To The Aspiring Bikini Competitor

To The Aspiring Bikini Competitor

An open letter to all future bikini athletes.
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Being a bikini competitor is almost the new norm for anyone who wants to take their fitness dedication to the next level. On local and national stages, their divisions are taking over -- sometimes with 30 to 45 girls in each 6 height classes. Almost everyone is either a competitor, training to become one, or contemplating giving it a shot. What people don’t realize is that preparing for a bodybuilding show is tough. It's serious business and the last word I would use to describe it is "easy." It is, without a doubt, one of the most challenging things I have ever mentally, emotionally and physically done, but after competing in five shows myself, I can confidently assure you it's equally one of the most rewarding. It's worth it. It really is. But before you get excited about the sparkling swimsuits, high heels, tan skin, and hot bod you're about to have, take a listen. You need to read this first.

Before you decide to take the plunge, you need to objectively and realistically evaluate why you want to compete.

I highly recommend not competing if you simply want to “look good” and be “skinny.” Because contrary to popular belief, that “hot” body is yours for approximately one day. Months of dieting, weight lifting, and double cardio sessions just to look your best for one day. I'm not kidding -- one day. Before you know it, the show will be over, you’ll enjoy a few post-show cheat meals and those chiseled abs and bicep veins will disappear. The body you have on show day is not maintainable, so don't expect it to stick around. It won't.

You have to come into this world (yes, the bodybuilding community is something of itself) with more of a purpose -- or else you’re going to find excuse after excuse to give up and give in to your cravings and exhaustion when your show is over. Your body will be changing, and your muscle-defining tan fades to a blotchy, reptile-like appearance, and your perfect show day makeup is wiped off. Plummeting self-image, body dysmorphia, binge eating disorder tendencies, and post-show depression are common once you survive your first season of competing and transition into your off-season. These things are real and more athletes suffer from them than you'd think.

To compete, you should be sound with yourself and everything you are and aren't. You have to be accepting and loving of your body in all stages and forms. Your worth is not equivalent to your physique. You are more than just your degree of leanness or a plastic trophy. If you haven’t found acceptance and self-love, I recommend continuing to train, building muscle, and working on yourself. It's not your time. The stage isn't going anywhere.

So when you think you’re ready to compete, be real with yourself. Are you ready? Are you actually ready for this rollercoaster? Are you ready for the mental and emotional battles you’re about to face? The selfishness it requires? The self-control you’ll be forced to develop? The pressure you’ll put on yourself to succeed? Are you ready for the constant second-guessing? The doubt? Are you ready to commit your time and energy for months on end for one day? For 30 seconds on a stage? To be judged solely on your appearance? Are you ready to climb mountains and dig ditches to better yourself on every level?

Think about your “why.” Find it. Search for it, and make sure it’s good. Decide if competing is right for you for where you are in your life. It’s not for everyone. But when you decide to take that leap of faith, make it through your first bodybuilding prep to the stage, and feel the hot lights beaming down on you, you’ll understand why your “why” matters so much. Competing changed my life, and it can change yours. But know that once you start, you probably can't stop. Thankfully, you won't want to.

Cover Image Credit: Chris Benjamin Photography

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I Drank Lemon Water For A Week And Here's What Happened

It has already changed my life.

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There are so many health crazes out there now, it's hard to tell what actually works and what doesn't; or more importantly what is healthy and what is making your body worse. I read about simply drinking lemon water and I figured that didn't sound gross or bad for me so I figured I would give it a try. I've been drinking it consistently for a week and a half and I already notice some results.

I've never been a fan of lemon in my water, I always refuse it at restaurants. You definitely have to find your sweet spot in lemon to water ratio, in what tastes good to you. I personally cut the lemon into quarters and use on quarter per day. I put the lemon quarter in the bottle and then continuously fill with water throughout the day. I still get the yummy lemon flavor all day because I do not squeeze the lemon. It took about a bottle or two to get used to the lemon flavor, and now I just crave it.

Lemon water is supposed to speed up your metabolism. Obviously, a week is not long enough to tell if this is fact or fiction but I have noticed a change in appetite. I feel like I do not get hungry as often as I did before. I saw this effect within 24-48 hours of starting the experiment. This seems opposite to a fast metabolism but we'll see.

I definitely feel more hydrated with lemon water. I drink a lot of water anyways, about 80 oz a day but for some reason with the lemon, it makes me feel better. I don't feel as sluggish, I'm not getting hot as easily, and my skin feels amazing. I am slightly skeptical though because the lemon almost makes my tongue dry requiring me to drink more water, so I have upped my intake by about 20oz. I'm unsure if the hydration is due to the extra water, the lemon, or both!

My face is clearing up and feels so much softer too, in only a week! I have not gotten a new pimple since I have started my lemon water kick, may be coincidence but I'm not going to argue with it.

I also feel skinnier as I feel like I'm not holding as much water weight. I only exercise lightly, for the most part, walking around a mile or two a day so we can eliminate exercise factor to the slender feeling.

I have a messy stomach. Everything upsets it, and even though lemons are very acidic, they have not affected me in a negative way at all. It almost seems like the lemon water is helping me digest the difficult foods that my stomach doesn't like. I'm nowhere near a doctor so don't trust my word but it seems to be working for me.

From the effects I've felt so far, it also seems like lemon water may be a great hangover cure! I haven't tried it but I don't see why it wouldn't work. I can't say a negative thing about drinking lemon water so far expect you have to buy the lemons! If you try this for yourself though just make sure you are using an enamel saving mouthwash or toothpaste since lemons aren't so great for your teeth.

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Learning How To Cope With Rejection

"We are stars wrapped in skin, the light you are seeking has always been within." - Rumi

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"Life sneaks up on us every once in a while and gives us something we didn't even know we wanted, and lights within us a love we didn't even know existed." - Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines

I've never really been someone who needs other people to motivate me. Whether it was schoolwork, going to the gym, or trying new things, if I ever want to get something done, the motivation has to come from me. If I don't complete a task, I may try to pass the blame but deep down I know it's on me. However, knowing this about myself can sometimes be frustrating because often my eyes and dreams are bigger than I am willing to work for.

I can't count the number of times I have dreamt about a music career with stadium tours and platinum records or going to a top-tier university and getting the opportunity to create a successful start-up company. Sometimes the dreams will seem simple like planning every moment of my dream wedding or visualizing the day I have my first child. While all of those dreams would be amazing, I know they will not all come true. But that is not necessarily a bad thing.

I realize now that I can create my dream life out of what I do have, not out of what I wish I had. As Rumi said "the light is within" and I just need to find it. I know that good things don't just get handed to you, you have to work for them. But my brain works a little differently. When something doesn't go my way, it if anything makes me work even harder.

In December of 2016, I found out I got rejected Early Decision from my dream school. Sad, mad, and generally disappointed, I avoided this topic of conversation with everyone. It felt like a summer of essay-writing, test-taking, and four years of hard work had been thrown out the window. But it motivated me. It made me want to achieve something to prove them wrong.

Of course in the way that I deal with most emotions, I wrote a song about it and, with the help of my sister, posted it on my YouTube channel. It was a productive way of dealing with the rejection. Now that I am almost halfway through my second year at Emory, I truly believe it was for the best because it lit a light within me that I don't think could have come from anywhere else.

The university that I thought was my dream school told me they didn't want me. I built a thick skin (or thicker skin) with their rejection and gained a lot of strength because I had to. I'm sure I'm not the only person they have taught this lesson to and I'm sure I won't be the last. My heartbreak gave me more strength than I could have imagined and still motivates me to achieve greater things, things I thought were only a part of dreams.

"I am going to make you so proud" -Note to self.

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