pressure cooking

Posted: October 1, 2010 at 10:00 am

Good morning my friends! Happy Friday and Happy October! I want to wrap-up last night’s post. I truly loved all the growth and support it provided us and still believe it did great things. At the end, I am simply ready to move on from such topics on a daily basis. I do feel so blessed that my rambling thoughts on what helps build self-love inspired many of you. Thanks to Ela from Ulterior Harmony and Meg from Life Is Better Than Fiction for posting their reflections on the experience as well. 🙂

Now to segue into today’s post…Can I tell you how good it felt to start the morning like this?


With no pressure? Just a cup of coffee, my mind, and the netbook keys? Along with a Reader’s Request. 😉 Maria from Oh Healthy Day submitted a reader’s request asking to hear more of my thoughts on food and workouts from back when I competed in a fitness competition.

Disclaimer: Please note there will be pictures and discussion of calories/workouts in the rest of this post. These are in no way my thoughts on what someone should be doing to lose weight or what people should look like to look “fit”. This is all relative to my competition. Please, read accordingly.

Before I started training for my fitness competition, I didn’t restrict at all. I was mindful of my intake and focused on eating as wholesome foods as possible, but did not count calories fanatically or deny myself of cravings. Following that approach, I managed to get into pretty dang good shape at only 9 months post-partum. I easily maintained it and felt really, really, really good here.

9 Months after Birth - 12 Weeks away from showday

Even looking like this, for a fitness competition I had to lean out more so the muscle definition (the point of one of these competitions) would be more distinctive. To reach the goal of competing, I had to change up my diet and workouts.

Diet: I diligently tracked my food. My food choices didn’t change drastically, but simply having to make things fit into a certain ratio of protein/fat/carbs and a specific calorie range drove me mad! I did have to limit fat consumption and calories below normal. I followed a 45% Carbs – 15% Fat – 40% Protein diet with 1500-1700 calories per day on average. Not fun trying to manipulate food day in and day out to fit!

Workout: Madness! I do not recommend following training like this for regular workouts. This was strictly for competition prep and wore my body out. It was required to get to the level of leanness for show, but never intended to upkeep longer than a couple months. I did heavy weight workouts 5 days each week. I did intense cardio for over an hour 6 days per week – intervals, spin/kickbox classes, loonnngg and grueling hours spent on the stepmill, plus tons of plyometric drills. All to get here.

In the process, however, I grew to hate my workouts. I began craving all those “naughty” foods again and profiling things as good or bad. I felt food guilt and anxiety that I hadn’t in a couple of years. I wanted the competition to be done and not have to do anything fitness related ever again! It was all too easy to gain the weight I needed to for my body to regain its menstrual cycle and allow us to try to conceive after the show. My motivation fell to nonexistent. I had to fight tooth and nail to get back to the gym before gaining more weight than I needed. I battled a couple episodes of binging for the first time in years the first couple weeks after my show ended.

I could go on longer, and if you want to read more I do have a full post on the topic here. Basically, the pressure of the show and having to do things removed the joy. Similar to how I felt by the end of this past month. I do not enjoy placing pressure on typically enjoyable actions for me. I don’t mind hard work. I don’t mind working towards a goal. But having to do things that otherwise were purely pleasure and hobby frustrates me to no end. It makes me want to give up, instead of powering forward in the natural progress achieved through continued practice and effort. Which is why you will never see me do another show and why you see me so excited to just go about my passion for this blog in a less-structured and lighter manner. Life has too much pressure already! 😉

Have you ever experienced pressure in something you normally enjoy for fun? How did it affect you?

READER/BLOGGER FUN QUESTION OF THE DAY! – Pick 3 words to describe yourself. For those who missed last night, I want to get to know all of you more and will ask a fun question of the day. Share your answers and I’ll randomly pick a few to post for us to find new bloggy friends. 🙂 My answer = passionate, caring, and analytic.

Motivational Quote of the Day: Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.~Ralph Waldo Emerson


48 Comments to “pressure cooking”
  1. Sava says:

    Wow that sure does sound intense.
    I used to know a woman who entered those competitions and she was at the gym CONSTANTLY.

    I don’t think I could have that kind of hardcore motivation for a fitness competition. Especially not if I had to wear those monster heels doing it.

    Hell, I’d have to train every day just to walk in those heels 😉

    • Tina says:

      Yea. I had to practice walking, poses, and all sorts of things on top of the regular training. LOL

      I don’t see how people do shows all the time. It would kill me. Plus I wonder how healthy it really is for the body.

  2. I gotta hand it to you, I could never stick with that fitness plan. I understand what you mean about it being a once in a lifetime even though. I am training for a marathon and even though I don’t talk about it too much, I am constantly tired and feeling worn down lately. I don’t think this is something I’d want to do over and over. I much prefer my ‘long’ runs to be 5-6 miles, not 20!

    • Tina says:

      I can imagine training for a marathon feels much the same way. Having to hit certain mileages, complete certain workouts, etc can really drain a person.

  3. I felt that way with any race I have trained for. It started off fun, but then I put so much pressure on myself that it became a chore and I started to hate it.

    That workout schedule sound super intense. I could do that MAYBE if it was my fulltime job — but there is no way I could do that with my current schedule. No way!

    3 words to describe me: loyal, smart, silly

  4. I love relazing mornings like that- they’re perfect..and I can imagine how amazing they’d be after following such an intense training schedule.

    I work out pretty hard 5 days a week but I still don’t think it’s anything near as rough as fitness training- even though it’s way more intense than anybody else that I notice at the gym. I’m not doing it for any reason other than I love it..and I kind of want to see where I can take my body without extreme dieting measures. But I can definitely see how training so hard could burn you out and make you hate working out. If it becomes a “job” instead of something you enjoy, you’d never want to do it.

    • Tina says:

      Oh definitely. And my workouts are usually pretty intense (when I’m not pregnant LOL) but this was a whole other level. I think the lower food intake made it worse too.

  5. Sarah Jayne says:

    Such great insight- thank you for sharing! I can totally relate to the different effects “want-to” has on my wellbeing, versus “HAVE-to”. I don’t think it is healthy for anyone to HAVE to force themself into doing anything…life is too short to spend time & energy beyond the want-to’s. For me, when something becomes a HAVE-to, I know it is time to make a change!

  6. I think it’s so cool you trained for and competed in a fitness competition. I love documentaries about people training for fitness comps and I like watching them on TV too.

    3 words to describe me: Silly, random, caring

  7. I’m so glad you shared your thoughts on this topic. I think that restricting in any way is SO dangerous for your mental health. It is just crazy how quickly anything you put off limits is so much more tempting! Or how you start to dread workouts because you HAVE to go!

    I’m glad you are back to finding your healthy balance in life! You look amazing!

  8. sunny says:

    hey tina!
    i haven’t commented in awhile but i have been silently following along and just felt the need to say that i’m so happy you shared this with us!… your thoughts about competing are exactly how i feel-some days i feel the urge to just go for it and accomplish the goal (something i always go back and forth with is competing) but other times i’m like for what?.. i workout, am healthy, and happy..why try and ruin it?..

    anyway-love the balance you are finding now..and i think you looked AMAZING in that pic..if that’s maintainable for you i say you have nothing to worry about after the new baby! 🙂

    • Tina says:

      Yep, that’s where I hope to get back to after this baby. I got there relatively easily after M. It took time and consistent effort but I never felt worn down or deprived, which mattered to me the most.

      I always support people who know they would always wonder “what if” or regret not doing a show. But if its just because it seems fun to do…I warn against it. LOL

  9. Oh I have been there and I wasn’t even competeing! I might as well have been–given myself a reason to put myself through the madness! g

    im glad i am where I am now, thats for sure!

  10. Tina, that picture of you with your laptop and hot drink makes me miss being home in the winter! When I go home for the holidays, I always start that day at my dad’s house that same way. Plus a blankie 🙂

  11. Oh, and!

    1. Cuddly. I am a snuggle bug! I hate being cold, so I can always be found trying to weasel under my boyfriends arm or wrapping up in a blankie.
    2. Eclectic. From music to ethnic cuisine, I like a little bit of a lot. Variety is so exciting to me.
    3. Curious. I love to learn new facts and read books. Last year, I started my goal of reading every book on Time’s 100 Best Novels.

  12. I wish my morning started like that! Your fitness competition journey is so interesting but I agree, I would also stop doing something if it keeps frustrating/draining me. I used to feel some pressure to keep going out and be a “party girl” but I realized I didn’t really enjoy it and stopped. Now I love just staying in and chilling at home. 3 words to describe me: friendly, passionate and loyal 🙂

  13. Wow – that sounds intense. Definitnely not something you would want to do for the long term.

  14. my 3 words to describe me are : committed, determined and loving.

  15. Oo this is a hard one!

    Curious, Kind, Loving : )

  16. Wow Tina I wrote a very similar post last night… I am competing in an olympic weightlifting/ crossfit comp this weekend and was wondering if all the stress i am putting my my body (trying to make weight class, lifting heavy and focusing on lifts, pull ups, doubleunders) but esp my shoulder was worth it… its funny how god just seems to send all the messages you need. thank you for posting this.

    • Tina says:

      Crazy! Great minds think alike though. 😉 And after this weekend you can give yourself some much needed R&R. Soak it up!

  17. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tina Reale, Tina Reale. Tina Reale said: pressure cooking: Good morning my friends! Happy Friday and Happy October! I want to wrap-up last night’s post. I … […]

  18. Daisy says:

    That is the best way to start a day! Lucky girl.

    hmmm. genuine. compassionate. enthusiastic.

  19. oh man! i’m going with passionate, loving, joyful 🙂

  20. Oh, Tina, I am so glad I read this post and I love, love, love your candidness and honesty! I was JUST telling my husband over lunch how I feel tired a lot and I’m losing my exercise mojo and he said, “Hon, do you think your body feels worn out?” and it made me think, “yeah, this competition prep really is getting to me, physically *and* mentally.” I’m already 6-7 weeks out so I’m definitely NOT quitting, but I’m feeling so much pressure (from myself, nobody else) and my workouts are becoming a bit more a check off my “To Do” list than anything and I don’t like feeling like I’m up against the wire to lean out in such a short amount of time (for a girl who naturally has to “work for it” to stay small…

    I’m really excited to do this, but also excited to get it over with (ha!) and then move on and focus on something else other than food and exercise day in and day out and get b-a-l-a-n-c-e back in my life. Your body looked INCREDIBLE for your show and I admire your hard work, but like you, I think I’d rather have a little softness and F-U-N than be a hard-body and miserable for the long term. Life’s too short!

    What’s ironic is that after this competition is over, we’d like to try for babies so my body may be going from one extreme to the other. Tiny waist—-> Buddah belly HAHA:)

    My three words: animated, fiesty, passionate

    • Tina says:

      I feel you! And I think its a pretty normal feeling for many. Keep on trucking since you’re already this far into it. The time will pass quickly enough and then you can refocus on balance. Do be aware though that you might need some time away from workouts to get your cycle back (if you’ve lost it). And the mental game of getting to a healthy weight for conceiving can be really hard too. But definitely worth it in the end. 🙂

  21. Marcia says:

    Hey lady!
    It’s so great to read about the different experience people have with training….. Mine was different than yours ( as I am positive everyone has a different experience!)
    I think I thouroughly enjoyed 87% (ha) of the contest prep. I think this is becuase I thrive on THE BIG EVENT! I am a fitness instructor and find that I get burned out eventually on teaching the same things all.the.time. When I was in contest prep-mode I was able to do a lot of different cardio and lifts. It actually gave me somthing to look forward to. The diet was not that was for sure a bit different than my normal foods (ie: less of it!! 😉 ), but it was not horrible and i had wanted to do a “show” since I was 18 and finally did it at 28.
    In my experice, marathon training was way worse! Besides the eating more yummy carbs….

    My 3 words:
    Caring, funny, hardcore (haha!)
    Did I tell you how wonderful you looked in your last belly pics??? Well, ya did!

    • Tina says:

      Thanks, Marcia! 🙂

      And it certainly is different for everyone and has to be something you really love doing for it to be enjoyable.

  22. Hey Tina!
    When I was dieting for my wedding things were SO not fun. I was following a program that was so restrictive and the weight lifting was very intense. Honestly, I don’t really lift weights anymore. Because I’m STILL burnt out on it. And I grew to hate it. I’ll do it in a group class, but not on my own. Do you still lift/lift heavy?(when not pregnant?)

    As far as three words to describe me, I’d say: honest, positive, funny

    have a good day beautiful!

  23. It’s really interesting to read about your experiences. That competition sounds so intense! I can just imagine how it starts off as just focusing on getting more fit for it and then spirals into something so much more consuming.

    Hmm, 3 words to describe me:

  24. Its great to know that there are people out there who do find that after training, they find the event of training less enjoyable. when reading blogs sometimes i read about people training for marathons and i just dont know how they keep up the energy to train for it without growing sick of it! i use to run everyday 7X a week (a backlash of my ED) until it drove me literally insane. Now I want to start running again but b/c of my craziness back then, I’m actually fearing the run and having a hard time motivating myself to go back out there. I want to sign up for a 5K and hopefully it’ll give me the push I need. Ive always loved running until I made it into a chore rather than a passion!

    • Tina says:

      I think the fact that you realized such intensity made you unhappy will keep you from falling back to that place again. I know that after this baby I will surely pick up intense workouts. But I will know how to keep it in check so it stays fun.

  25. Angela says:

    I like this post! Sometimes I find running (which I love) to be pressuring, but only when I sign myself up for races. It’s like I think, “You love running so much, and you’re pretty good, so you should race!” Then in training for a race, I begin to wish I hadn’t signed up. I haven’t competed since last year and right now I’m kind of enjoying the non-pressure!

  26. Honestly Tina, I got that way with cooking and food. After cooking since I was a kid and then studying it in college and then working in it during and after…ugh, I was over it. That’s why I got into sales for catering. I think you can find new ways of doing or working with the same thing you love and kind of fall in love with it all over again. Now, it is completely different. My brain does not shut down with all of the ideas spinning in it. If I can’t be in the kitchen making something, it drives me crazy!

    As for words that describe me (I asked Tony)…friendly, creative and helpful…

    • Tina says:

      Isn’t it crazy how something you love can turn into such an energy suck? I think it probably did me better that I had to take a break after the comp to get my bodyfat high enough to conceive and of course take things lower key during pregnancy. Now, after baby, I will have renewed zest for training. But I’ll know my limits to still keep it fun, which is so important.

      Those qualities fit you perfectly!

  27. Ela says:

    Oh, good for you to have the pressure off now! You know, I can’t think of a single thing that I love to do that hasn’t been marred by too much pressure at some point or another. It’s such a shame, and if you work it right, it’s really not necessary.

    3 words to describe me?

  28. Oooh, thanks so much for posting this and you answered my question perfectly. I knew of other who have done these competitions and had similar reactions like you – they ended up hating it. I believe that if you do anything (even something you love) too much and with too much intensity, it’s bound to swing back in the other direction and you’ll end up disliking it.

    3 Words: organized, thoughtful, loyal

  29. homecookedem says:

    Patient, organized, and concerned… this is what Andrew says about me (stole Sarena’s idea to ask her husband). I asked him what he meant by concerned and he said I’m always wondering if everyone is ok and if I’m doing the right thing and if I can be doing more.

  30. I really appreciate your telling your story. It’s so easy to take something like fitness and turn it into an obsession in a way even if your intentions are good – like the comp. While I workout hard, and have briefly thought about competing perhaps b/c of all the work I already do, I know myself far too well and know that it would not be in my best interest.

    3 words to describe me:

  31. First, I want to say thank you for being honest last night on your thoughts. I really enjoyed the 30 days. I can understand how difficult it must have been to one come up with the topic and two to have a deep reflection like that everyday. I am grateful for it in so many ways.

    Ok today.When I was in middle school, I was pressured by my dance teacher to join competitions. She stole my dance soul. I began to hate dance! Which, thankfully I got over once I hit senior year of high school, and danced my heart out for fun on the weekends; and still do 😉 I wish she hadn’t of pushed me and pressured me into something I didn’t want to do.
    3 words to describe myself: Quirky- I get uberexcited over silly things. Like a new vampire book, mail, pumpkin in the stores, cute moments in a show. It could on and on.
    Neurotic- I have neuroses about cleanliness and symmetry.
    Driven- I set goals and do what I can to meet them. Want to be my own boss, going back to school to attain that. Want to make my husband happy, I work at changing or improving my neuroses.
    I love the 3 things by the way 🙂

  32. Three words? Jeez … that may be harder than finding three body parts to love.

    Humorous, loyal and friendly.

  33. I still admire the dedication it took for you to do all that- I would hit either a workout or diet rut and just throw it all out the window… Although I did get through half marathon training pretty well, I think it’s the ratio diet that would have gotten me!

    • Tina says:

      I think the diet was the hardest of all for me too. I don’t like feeling like I can’t eat something. And with that intense training, those cals were WAY too little. I literally was running on empty. I wore one of those GoWearFit armband calorie calculator things during prep and would burn 3000 calories a DAY! Madness.

  34. Felicia says:

    I put so much pressure on myself and am so hard on myself, that it got to the point of leading to binging habits/not caring/etc (basically, very similar feelings to what you went through after your competition). It started for me towards the end of college and after graduating. It was a mix of depression and being burnt out. I’m finally starting to climb out from the deep hole I’ve been in for a long time. Its so nice to read you’ve been through the same and that I’m not crazy. I’ve made goals for myself and love when new months begin so I can really start fresh and reevaluate how everything is going, and find the right balance of what works for me best!

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