth it because I looked good right? Wrong! I went from about 125lbs to 150lbs in a matter of weeks because I rebounded so badly. So not only was my self image a far away dream but my health was compromised pretty bad, I had some severe digestive problems coupled with some serious constant headaches. How could I do that to my body? My poor little body.
After this extreme weight gain, I did some research and I found this idea of competing. I could look thin and muscular and this was a sport where muscle was sexy! That was it, I was going to compete and fix my yo-yo dieting problems forever. This is when I reached out to Heather.
If I’m being honest with myself, I decided to compete for all the wrong reasons. I thought that completing would be the answer to all my problems, I would be thin and toned, I would finally be confident and I wouldn’t have to worry about being overweight ever again. Boy was I wrong, and I learned that pretty quickly. Competing is not a “way to get healthy.” It is a serious sport with the most mentally challenging components over any other sport out there (or at least it is in my opinion). Even though I started my prep for all the wrong reasons, I thank God everyday that I did it because I learned so much.
Prepping was actually amazing, I had such a great time and I truly fell in love with the process. Initially I thought I was finally doing something about my weight and my health, my clothes where looking better on me everyday and random strangers in the gym would tell me I was looking great – like who doesn’t want to hear that? It was until the last 3 weeks that I realized competing wasn’t going to fix all my problems with my self image. I still didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. I remember sitting in the car with my boyfriend on the way home from school and saying to him that even after stripping my body of almost every bit of fat, I was still unhappy with my body. I could hear how crazy I sounded, but this didn’t change the way I felt. That is when I had to take a step back and ask myself, what is it that you want from all this?
Fast forward 4 weeks, one week post show, I am sitting there with my medal in one hand and my stage shots in the other truly disappointed with my results.
I need bigger shoulders, my legs aren’t lean enough, my posing needs some serious work, etc. I was so concerned with the results of my show that I didn’t step back to appreciate all the hard work I had just put in. It was in that moment that I realized how little self love I had. I just threw my body through one hell of a rollercoaster ride and it did all it could, and still I didn’t love it? That is when my journey for balance began. And no, this little thing called “balance” is NOT easy to find after your first competition. So now I needed to find self love and balance. This brings me to my reverse diet.
Reverse dieting after a show is the most mentally challenging thing I have ever done in my whole life. Heather warned me many many times how tough it is but no one can truly prepare you for it – you just have to go through it yourself. Trying to work on your self image while putting on weight is almost mission impossible. I think the second hardest part of reversing, is being comfortable with all the stages your body goes through. I thought I was going crazy! I would look in the mirror almost every hour to “make sure I wasn’t getting fat” or ask people around me if I still looked good. I felt so vein and I probably sounded like a nut job. Heather and I tried a lot of things to help me “feel normal” because I was so psychologically challenged but finally after about 10 weeks of reverse dieting, naturally, I had found some balance in my life. I wasn’t always hungry and craving a ton of food and I didn’t feel so crazy anymore. I had learned that finding balance was something that took time and patience. Okay, so one thing down, only one more to go.
Self love has been a challenge, and some days it continues to be. After an entire lifetime of low self esteem, finding some is not an overnight thing. It is taking time, but I am happy to say that I have more self love in my life right now then I ever have. I finally have taken time to appreciate my body for what it is and all that it does for me. The way we look is only one part of who we are. I now believe that the way we feel is the most important thing. I want to FEEL healthy, not obsess about how I look. Most days when I get up and get dressed I say to myself, “this is my body and if you don’t like it, it’s simple, change it.”
I have learned so much from my journey and I continue to learned so much. No one can prepare you for the challenges that the competition life throws at you. My body, my relationship, and my life went through some extreme measures, yet, I cannot wait to step on that stage again. The motivation and the goal of going up on stage is even better than before and strangely addictive. So if you plan of competing… Beware! This time when I hit that stage, I believe I will have the knowledge, self awareness and self love that I didn’t have before. My reasons for competing have completely changed and it is not just to be thin and look good.
Competing is a reason to kick my own butt in the gym and build muscle to FEEL healthy.
From my show I have found overall health and balance in my life and that is something that I am grateful for everyday.
Feel free to contact Megan on her experiences.