• Confessions of a Bikini Competitor

    April 18, 2012

    Hi Carrot Cake readers!! My name is Miriam and I am a physician assistant by day and a blogger by night over at Bellaspire. I am absolutely thrilled to be guest posting today about my experience doing a bikini competition! This time a year ago I was an avid distance runner. I had completed about a dozen half marathons and was training for my third full marathon. When I ran I was invincible, and nothing was better than the feeling I experienced after finishing a long run.

    A nagging injury, multiple physical therapy sessions, and eventually a warning from my doctor would find me canceling my fall marathon plans and putting running on the back burner to allow time for my injury to heal. I was devastated!! In order to rest my puppies while still enjoying the endorphins that a workout brings, I decided to take up lifting. I certainly knew the basics, but decided to hire a personal trainer to really push myself into gaining some noticeable strength. I went to Jill Coleman, founder of Jillfit Physiques, for guidance. I was introduced to an entirely new community of athletes focused on physique development. Long cardio sessions were soon traded for heavy weight lifting and my eating habits changed from a healthy diet to a fat loss lifestyle.

    In a matter of weeks I started to see physical changes that I loved. My stomach was getting flatter and I loved the definition that was starting to show. In the same way that a runner would sign up for a race, I learned that ladies who lift weights often sign up to compete in their sport. I decided to set a goal to compete in a bikini competition!!

    The Diet

    This was by far the hardest part of it all!! After talking with Jill, we decided that I would do best on an 8 week plan. For the first 4 weeks I ate 5 meals a day- usually an egg white omelet and a carb in the morning, almonds and an apple or egg whites for a snack, a carb with a big salad and piece of meat for lunch, broccoli and turkey or tuna for an afternoon snack, and a piece of meat and two veggies for dinner. When I was 4 weeks out my lunch time carb went away and my Friday night cheat meal went away. When I was 2 weeks out my diet tightened up even further and when show week arrived I said goodbye to any artificial sweeteners. A few days out from the show I started to decrease my water intake, which was very difficult!! The night before the show was amazing. I had an Outback steak, potato, salad, and veggies for dinner to fill out my muscles for the stage!! I was ready to go!!

    The Training

    The training was actually not as time consuming as long distance running. I worked out 6 days a week and thoroughly enjoyed my rest day. As a bikini competitor I was working for an athletic, shapely and sexy appearance as opposed to a muscular physique of a figure competitor or body builder. I did splits (back/bis, chest/tris, shoulders, legs) along with cardio intervals. The longest I ever spent working out in a single day was an hour and a half. Don’t get me wrong, I was killing it the whole time.

    The Posing

    The first time I met Jill for posing practice I felt so silly and entirely out of my comfort zone. Not only was I wearing 5 inch heels but I was also supposed to strut around the stage striking sexy, flirty poses, creating good angles while showcasing my physique. My trainer and fellow competitor, Emily, had the walk down and week after week we met to practice our moves. I started to get more and more comfortable on stage and eventually looked forward to our Monday night gatherings. While body builders and figure competitors are required to strike and hold certain poses, bikini girls can move around as much as they want. Taking the stage turned out to be a blast!

    The Day Itself

    Once the dieting and workouts were behind me, the day of the show was a piece of cake. We arrived for an early morning athlete’s meeting and then got ready before taking the stage for pre-judging. There were 3 classes in the bikini division based on height. Each class took the stage and we basically did our walk outs, turns, and posing for the panel. Since most of the judging actually takes place during pre-judging we were allowed to eat a treat once this was finished. I had been craving a Pumpkin Spiced Latte from Starbucks and coffee has never tasted so good!! We all took the stage for the night show that evening where the winners were announced and the 8 weeks of training came to an end. Although I didn’t win anything, I was very proud of myself for stepping way outside of my comfort zone and for finding the silver lining from a running injury.

    After the Show

    The minute after the show I completely indulged!! I had never been on a diet before and can now totally understand how people can get into a viscous cycle of yo-yo dieting. I went to Boston the week after the show and ate my fair share of "chowda" and all of my favorite festive fall treats that I had missed. I had lost about 10-15 pounds for the show and pretty much gained most of it back. I’ve heard that this happens with a lot of competitors and worked really hard not to beat myself up. In the same way that most marathoners can’t finish a race and immediately do another one, I couldn’t (and didn’t want to) stay on such a strict plan. I was ready to be normal again.


    Final Thoughts

    These days I am happy just living the fat loss lifestyle. I eat 80% clean and enjoy treats and indulgences the rest of the time. Knowing that I eat clean the majority of the time allows me to thoroughly enjoy life’s little pleasures without guilt or regret. Although I pretty much weigh the same as I did when I was a distance runner, my body is much tighter and more defined than it was even a year ago. I am grateful for the lessons I learned throughout the competition process. I have experienced first hand what it takes to achieve my "perfect" physique and you know what I learned? It didn’t come from running marathon after marathon, it was mentally all-consuming, and I’m much happier with those few extra pounds that I used to hate. More than anything the whole process taught me to love my body and to not be so hard on myself.

    For more inspiration, recipes, and thoughts on fat loss, check out my blog at Bellaspire. I’m also on Facebook and Twitter and would love to connect! Thanks for reading and let me know what you think!!

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    { 41 comments… read them below or add one }

    Olivia April 18, 2012 at 7:23 am

    I found this to be quite a neat story – congrats! Of course it is important to emphasize the healthy lifestyle, and not just losing weight. Awesome muscles and whatnot though!!


    Amanda April 18, 2012 at 7:32 am

    Hrm, i think a flag for sensitivity would be helpful for posts like these. I know there have to me more people than just myself who is sensitive to reading about extreme diets & extreme exercise.

    It’s incredibly helpful to understand how hard and for how long these people work to get those amazing bodies, but it can be very triggering (for ED-sensitive people) to see and read a post like this. Thank you for the information, though.


    Sara April 20, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    I don’t think an hour and a half of exercise AT MOSt is “extreme.” Maybe healthy living blogs aren’t the best place for you.


    April April 22, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    @Sara: I don’t think she was talking about how long Miriam works-out. A lot of people spend an hour to an hour and/half in the gym. I wouldn’t recommend it for everyday. I think it’s about the overall transformation including the diet/working out. Many girls might read this and think, “Oh, this is all I have to do to get that body.” And will start eating an extremely strict diet in which they don’t understand how it works nor or be able to sustain. Then if they do happen to “cheat” or eat a food they don’t believe is part of the plan they can spiral into a really bad place – working out excessively, tighter control on food, etc. I don’t think this post is going to cause people to have an ED, but for those who already do it could trigger something. I have healthy boundaries with food and I was encouraged by the transformation and wondered if that was a diet I could sustain (for an upcoming vacation), but then I was disappointed to see she gained all the weight back. 🙂 I’m going to have to find a diet that is sustainable. 🙂


    Erin April 22, 2012 at 1:57 pm


    I agree. This extreme dieting- (I mean cutting out water??!!) doesn’t really go with the typical healthy balance on CNC.


    Miriam@Bellaspire April 25, 2012 at 12:38 am

    This WAS pretty extreme and is an approach to take only if you are competing. It was definitely an interesting experience and I am much happier living the fat loss lifestyle. April, it was actually good that I gained the weight back!! Alot of it was water weight. I didn’t mean to trigger any ED issues an apologize if I did.


    Sarah August 2, 2013 at 7:51 am

    @Erin: Its a competition diet, the diet and routine isn’t meant as something sustainable and the last week sure isn’t meant to be a long term sustainable thing. It’s all focused on one night, and then you go back to a balanced clean eating approach. I’d suggest doing some research on bodybuilding competitions before judging. No one, not even the Pros sustain competition day weight/look. Your supposed to gain back some weight. Ideally not a lot, but if you aren’t doing another show or planning to in the future most people don’t care about rebounding +10lbs. Also, it’s not another person’s responsibility to make sure you don’t relapse. Also, as someone who has struggled with an ED, my competition prep has actually helped me, WHEN i listen to my coach. It’s about a clean eating diet and lifting weights with some cardio. Balanced.


    Linz @ Itz Linz April 18, 2012 at 7:49 am

    AWESOME!! I hope to someday compete! My mom competed in body building right before she turned 50! I think the whole sport is awesome and I’m hoping after I have kids (not even preggo yet) and when the time is right, I’ll start ! 🙂


    The Mrs @ Success Along the Weigh April 18, 2012 at 7:49 am

    Wow this was really interesting! Thanks so much for the sneak peek into what goes into preparing for a competition!


    Kristen @ notsodomesticated April 18, 2012 at 7:51 am

    Very interesting! I don’t think I could ever do anything like this, just because of the restrictive diet. But good for you for challenging yourself!


    Emily N April 18, 2012 at 8:04 am

    Definitely will be checking out your blog. I was on the competition train for months and was sidelined by a major injury that would not allow me to lift legs AT ALL (and you know how important that was to your process!). I was confined to upper body lifting and the bike. After that I couldn’t get back into it again and have just converted myself into a runner (!?!) but I really want to find a happy medium between distance running, lifting, and fat loss.


    Katie @ Peace Love & Oats April 18, 2012 at 8:09 am

    This is really interesting, I’m just getting into long distance running (first marathon in the fall!) but I also want to work on building muscle and fat loss! I hope to find a way to do both, but I know that’s hard!


    Catalina @ Cake with Love April 18, 2012 at 8:20 am

    OMG I love this post, you look amazing, I like to lift weights, running I can go no more than 5 miles, because I get bored after that, you just motivated me to get into shape and to take my workouts more seriously!!


    Alyssa @ fit and fun in third April 18, 2012 at 8:54 am

    What a great post! I love catching a glimpse into a different fitness world!


    katie @ KatieDid April 18, 2012 at 9:07 am

    super interesting story to read!


    Gina @ Running to the Kitchen April 18, 2012 at 9:28 am

    Miriam- this was fascinating! I think the hardest/weirdest part would be the posing/strutting around stage part. When I see women in heels + a bikini it always just makes me laugh at the incredible ridiculousness of it all. Because everyone wears heels going to the beach, right? haha 😉
    Awesome guest post!


    Katrina @ 'Sota is Sexy April 18, 2012 at 9:37 am

    Great post! I love your healthy, balanced approach to competing in a bikini competition. I’ve been considering doing one for a long time, and this may just have pushed me over the edge! You looked great on stage — healthy and fit without being over the top…really inspiring!!

    What type of PA are you? My huband is a derm PA…so I have to ask 🙂


    Miriam@Bellaspire April 25, 2012 at 12:31 am

    Internal medicine 🙂


    clare @ fittingitallin April 18, 2012 at 9:59 am

    Great post! I was/ am a runner too and tried to transition into a muscle building/fat loss lifestyle with the Jamie Eason Live Fit Trainer at the beginning of this year. IT was SO HARD!! The workouts were fine, but the diet is killer. I love my carbs! But congratulations to you for working so hard – you look amazing in the show and now:)


    Melissa (MelissaLikesToEat) April 18, 2012 at 10:14 am

    I especially love your final thought on how you grew to love your body. Sometimes that takes a long time to arrive at that point and some people may never arrive there but when you do, it’s like a huge “weight” off your shoulders. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your story! You look great!


    Jillian April 18, 2012 at 10:43 am

    Hi Miriam,
    I think what you did is awesome! Out of curiosity, how did your workouts as a distance runner change when you took up strength training? Did you do more “HIIT” for cardio? Also, what kind of lifting would you do – squats, lunges and planks sound familiar?


    Miriam@Bellaspire April 25, 2012 at 12:40 am

    Thanks!! Yes, I did HIIT and heavy weights!


    Whitney @ Whit Likes Fit April 18, 2012 at 10:48 am

    I am so glad I found Bellaspire the other day. I’m loving all your posts!


    Anna April 18, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    I was so happy to be introduced to your blog. I am starting PA school at Wake Forest in a month. I have been a bit worried about keeping up my healthy lifestyle under all the stress and school-work I am anticipating. Any tips? It looks like you were able to do it so that makes me think it’s possible!


    Stellina @ My Yogurt Addiction April 18, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    Wow that looks like fun and you look great! What does the winner get? What exactly do they judge you on? Is it just your body or Do you have to show some talent too?


    Chelsea April 18, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    So inspiring seeing as I hope to compete one day! Thanks so much for the post!


    Peggi Konvicka April 18, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    So awesome! You are such an inspiration! You look incredible girl, way to go!!!


    Erin April 18, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Wahoowa! I’ve always been curious about competing in fitness competitions, so I really enjoyed reading about your experiences. Thanks for detailing your eating plan during the 8 week training period. What was your average caloric intake during that time?

    Congrats from a fellow UVA alumna!


    Miriam@Bellaspire April 25, 2012 at 12:41 am

    Go hoos!! Oh gee, I have no clue!!


    kristle April 18, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    this is really interesting, and inspiring! i love what you learned from the whole experience. i think anyone struggling with food/body image issues could benefit from reading this post. thanks for sharing on carrots n cake! definitely something i wouldn’t have stumbled upon otherwise.


    Christine @ Oatmeal Bowl April 18, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    While I am not training for a competition, I am training for bikini season (yesterday marked 6 weeks to the day of Memorial weekend). And I have to say the fat loss diet is 80% of my battle! Thank you for sharing your ‘dieting’ towards competition. Congrats! You look fabulous.


    Megan April 18, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    I loved reading this! I’m currently training for my first figure competition and the diet part is SO hard! Pizza and beer are at the top of my list for the night after the competition 🙂


    Sarah April 18, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    This was so interesting to read-never heard of bikini competitions!!


    Megan @ Weddings & Workouts April 18, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    I really enjoyed this post. I don’t think I could ever do a bikini comp, I’m just too self conscious AND I don’t think I have the dedication to stick to such a strict diet. It would be really great to have something to work towards. Maybe if I get over my fears I could do it one day?!


    Nicole April 19, 2012 at 1:09 am

    Wow… What fantastic results you’ve achieved – CONGRATS!
    I have a question regarding portion size of your meals. I eat very cleanly, lots lean proteins, green leafy vegies and low GI carbs, but what I do struggle with is portion size. For example, my ‘snack’ of raw almonds or walnuts would probably be half a cup (I know this is too much!) Can you give me any pointers of where I can go to for info on this?


    Miriam@Bellaspire April 25, 2012 at 12:44 am

    Great job!! I typically just stick with the serving size on the label. Walnuts are great!


    Amy April 20, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    great post! its interesting to hear what these competitors actually go through in terms of training and diet. thanks!


    Brianna @ Don't Eat Crap April 21, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story! You look great. I agree, enjoying the little things in life 20% of the time and trying to eat health 80% of the time – it keeps me sane.


    fitfoodiele July 8, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    i so needed this- i’m training for my first competition right now and this post helped me tremendously. i do wonder how my relationship with food will be affected after the show- i’m aiming for an 80% clean ratio as well as i SOOOOO miss my snacks right about now! thanks for your inspiration and motivation.


    Rocky October 7, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    WOW!! What a great post… I am going on my 4 th week of getting my body ready for a bikini competition in March. I have decided I needed a goal and met a health coach that is a bikini competitor and truely inspired me. Your story is very inspiring too. I am 49 years old and I sometimes think I am to old to do this but I am determined now to achieve my goal.. I want other women my age to see that they can get in shape and have an awesome looking body. May I ask how old you are? If you have any websites you know that may help me with different diets and exercises I would love to visit them..Have a great day.


    Chelsea June 5, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    Thank you!!! I loved this… it was sooo helpful. Doing my first bikini competition 2 weeks from today and I am incredibly nervous but this made me feel better. Thanks for taking the time to share!!!


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