Natalie Newhart between ab exercises

The Dark Side of the Bodybuilding Diet- Part 2

In Part 1 of this blog, I talked about the eating disorder issues I experienced after my first show as a result of my first attempt at the bodybuilding diet and prep. In Part 2, I wanted to share the negative affects that the show had on my own body image and how I’ve dealt with them. As I’ve said before, the purpose of my blog posts is not to hate on the sport of bodybuilding, but rather bring awareness to how this sport can affect you by documenting and sharing my own experiences.

Disciplined Bodybuilding Diet = Huge Results
I’m just gonna start off by saying I’ve never been so cut and peeled in my life until I decided to do a show. Even in CrossFit, when I was training 5-6 hours a day, 6 days/week for a period of 10 years, my body composition was not even remotely close to what it looked like just after one month of prep into my first show. All I did was take a serious, disciplined approach to my diet, and vio-la, my body completely changed in a matter of weeks. It was pretty awesome to see how a couple of simple changes affected my appearance in such a big way (see below).


Diet is the most important aspect of training. Let me help you achieve your goals.

As I got closer to the show, my body continued to lean out, eventually reaching an ultimate low of 5% body fat on show day. Although I loved the way I looked, I knew coming into it that it wasn’t realistic or healthy for me to maintain such a low body fat, but I was determined to stay as close to it as possible- at least that was my goal. After all, I had worked so hard for that body and I wanted to enjoy it for as long as I could. Wouldn’t anyone want the same?

From Perfection to Constant Imperfection
I think that’s why the post-show food binges got as crazy as they did, because I had been resisting temptations for the past 4 months and yet, even after the show was over, all I wanted to do was continue to resist food, because now I was so afraid of getting “fat”. You know what they say “whatever you resist, persists” and that was definitely the case with me- I would refrain from eating any and all temptations until I couldn’t resist any longer, ultimately leading to a binge that lasted hours at a time. Then, of course, I’d go back to resisting and it was this constant cycle that I explained in the last blog post.

One month after the show, I was sitting at 7-8% body fat (which is still pretty damn lean) and yet would be disgusted of how I looked in the mirror because I was constantly comparing myself to what I looked like on show day. The negative self-judgement and unsatisfied mentality was constant, tiring, and annoying to those around me I’m sure. If I were to look at those 7% BF pictures of me now, I would think that I looked damn good… “how could I have thought I didn’t look good enough?!” Any rational person would’ve thought I was legit crazy. But that’s what the show does to you- it creates this unhealthy perception negative self-worth based on whether you have a 6-pack or not.

Keeping Perspective during the Offseason
As I started to get further into my off-season, my new coach was pretty firm with me putting on some body fat in order to make the gains needed to achieve my Olympia goal. “You want me to do what?!” I’d say to him. Well, he doesn’t really put up with my shit, so if I wanted to give it my best shot at qualifying for the Olympia then I had better suck it up and put my big girl pants on.

Learning how to give myself permission to put on body fat was about as slow as watching a seed sprout through the dirt. The only thing that got me through it was keeping the end goal in mind: the Olympia. I couldn’t think about how I felt and looked in the present because the present condition didn’t matter, it’s the final product that was most important. So I did I had to do… I swallowed my pride and went all in- committed to gaining weight and build muscle by taking out all cardio and eating at a caloric surplus.

At the peak of my offseason, I weighed in at 130 pounds, which is 6 pounds more than I have ever weighed in my life and 13 pounds more than what I weighed on show day. Needless to say, I felt like I wanted to vomit every time I had to step on that damn scale. My clothes got really tight, my self-confidence reached an all-time low, and I hated that I was eating 3x more than my boyfriend. The only positive that came out of the weight gain is I that I did get strong as shit, and that made training fun. If i couldn’t look good, then at least I was good at lifting some impressively heavy shit- that was my saving grace.

Respect for the Sport
Going though such extremes of body fat has been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever had to deal with. I will out-work, out-train, out-hustle anyone but when it comes down to putting on weight and minimizing cardio, that’s when I crumble. In fact, if I were to ever quit bodybuilding, this would be the reason why. It takes an impressive amount of willpower and courage to go through all the phases of a bodybuilding competitor.

Again, this is yet another reason why I have the utmost respect for bodybuilding competitors, because it’ such a challenging journey, and I feel like there’s never a time where you can just appreciate your body composition. Maybe it’s just something I haven’t learned yet and comes with time in the sport, but you have to make it that long first. My hat goes off to all the competitors out there that have figured out how to appreciate their body in all forms. I will continue to do my best in finding that appreciation.

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