I remember the day distinctly. It was the last weekend in August of 2012. I was walking through the crowd at the very first CrossFit competition I had ever attended. Not my own. In fact, this was before I stepped foot into a CrossFit gym. It was a mere week after I had graced the stage at my first and only figure competition. And it was the day I realized that, despite being in the best shape of my life up until that point, I just didn’t stack up to the CrossFit women walking around in their sports bras, spandex shorts, and knee high socks. I wanted to be one of them.

Throughout my weeks of preparation leading up to the figure show, I was very focused on what my scale said, and I weighed in after almost every workout. Though my workouts were challenging and I was consistently pushing myself in the gym, I struggled with nutrition. When I took the stage for the novice figure division on August 18th, 2012, I was at my lightest weight since high school (roughly 142 pounds!) and I felt it. I was excited about my progress, and excited to take the stage, of course, but being both a perfectionist and a bit insecure, I didn’t quite feel that I belonged with the rest of the women. And more than that, I was hungry!

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Fast forward nearly two and a half years, and I have gained a whole new outlook on my nutrition, workouts, and body, as well as about 13 pounds. Though maybe there isn’t a significant difference in how I look, there is a *huge* difference in how I feel, and the variations I have noticed in my body and mindset are, in my opinion, life-changing! 

For one, before I started CrossFit, I hardly ever truly focused on improving my performance in the gym. For me, it was about going, getting a challenging workout in, and being done with it. Of course I’d vary my routines and increase weight, but I never actually focused on goals of what I could do or how much I could lift, until CrossFit. Now, I have goals out the wazoo, and maintaining focus on these goals has allowed me to become both stronger physically, and more engaged and motivated mentally. My figure competition body couldn’t back squat my body weight or lift 130 pounds over my head, but my CrossFit body sure can!

Another change? Muscle, baby! Obviously, getting stronger and building muscle go hand in hand. My body is built so that I have a difficult time putting on significant amounts of muscle (if you see me competing on stage again, you better believe it will be the bikini division rather than figure). Even so, I have noticed that through CrossFit, and training to increase my performance, I have been able to build more muscle than I did training specifically to look good in a bikini.

Perhaps the biggest difference in my body is how I choose to nourish it. Struggling through (and cheating on) a restrictive diet in competition prep was not fun. I felt guilty and defeated when I did cheat, and when I was “on” I felt hungry and deprived. Moreover, I thought that was how it was supposed to be for competitors. I was hungry after taking the stage, and in the mindset of deprivation and “I earned this” so I binged on fettuccine alfredo, caesar salad, bread and butter, italian soda, and chocolate cake! Of course there are days now that I don’t eat as clean as I should, but rarely do I feel as hungry and deprived, much less guilty, as I did then. This is for two reasons: the first is that I am actually eating more (surprise!), and the second is that I haven’t put limits on what I can and cannot eat. There is no restriction on my diet. I eat what fuels my workouts, nourishes me, makes me feel good, and what I enjoy. Period.

In short, there have been changes to my body since competing. I am heavier and have a higher percentage of body fat, but I am also stronger, more fit, and in a much better place with my nutrition. I wouldn’t trade my figure competition experience for anything, but I feel quite at home in my CrossFit body. Which is right? The truth is, what’s right is what works for us in the moment. The beautiful thing about health and fitness is it is ever-evolving, so we can continue to try new things and treat our bodies well, and experience health as a dynamic and enriching aspect of life.