The Yo Yo Cycle of Competing in Bodybuilding and How I Overcame It Pt. 1

You may or may not have heard of the terms 'yo-yo dieting', or 'rebounding' after competing. A brief explanation: yo-yo dieting is a term used when someone diets, loses weight and gains the weight back, often plus more weight, mostly because the strategies used were restrictive and rigid, so the weight loss and lifestyle is not easily sustainable or maintainable creating a weight loss maintenance problem and weight regain problem.

Rebounding is a term used for when competitors gain back the weight they lost during a contest prep in a short amount of time, plus some more weight often, mostly because a contest prep is often restrictive and rigid, adding in the challenge and complexity of the journey after a contest prep of getting back to eating normally.

I had an okay relationship with my body and food before competing. Going into my first prep I wanted to compete for a challenge for myself, I just wanted to do it, no expectations, the motive was healthy! I say okay because in high school I struggled with disordered eating tendencies and distorted body image. While my motivation for my first show was healthy, it exacerbated existing disordered tendencies with my body, and with food, and my relationship with food, that turned into an unhealthy cycle and state.

After my first show ended, I planned to continue to track my food and slowly add calories back in. However, sticking to that plan was a challenge as I wasn't working with a coach so I didn't have any accountability to adhere to a reverse diet after the show or a support system during this process. Doing it on my own wasn't a wise choice and it was a recipe for rebounding. I easily gave in to cravings and eating without restraint, which is not healthy when you've been eating fewer calories for months and your body is used to that, compounded with hunger hormones probably not working correctly due to months of dieting.

In a matter of a couple of months, I gained back what I had lost during prep, and more. I felt unhappy, felt uncomfortable in my skin, felt like a failure, and felt like a fraud as well as worthless. Being a personal trainer, and a professional in the fitness industry, I felt like I was a poor role model and had immense shame for having knowledge and expertise in the field, yet I was struggling.

Because I had earned my pro card, I felt shameful, that this wasn't what pro-level athletes did. I also felt that because I had earned my pro card, I needed to compete in a pro show. Doing another show was also a way to motivate me to track consistently, workout consistently and get back to a leaner physique.

In a matter of 2 months, I rebounded and then a month later, I started another prep to compete in my first pro show. I ended up qualifying for the world championships at my first pro show, so two weeks later, I went to worlds placing third.

I was incredibly happy with my efforts and the season, however, with a vague post-show plan and coaching myself, it was another recipe for rebounding, which indeed did happen. In a matter of months, I rebounded again, my show was October 24th so the next few months included the holidays which left me easily eating without restraint and the justification that it was the holidays.

This happened again for two more shows, after the 5th show, and a 5th rebound, I was depressed, and lost. Again, you might not know it from the outside as I was trying my hardest to plaster on a smile and facade that everything was good.

About 3 years after my first show, I finally got to a breaking point, a point where I couldn't deny the unworkableness of this cycle. I needed to face the truth and be honest with myself. I was struggling, this show-rebound cycle was unhealthy, and something needed to change.

- Charissa

Charissa Sutliff is an Online Fitness & Nutrition Development Coach, a Competition Prep Coach, Certified Personal Trainer, and holds a B.S. in Kinesiology. She also holds an M.A. in Higher Education Administration. She is enthusiastic about faith, working out, healthy nutrition, meditating, learning, growing and coffee!


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