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so what did I really do?

I did a physique competition. You may be looking at the pictures and may or may not be able to tell the differences in the various girls. Maybe some girls are wearing suits a wee different from mine, but that’s only a part of it. The different categories in these competitions have different requirements. Bikini, Figure, Fitness, Women’s Physique, and Body Building. We’re all there for a similar reason, but what we do is not the same. Different suits, posing, aesthetic requirements. It makes a difference in how you train.
I went in not knowing if I would be doing a figure or physique competition. I had no clue about what to do for training, how to work the posing, or how to put myself in a category. I turned to some awesome coaches - Tracy and Cameron Bodner of the team Total Package. They helped me with everything. Not only did they take care of the training and posing aspect, they were there when I started to freak out because I forgot why I was doing all this. They were there to remind me that just doing this means I’ve already won. What?! Yeah, crazy, but it worked. They were right. There’s no trophy or placement that could replace knowing that I’ve successfully put in so much hard work.
They do this for a living, so I’m not going to give details about the training plan. I will say, I did manage to continue Crossfitting a few days a week. It was good to see how one training program affected another. It seems the first thing people thought was that I was starving myself and cardio’ing myself to death, so I should be weaker. I’d have to disagree. First, I did not die in the midst of a training train wreck  I was not stronger on a few things, but I was still able to deadlift 300lbs, front squat 85kg multiple times, and shoulder press 55kg multiple times. I did metcons after my cardio sessions and still managed to do them in well as RX’ed. Towards the end of the training, I did taper down the Crossfit because I had to make time for family. The training started to require more of my time away from home. So the solution was to cut that time from other places. Remember, my goal was the absolute minimum time at the gym as necessary. If home was calling, something on the list was going to have to give. It had to be something that would not be detrimental to my goals, decrease my sanity, and also taken out with the knowledge I'd be able to do it again later.
So did I starve myself? I can say that I did not. I have an affliction that prevents me from starving myself - my love of delicious food. I did realize that my idea of portion sizes was farther off than I thought. I also was able to reduce my need to gorge on sugar. I did the 21 Day Sugar Detox (successfully on Level 3) multiple times and managed to pig out of cheesecake on day 22…without any hesitation whatsoever. It’s like I gave that program the middle finger, I’m pretty sure I did physically too. But after 12 weeks of clean eating, I couldn’t gorge on cheese cake to save my life. Sad, but liberating at the same time. Some time has passed since my competition. I had some "crack fries" (because they're sprinkled with crack) and managed not to eat them in five minutes and also left some behind for the trash. I will say that after a few cheat meals I've been able to return to sensible eating without drama and the insanity I'm used to having. During my prep, I also didn’t supplement myself to death. I am/was nursing my son, so I wanted to protect the supply and what was being passed to him. No one said I had to take fifty thousand fat burners. There's actually a few resources that detail the amounts of drugs and supplements passed through breastmilk. No one asked me to take anything dangerous or anything "safe" in dangerous quantities. That speaks volumes when a training program relies on the person putting forth the effort, not the supplements they buy to shovel down their pie holes.

And that’s what I really did. Lots of clean, healthy eating smartly planned throughout my training cycle and exercising. So if you want the secret, here it is - do what your coaches tell you, be honest with your feedback to them, stop complaining, and do it only if you want it and enjoy it because you will likely be working your ass off. That is all.
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