Why I’ll Never Compete Again

February 13, 2012

in Blog, News, Facts, Fitness

This decision certainly has not been an easy one.  But I have thought about it a very long time, weighed out the pro’s and con’s, and in all reality, the con’s highly outweigh the pro’s.

While it was a great experience, and I think its helped shaped me to who I am today, it was a phase, and I just have to let it go.  As hard as it is, I’m sure there will always be a part of me that wants to get up on stage again, but the repercussions are just not worth it to me in the long run.

Here are all the reasons that made me come to this decision.  I’d like to say in advance, that these are my opinions…my own. We all have a right to feel the way we do.  If it causes debate, so be it, but I will defend my feelings to the end, because they are mine. 🙂 I hope you all understand.

I don’t need the approval of a judge to signify a job well done

Objective opinion.  Its the most difficult part of a judged sport such as bodybuilding.  In one show, you may place well, in another you may come dead last.  Your left thinking, “What did I do wrong?”, when simply, there was nothing you could have done different.  Your feelings get hurt, and you discount all your hard work because your glutes weren’t tight enough perhaps, or your shoulders weren’t defined enough.  You start picking yourself apart and lose sight of all the hard work you put in.  I’d rather just leave it on a high note (in my mind), and be happy that I’ve come that far, not dissect myself and think, “I’ll do better next time”, especially when I put everything I had into it.

I don’t think it sets a good example for my daughter

Not to be confused with being healthy and fit, which sets a great example, I believe competing doesn’t set a good example for little girls.  I want my daughter to grow up and be confident with her body, but I don’t want her to think that it means everything.  I want her to be loved not only for her looks, but for her brains and intelligence.  As she gets older, I couldn’t stand on stage continuously and be proud thinking I’m setting a good example for her.  Lets be honest.  You’re standing up there being judged on your looks alone.  Personality has very little to do with it, and brains has nothing to do with it.  You could argue that the ‘Fitness’ category with a routine does bring an element of skill into the equation, but not so much with other categories like Bikini.  With the intensity of competing, you are sacrificing your health for a short time to gain a specific result. I now believe that we should never sacrifice our health, even for a short time.  I don’t think that’s the best example.  Which brings me to my next point…

It threw off my hormones that resulted in infertility for 2 years

Month 3 into my first contest prep, I lost my period.  Cool I thought….no big deal, it will come back once its all over. It means my body-fat is getting low enough to not sustain a period, so hey, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.  Oh was I so wrong.  If I had known the long road that was ahead, I would have thought twice.  After the first 2 shows I did (they were close together), I figured my cycle would be back after a couple months.  It wasn’t.  Then (stupid me) decided that I’d get in 1 final show before the end of the year to get my Pro Card (which I did).  Right before my 3rd prep started, I got a short period.  Good sign, I thought.  But if you add up all the months I didn’t have a cycle, it was 1 year in total.  Not good.

After my last show, my cycle started a few months later, in January 2010, but they were very irregular.  It was at this time (after my show streak was done) that we decided we wanted to start actively trying for #2.  Just for the record, it took me literally 2 weeks to get pregnant with my daughter, so we never figured the second one would be a problem.

I visited numerous Naturopaths, Doctors and Fertility Specialists.  All appeared to be normal, for both of us.  But inside, I knew it was because of the competitions.  It threw something off.  It may have been small, but it was significant.  I scaled back on workouts for months, and relaxed on my eating.  I’ve never talked in detail about our issues with fertility, but I will get into it in another post coming soon.

Competing is not good for my mental health

Anyone that has competed knows all too well about the after-math.  You’ve done all that hard work and restricted your diet for so long…now what?  You’ve reached that goal…where do you go from there?  You’ve dreamed about all the food you couldn’t have, and afterwards you binge.  Sometimes for days, or sometimes for weeks.  Your body has been literally starved via no carbs to a low body-fat, it is a natural reaction by your body to want food, and lots of it.  Your adrenals are exhausted, and so is your mind.  All the focus has reached to an end.  Many people (including myself) become food obsessed.  You’ve been weighing all your portions and worried about everything you put into your mouth for so long.  It starts to overcome you.  You try to maintain control by counting calories and exercising more than necessary to ‘maintain’ an unattainable stage image.  This leads to a lot of unhealthy thoughts and body image issues.  I don’t know how you would avoid being somewhat disordered about food and image.  You’ve put yourself in that position.  Most don’t realize this until its all over, but that’s when the struggle begins.  Many people compete again as they re-gain all the weight they’ve lost, and they feel like the super-strict structure is what’s going to be the magic-pill to get them on track again.  That’s so far from the truth.  In most cases, it makes matters worse.

It took me months to get my mind straight after competing.  I don’t know what finally clicked, but I think as soon as I stopped ‘counting’, it subsided.  I haven’t counted calories in a very long time.  I still like to know a rough number of what is in things, but I look more at eating the proper food and decent portion sizes versus total calories.

Competing is much more of a mind game than most people realize.  You really have to dig deep, especially on the days you’re exhausted.  While there is nothing wrong with being determined and reaching a goal, especially if you’ve had lots of obstacles, but if it affects me in the long run in a negative fashion, than that’s where my apprehension lies.

Its very self-centered

I can’t eat this, I can’t eat that, I have to workout at this time, I need to go get fitted for my suit, I have posing practice so you need to watch our child at this time.  Notice the I, I, I.  Its self-centered.  I’m not going to lie, competing was tough on my marriage.  I was so immersed in what I was doing with all my food, workouts, managing it all and taking care of a child, my husband became the last person on that list.  While he was totally supportive and amazing, I only realized this at the very end.  He felt neglected, and never really said anything.  I can’t believe I hadn’t seen it sooner.  The last 4 weeks before a competition are especially the toughest.  My energy was completely gone, I was tired, hungry and cranky.  All I could think about was food, and the workouts.  So, nevertheless, it wasn’t something that made a positive difference in my family life. It caused a lot of extra stress.  Fortunately, its something we got past, and I certainly learned a lot from it.

I want to be healthy, and balanced

Nothing about competing is balanced.  Its extreme.  At first, it seems balanced with food choices and workouts, but the farther along you go, the more intense it becomes.  You can’t eat out, you’re on a very specific diet plan.  Your mind has to be in the game at all times.  Total focus.  Some people thrive on this, and I did to a point, but it started to interfere with all aspects of my life.  I became withdrawn from everyone around me as the focus took over.

I don’t like what the sport has become over the past few years

Every year, the look seems to change.  Thinner and more ripped, fuller and more balanced.  How do you know what’s going to win and what isn’t.  Its impossible to gauge.  Every girl is trying to stand out, and unfortunately, for some girls, respect can get lost in the process.  I see videos and pictures of girls that are going on stage with g-string bikini’s.  They are posing in a manner that makes them look like a stripper.  If acting in a distasteful way is what gets the judges attention and placings, I have no interest in being classified in that group.  That generalization may be harsh, and I personally know many competitors that don’t fall under that category, but unfortunately, its those ‘stripper’ girls that have ruined it for me.

I have no desire to be a fitness model

Many women get into competing as they have dreams of being a published fitness model, and competing is a great platform.  But for me, I have no desire to be on the cover of a fitness magazine.  While I have the utmost respect for cover models, its not something I’ve ever been interested in pursuing.  Having my recipes and articles featured in magazines and various sites is much more of an accomplishment to me.  Being the author of a published cookbook would be amazing, and my most recent writing offer from the Huffington Post is truly an honor, and I feel like my hard work and consistency is starting to pay off.  The harsh reality is, I find it offensive to be followed by a bunch of perverts that are only interested in my body and seeing photos of me in a skimpy bikini.  I know this, because immediately after a competition, and pictures get posted, I would get a flurry of friend requests, and inappropriate messages from unknown men!  I would much rather be an example of a healthy and balanced mom that other women can relate to. No offense to the guys.  Many men that follow this site, I interact with, and consider them friends.  They are respectful and would never be put into the category I mention above.

What I Will Miss About Competing:

That extra push of motivation you have when there’s a deadline

There’s nothing quite like registering and realizing the commitment is set in stone.  I would never sign up for something and drop out, unless there was a family tragedy or something very serious.  Once I signed up, that was it…there was no turning back.  That alone, keeps you much more committed and motivated.  You share the news with family and friends, and that makes you even more accountable.  Studies show that you’re more likely to follow through on something if you share your goals with loved ones.  With competing, you spend a lot of money for training, meal plans, shoes, suit, makeup, hair, tan etc.  You don’t want that to be all for nothing.  That extra motivation is that extra push when you feel like quitting.

Being recognized for your hard work

After the months of dieting, and making sacrifices, it is nice to “show off”, and be recognized for that.  Not a lot of people in this world would be dedicated enough to compete, so that is something to be proud of.  This kind of contradicts my first point about needing the approval, which I don’t.  But I must admit, it does feel nice to be recognized, and who doesn’t like being flattered!

Plain ol’ competition

I’m a competitive person, I admit it, so the thrill of standing beside others and competing (and doing well) is a great feeling. On the other hard, the disappointment is very hard when you don’t place where you want to. You feel defeated, and that is always hard to take.  As much of an accomplishment it is to get there, there can still be disappointment.


Deciding not to compete is by no means an excuse to not get into great shape again, only now, my goal has shifted.  My one and only health goal right now is to have another baby.  After this happens, I will follow a program again.  While it will still be intense, it won’t be as intense as contest prep.  I’d like to look at other athletic events.  Perhaps a biking event, or even a tough mudder or triathlon.  It would be great to do an event with my husband.  We’ve never had the opportunity to do an event together, as I was too busy recovering from competition, or keeping my intensity lower in order to conceive.

My diet will include more variety, and I will make sure I maintain a balance.  I won’t beat myself up if I miss a workout, or have a treat.  It will take me a bit longer, but I know I’ll still reach a result I’m happy with, and I plan on having pictures to prove it 😉  I believe that doing it this way will lead to a better overall maintenance plan.  Less restriction, means no reason to binge.  No deprivation and over-exercising.  Its a lifestyle, and for me, its just getting back on track and doing what I know needs to be done.

I also don’t want to discourage others from competing if they choose to.  We all have our own path, and the luxury of making our own decisions.  This is what my experience has been.  I know that many women have an easier time through prep and somehow manage to not let it affect their life as much.  Following through on goals like competing will make someone realize if its for them, or if it isn’t.  I would have never come to this conclusion had I not done it. I have no regrets, I believe everything happens for a reason.

I’m thankful for any recognition competing gave me, and for the people that first discovered me through that process.  Its something I’ve taken, and built upon.

My last and one of my favorite ‘stage’ shots 🙂

Yours in Health,

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I'm Kristine Fretwell, busy mom of 2 little girls, author, blogger, and former pro fitness competitor. I love almost any kind of cookie, anything coconut or pumpkin flavored, and Thai food. A perfect day for me is enjoying my family, getting to the gym, and whipping up a new healthy recipe. I've got a collection of over 300 healthy recipes, and other tidbits like fitness and health tips. My recipes have been featured on websites such as Huffington Post, Savvy Mom, Shape and Skinny Scoop.
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Latest posts by Kristine (see all)

  • Lael Sauter Wnbf Pro

    I have a love/ hate relationship with this sport. I am a lifetime drug free pro male bodybuilder. My wife is not a fan of my chosen sport and I can’t blame her. I recognize the self centeredness that comes with competition preparation. I tried to argue that if any athlete in any sport was to be number one that they too have to be self centred. She had a great rebuttal “If your bodybuilding was your job and your paycheque then I would have to accept that.” I am a WNBF Pro and unfortunately there is very little money in natural competition. Only the top 3 will receive money. I’ve competed 8 times and the last three have been as a pro. The most I’ve earned is $750 and a plastic trophy. I am grateful but the small reward all comes at a cost. ThIs is an expensive side hobby and thankfully I have a full time career. It has always been a stress on my relationship and social outings exacerbate the issue as I can’t eat all the food and must plan around it. Bodybuilding threw off my hormones too. It also caused me to have an overactive bladder (to this very day) thanks to all the water my coach told me to drink the final week. If health and fitness is about balance of mind, body and spirit, which bodybuilding is great for, then competition prep seems to miss the boat on all three as we starve our bodies, throw off hormones and bladder, get obsessed and self centred, second guess and doubt, and argue with our spouse. As I’m writing this I’m dieting and contemplating another pro show, one which I already placed 1st in 3 years ago. But now I’m giving it a second thought.

  • Blain

    Any advice?

  • Blain

    I am a husband of someone that competes. Its very stressful. I feel neglected.

  • Crystal

    Hello I did two shows this year back to back, no literally one weekend after each other. I jumped into reverse diet right away and had zero problems with binging. Until, the cheat meal before my third show ( which I ended up not doing) I spent the day before my prep stuffing my face with everything I knew I’d be deprived of the next 8 weeks of prep. I gained 9 lbs that night and was still up 5 lbs in the morning. At this point I was going on two months with out a period. Which in my head was a sign I was staying lean and in stage condition. Three weeks before my show I decided I needed a mental break. That’s when everything changed. I started having cheat days instead of meals. My month of reverse dieting has nearly disappeared as the last month of weekly binge days has made me feel out of control. Yesterday I reminded myself it’s not about control its about balance. I long to be back to my pre show mental state back when a kind bar was my biggest craving instead of any chocolate in hands reach. I’m writing this as I work off my final food hang over from last nights in hopes of getting back on plan and losing the extra fat I put on this month. But the biggest goal for me is to find my balance again. How did you find balance when it came to a weekly binge day?

  • Chelsea

    I could read this story over and over again. Each time you inspire me a little bit more!

  • Selina – CreativeJuicesDecor

    Thanks for taking the time (and mental energy!) to write that all out! It was a very informative read and even though I only thought briefly about entering a competition I wondered about all the emotional stuff involved in it. It’s so nice to be able to read (ahead of time) the journey and road someone went on and then you have a better idea about what you would get yourself into if you did decide to go that route. I love your honestly and I believe that is the key to a great blogger – just being REAL 🙂 I have a design blog (www.creativejuicesdecor.com) and will do a Fess Up Friday post every once in a while of the days where my home looks a mess and I nearly burn it down with flash grease fires – ha! I think those posts are the ones people enjoy the most – not my perfectly decorated bathroom 🙂 Keep up all the great work!!

  • Therese Mathisen

    Thank you for this reflected and nice structured bloggpost. I feel just the same about competitions, although it took me a while to realize. After a few years of experience, and several years of education and practice (nutritionist and exercise physiologist) I can’t find any health in this kind of Sport (competition!). I love the exercise, the disipline and reaching of goals, but with a healthy bodyweight and composition 😉
    You put the thoghts nice and lucid on paper (screen!)! Thank you!!

  • L.D.

    Thank you Kristine for this post. I too had these battles which only ended in a self centered, depressed, and feeling like an out of control person. I knew I had to do something to get myself off the destructive wheel I called focus, control, hard work and passion. Everything you said hit the nail on the head and could have easily been my life. I do wish to add it took me two full years to just get my head back on straight and repair relations with my family who luckily stood by me the whole time while I pulled away by the restrictions, must be at the gym, can’t go to social events beliefs I imposed. Thank goodness I didn’t lose them completely. I now enjoy eating healthy, knowing balance, and being happy with my body and enjoying my life. Time flies by way too fast and those years I dedicated to this I feel I lost out on more important events.

  • Kristi Lee Graham-Irvin

    I feel like I wrote this article. Everything you said and everything you felt before, during and after is 100% what I have been feeling and struggling with an agonizing over since my competition in May of this year 2013. I have beat myself up, cried, eaten, sulked, slept, pouted and stressed over EVERYTHING since the competition. It has been so difficult for me and I feel like I am the only one that has had such a difficult time. Clearly, that is not the case. Thank you for writing this article. You took the words right out of my mouth. Literally.

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

      Kristi, glad you can relate. I hoped others would 🙂 Hope your back on track to normalcy.

      • Kristi Lee Graham-Irvin

        I’m getting there. My mind has been out of control. Since the competition, I have wanted to do everything exactly opposite of what I did during training months. I have yet to prepare my meals for the week like I did, I cannot even LOOK at the gym, and I’ve wanted to be as far away from any sort of structure as I can get (normally I am a very structured person). I’m slowing realizing I need it and need to get my butt in gear. Over the last 2 months, I have gotten back into Crossfit – go 4-5 times a week – I do not go to the gym at all. I still have yet to prep my meals, but I am realizing I need to make that happen, so my goal is to do that this Sunday for next week. I have NO idea what my body fat is, nor do I want to know. All I do know is that it’s up there – very flabby and feel fluffy.

  • Apester4u

    Great post!

  • Andrea Lianne

    I didn’t get this post until now… Almost a month after my second show…. And I can totally relate! Very well written Kristine 🙂

  • E F

    This is such an amazing post and I whole-heartedly agree with everything. I too lost my period when I started training really hard and restricting my diet, but I was 17 and thought “Awesome! No period! Free birth control!” It was gone for two years, until I finally got my obsession under control and it has now come back. Even though I never thought of the fertility repercussions then, now that I’m older and really would like to have children, I am so glad that it is back and that it is regular, and I will never again trade my sanity and my health for that teeny-tiny body I once had.

  • Katie

    Wow, you couldn’t  have said all of this in any better way! I feel so deprived from the simple pleasures I love in life (aka food,treats,friends/social life). Ive lost 23lbs the last few months to prep for Bikini contests, look my best and feel Great, yet have never felt so UnHappy & Alone all the time. Feb 13th, March 17th, & this coming weekend  April 7th. As much fun as it is and enjoy it, yet still cannot get over the mind games it brings me. Your right about Beating yourself up & questioning what u did wrong for a show or your looks. Ive never picked at my body, until I started training for this sport & it just seems to Amaze me… I am taking a break after this show, enjoying all the small things around me, and stop being so Self-Centered with the I-I-I all the time like your mentioned lol! This post is just what I needed to hear today! I love all that you do Kristine, You truly Inspire me !

  • Sonyasrr11

    anyone here struggling with metabolic damaga, hormonal damage, post competion depression,  menatl stress , food obsession or any other negative consequenece from competing should check out Scott Abel´s website.

  • http://www.janalynehansenfitness.com/ Janalyne

    Great post Kristine…so informative. I’ve also considered competing and had a lot of questions about these very things you touched on so I’m really glad to have heard it from someone who has been there and done it. Keep up the good work inspiring people and making great recipes!

  • Josier80

    Thanks for a great post!  I’ve competed twice and the first time I felt so depressed afterwards and struggled with all of the downfalls you mentioned.  I competed again last fall just to “rewrite” my experience.  It was so much more positive because I went in with the attitude that this was just about the experience and learning.  That said, I still struggled with wondering what example I’m setting for my 4-year-old and at what cost the whole competition lifestyle demands.  I’m still working to find that balance and because I know so few women who have competed, blogs like your are provide amazing encouragement.  I also feel the need to second your comments about the “stripper” look.  I got into figure because of the athleticism and competition and the feeling of pushing myself, but I competed in the bikini division last time and it was unfortunate.  My height class was filled with classy and sassy cute girls who were so encouraging of one another and while many of the girls in the height class above me fit that, the girls who placed top 5 were of the very skinny gyrating variety.  Bummer.  Thank you for sharing your journey!

  • Teamknightfitness

    Absolute great post! I’ve only competed once, however I feel the exact same way!! Not easy on the body for overall mental, physical and emotional health. Plus takes away too much time and energy to the family. Thanks for sharing!

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

       Thanks! So glad you could relate to it 🙂

  • Jin

    I just stumbled upon your blog and I admire your honesty. I can’t agree with you more about being confident and loving your body for what it does for you and trying your best to keep healthy! I lost my cycle after losing weight and cutting calories too excessively.. unfortunately it has been 3 years and hasn’t come back yet. I’ve gained some healthy pounds of both muscle and fat, I feel SO SO SO much happier that I can eat what I want (in moderation of course) while exercising to elevate my MOOD and to FEEL healthy rather than to look a certain way.
    Continue to be a positive role model for your daughter!

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

       Thanks for the comment.  Sorry you’ve come across the same issues with your cycles…hope everything balances out for you soon.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/GNLWZBIKFKGEMJPYJQ5JJJ5E24 kathi m

    Thank you for writing this….I feel exactly the same.  I do feel like my hormones are all out of balance right now because of all my strict dieting and hard core training.  Hopefully I haven’t screwed my self and my health…still hoping to have at least one more child within the next two years or so.  Thank you again!!

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

       Hi Kathi, I’m glad you feel the same.  Its not too late to get balanced out and not be as “strict”.  There is nothing wrong with being disciplined, but if you have baby goals, scaling back a bit might be a good idea.  I found a big difference when I started taking in more healthy fats.  Even a simple Omega 3 supplement can do wonders.

  • Kenisha Smith

    It took me until today to work on my response/feedback for this post that was VERY OVERDUE for me. I’ll have to be short & sweet and give you the cliff notes version. . .After having my daughter I found myself @d19f3abcf0b1167c4ec21ceaef2d15a4:disqus I too 245lbs which was NOT GOOD!! I set out to loose weight & get myself back together. In the process I decided I wanted to compete. This is NOT something that came together overnight, it actually came together over 5-6yrs of nights!! During the first 18-20months I dropped the majority of my weight (70-80lbs), since then it’s really been tweaking this entire time getting to where I am today. Along the way I was never displeased with myself, I stopped seeing myself in a negative fashion and became the athlete I used to be in College. After going thru a difficult divorce & financial situation I finally embarked on competing 2yrs ago. The 1st year I did fitness model and I did well. Physically I was smaller then I’d been before but still it was nothing drastic. I didn’t loose my cycle, I didn’t have any health issues, I was tired from all the training but other than that I was ok. Thankfully I wasn’t an overnight rebounder and it took me several months to go back to my starting weight which now ANGERED me & drove me INSANE. So last year because of that I decided to compete again and I was All In. I was unfortunately a little behind the 8 ball in time & weight so I had to push hard. By early March I’d lost my cycle and like you I said “No Worries” I’m just leaning out it’ll be back. I then competed in 2 back to back shows in April. After that the next goal was to compete in June and that’s when things started going downhill. Now I’d seen myself in a body I never thought existed and I kept pushing myself even when I was supposed to be scaling back. I unfortunately have an umbilical hernia from my pregnancy that was never an issue but the more & more I dieted & trained the more it became an issue. I was always tired & worn out and driving everyone nuts when it came to my EATS. Speaking of nuts I’d become a hoarder of them and had several canisters hidden everywhere and would just have days where I would just eat & eat them until my jaw hurt. Then my daughter found me going in my stash in the car and she said “Mommy that’s CRAZY! Why are you hiding nuts and eating them in secret like that”!?!? I felt shame & embarrassment b/c she was right, so I stopped. I decided no more shows for me for the remainder of the year and began giving my body its much needed rest & nutrition but still NO cycle. I went 6 consecutive months without one until it reappeared Sept/Oct. As luck would have it this is where our stories realign again . . .we decided that its time to actively start trying to have a baby and my fear set in immediately b/c I knew what I’d put my body through that this may become a very tough situation. Luckily my cycle was normally all the way up until this month which by the way is the month that I decided I was going to embark on competing again b/c I couldn’t accept the weight I’d put back on in an attempt to regain my cycle and some normalcy. Now I am in NO way shape or form where I was years ago when I started getting healthy and had I been this weight back then I would’ve been thrilled, but now all I do is criticize myself, look in the mirror and say how fat this is and that is and how bad this looks and that looks. I still subconsciously restrict my eats and deny myself certain things and I just can’t do it anymore!! Reading your article yesterday was the light that needed to shine on what is becoming a mental issue for me b/c its keeping me from doing all the other things that I’d set out to do which had nothing to do with competing. . . competing was just a lil side goal that ended up taking over my life completely!!! So here I am at the same crossroads as you apparently were when you made the decision to no longer compete. I can’t live like this anymore and I’ve been saying that for days, weeks, months but this insanity has to stop TODAY!  I too blog & have a Facebook fanpage with followers who are moved by my journey but they have NO IDEA of internal H#LL I’m living in everyday. . . Of the mental abuse & stress I put on myself. . . .Of the poor self image I have of myself now . . . Of how far I’ve taken my body and how its driving a wedge between myself & those I love. I’s NOT fair anymore for me to live a lie and preach certain things to my fans/followers and my clients (I also personal train which is my passion) but I’m not following them myself anymore. So today I will be sitting down and taking another step in the healing process and blogging about this so I can finally start being free and getting back to the Real Me!!
    Sorry this was so long but I had to get it out. . . Thank You for the post and I love your site. I’ve been following for some time now and I really enjoy it!!

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

      Kenisha, thanks so much for sharing this! I’m sure many women can also relate to your story.  I hope you’re able to find your balance. Be true to yourself, what you believe, and what you KNOW will be better for your health, self esteem and you’re family.

  • Dairyfreebetty

    My old roomate used to do this and I was SHOCKED at all she put her body through… and then after she stopped doing it, she was still stuck in all the stuff you mentioned.  It was very unhealthy (for her).

    Good choice! Gotta follow your heart!! 

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

      Thanks Jessica. It sure is interesting seeing it first hand huh! Kristine Fretwell, Busy But Healthy, http://www.busybuthealthy.com

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

       Thanks!! Its interesting watching it first hand huh.

  • Randy

    Wow. Such transparency… I imagine that some of this may have been difficult for you to write? I have to thank you because some of your comments have enlightened a path for me. I hate to admit but after my wife left I initially started working out and exercising as a coping mechanism. Over time this changed to (I hate to admit)… me striving for attention. I was on the fence even considering a male fitness competition as a life goal after reading this I think it has helped me realize that this is a goal that I can live without. I’m considering other goals such as learning to be a better cook for my children when they are at my house. Perhaps I should even consider a biking, running or tough mudder like you mention. These goals seem much more realistic to me.

    As always I enjoy the recipes and appreciate the fact that you are an active blogger and unlike many actually reply to many of your followers comments! My ex made mention the other night when I dropped the kids off to her house saying, “the kids told me that they are eating lots of neat new foods at ‘daddy’s’ house and that you are becoming a really good cook”. It was nice to hear (not the recognition from my ex of course, lol) but to hear that my kids are enjoying my cooking. I guess the Kale is starting to rub off on them? I haven’t attempted ‘baking’ yet but perhaps soon.

    Thanks for all your recipe ideas, and your outlook on life is an inspiration.

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

      Thanks Randy! Glad you enjoyed it. I admit, I used exercise to cope with the loss of my mother. And while I still believe fitness should have a significant part of everyone’s life, but if it becomes too much and starts affecting your life in a negative way than too much is too much. I’m so glad your kids are also liking the recipes. I remember you telling me they loved the grain-free chicken strips! You’re setting such a great example for them that healthy can be fun too! I hope you attempt a baking recipe soon ;). Most of my muffin recipes are done all in one bowl so they a tough to mess up 😉 thanks for your comment! Kristine Fretwell, Busy But Healthy, http://www.busybuthealthy.com

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

       Hi Randy! My blackberry was acting up, so my reply didn’t go through. Thanks for your comment.  Good for you for setting a great example to your kids with the healthy eating.  I’m glad they like the chicken strips as you’ve mentioned 🙂  I hope to try some baking things soon. Luckily, most of my recipes are done in one bowl, so they’re harder to mess up 🙂

      • Randy

        Ha got your reply. Awesome. I made the Bandara salad the other day it was a hit! The kids are back to my house and here it is the family day holiday so my daughter helped me make your protein pancakes with blueberries. They seemed to enjoy. I uses egg whites and don’t really like the brand I used so could taste it a bit in the mix. Just toppedine with peanut butter and more berries. We have our energy up and are heading out to walk the dog and then hit the ice for a skate.

        Will be trying another recipe of yours tonight… Something with chicken I think. Ttys

  • Shirley

    Hi Kristine, 

    Thanks for sharing a bit of your personal life of of your competition experience. I definitely can relate to you even though I have  not competed before. Last year, I worked out with a fitness competitor and was working out intensively as I was doing a photoshoot. I really wanted to look like a fitness model for the shoot so I did what ever it takes to be lean. Which meant being on a strict diet and “over exercising”. It definitely put a toll on me! My arms and ankles got sore cause I put too much stress on it by lifting heavy to build a lot of muscle.  I spent so much time at the gym that I didn’t spend time with my husband. And like you, he didn’t say anything and being the best husband can be by being supportive. I thought it was just me… when you mentioned that the intense workouts made your cycle go out of whack.. It happened to me too.  After putting myself all through it….. I see that you don’t need to put yourself through it unless you love competing and want to be in the fitness industry. Now I took a step back and live a healthy balance life style.  I am still eating clean but exercising moderately. Need Balance! 🙂 You just got to do what’s best for you and your body. Thanks for your post! 🙂   BTW… I love your recipes…. keep them coming! 🙂 

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

      I’m so glad to hear you more in balance now too! Thanks for sharing!! Oh yes, no worries, recipes will continue to flow 🙂 Kristine Fretwell, Busy But Healthy, http://www.busybuthealthy.com

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

       Yes, definitely need balance…glad you’ve found yours too!!!  Don’t worry, lots more recipes to come 🙂

  • Soniafs

    Wow!!! Every point you mentioned is every reason why I will never compete again. I have not stepped on stage since 2003 and even today, 8 years later my body image is all screwed up. I will not wear shorts, tanks tops , sleeveless dresses because I hate the ray I look!! But in everyone else’s eyes , I look healthy- not in mine. I still have this horrible self esteem because of competing. And the point about the new federations where the girls look like strippers with their posing- its quite ridiculous and I agree 100 percent!!!

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

      I’m sorry to hear you’re still struggling with the body image stuff. It can take time to get out of that mind set. I hope you find your ‘ah-ha’ moment to get you out of that :). For me, I don’t care if I don’t have my picture perfect, ideal body. Health is much more important. Kristine Fretwell, Busy But Healthy, http://www.busybuthealthy.com

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

       I’m so sorry to hear you’re still struggling with your body image. I hope you find a way to get past that.  Glad you enjoyed the read…

  • Tgrapoli

    Great Post! I can relate in so many ways to your story… I too have competed many times succesfully.. however something clicked in me this time and Im no longer willing to put my body and my family through it!  I want another baby also and have suffered from the adrenal hormonal challenges.. Im on the road to recovery and hopefully will conceive one day too!  Thankful for the journey!

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

       Thanks for sharing this…glad you can relate!  Lots of positive baby vibes to you too 🙂

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

       I’m glad to hear that. Hope your health is on track and baby vibes for you!!

  • Danielle

    Good job Kris!!  I am so very proud of you and the woman you have become. You set such an example for all your friends and family.  Without you, I wouldn’t be eating healthier and keeping fitness and good health in check. You are truly and inspiration whichever route you choose.

    xx Danielle

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

      Aw thanks Danielle! You’re a great friend and I wish we were closer to do some stuff together ;). You’ve been doing great, so proud of you! Always happy to help!!! Kristine Fretwell, Busy But Healthy, http://www.busybuthealthy.com

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

       Aw Danielle…thanks you are amazing!  You’re doing great and you’ve done the work all on your own, so kudos to you!!  Happy to provide support and tips wherever I can! Luv ya!! xo

  • Sandy Dhami

    Thanks for this Kristine!  I also came to this conclusion recently as I was going to do my first competition this year.  I decided that it’s just not for me for many of the same reasons!  Keep up your good work I love you blog and mention you on my blog often when I try your recipes shredtillyourdead.com 

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

      Thank you, and so glad you like the recipes!

  • Linds B

    I could not agree more! competing was a great goal for post pregnancy, I competed along side Kristine in her first competition.  We both had new babies and were anxious to get our bodies back in shape, so in that sense it was a great goal and achievement. As far as a lifestyle of competing, it hugely impacted my relationship with my husband, friends and social events.  You can be healthy, fit, a great mom, wife, friend etc. by keeping a balance and still enjoying an occasional glass of wine or dinner out.  Also couldn’t agree more with passing this message on to children and daughters in particular, there are already so many pressures on girls and women to be these picture perfect model like images.  I think in a sense competing in a sport that is soley driven by body image can be a very toxic message to pass on, you can get the same sense or feeling of achievement by participating in team sports (ie. soccer, dance etc.) Great Post Kristine 🙂

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

      Very well said Linds 🙂  You were the smart one and stopped after the one!  Yes, you’re totally right, the same feeling of accomplishment can be felt with other sports that don’t have such a focus on body image! Luv ya! xo

  • Clintpratch

    Very good … You are a inspiration to us all.. Balance in life is misunderstood, I think you get it!

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

      Thanks Clint 🙂

  • http://theguiltlesslife.wordpress.com/ Anna @ The Guiltless Life

    I respect your decision! I have friends who compete and I get why it appeals to them (a lot of the reasons you listed under the pros section for sure) but I also have some friends who, during the off-season, just let themselves go and eat whatever they want and pile on the pounds, only to put themselves through excruciating measures to lose it again come training time. That kind of yo-yoing just cannot be good for your health. I know not everyone does this but honestly their lives are so restricted during training that I also find it hard to hang out with them. While I am all for supporting people in what they want to do – and I think everyone should wholeheartedly dedicate themselves to a goal at least once or twice in their lives – I think to do this on a recurrent basis can really put a strain on social relationships unless they are with people who do exactly the same thing.

    I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you on the fertility issue. There are so many factors that go into infertility and it’s such a complex issue but I really hope things work out!

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

      Thanks so much Anna!  You’re definitely right about how some people struggle like that during off-season.  Yes, will keep you all posted about the fertility stuff 🙂

  • Melanie

    Thank you for that article! I too feel the same way. I did two figure comps and fortunately, quickly decided not to do anymore for all the same reasons. I found the criteria for what was the “ideal” look to a figure girl to be too inconsistent and unknown. Rumors of judges having favorites or conflict of interests with competitors was always talked about. I still struggle with body image and having a healthy relationship with food but I have a wonderful nutritionist who is helping me and he is very familiar with the backfires of competing.  I am proud to have done the competitions, but am even more proud to have quit doing them and have a healthy balanced life.

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

      Thank you Melanie! I’m happy to hear you’ve found your way!  Yes, the politics involved can be so frustrating too.  Glad you’re also proud to have a healthy and balanced life!

  • http://profiles.google.com/bodynsoil Bodyn Soil

    I loved this post and have shared it with my group of fitness ladies, some have been competitive and others have not. All agree that this post is well written and touches on many concerns we have all had regarding the competition aspect of female health and fitness.

    I applaud you for taking the brave step in speaking out regarding your true feelings.  Your consideration for the image you are setting up for your children is evidence of the kind of person and mother you are.  Thank you for posting this, I certainly have enjoyed reading it and wish you success with your family and writing career. 

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

      Thank you for all your kind words!  You’re so sweet 🙂

  • Logos712

    As a guy, I couldn’t agree more. The competitions are very subjective, there’s many who thought that Lou Ferrigno should’ve won the Mr.O instead of Arnold (as documented in Pumping Iron) for example. In the few weeks prior to competing, you practically have to starve yourself. I’ve also noticed that among women, some, maybe many, get implants to get more attention from the judges, if not from the crowd. So many of those who are in the “bodybuilding” level, have to be a certain size; they look distorted. Biceps bigger than their head, etc.

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

      Thanks for the comment Mike!  Yes its true, many are trying to find that “ideal” but what is it anyway…it changes every time!  I guess that’s why you so many people “retire” from competing.

  • Dan Richardson

    I have also recently come to this conclusion and it feels so good!  I never got into stage competing but it was the next logical step after online competitions and I had to decide if that’s what I REALLY wanted my whole life to be about.  My answer was also no.  I actually just dropped out of one on Friday after being 4 weeks in and suffering an injury to my forearm.

    The part that I can relate to is the imbalance with food AND with image.  The problem I found is that I’d have all of these pictures with me in a lean ripped state for everyone to see and then I would feel like I somehow needed to maintain that ALL THE TIME.  And we know that’s not possible without some crazy strictness all year round which leads to a ridiculous type of lifestyle.  So with that unrealistic mindset of the image I need to portray, as if I somehow owed it to everyone that looked at me, my obsession with food would continue to grow.  Then I would become the centre of attention at parties because I would basically come unglued and everyone would sit and watch me consume the whole table basically.  haha.

    You’re right, it’s a slower road.  But I always have to remind myself that I’ve got the rest of my life to keep working at this and you never really arrive.

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

      Glad you’re coming to the realization.  Its really difficult to get past the mindset you talk about, and getting past the obsession of looking ripped all year round.  I found that when I eased up, it was scary at first, and there were slipups of course, but if you stick with it, things begin to balance out.  Sometimes you may be heavier than you want, but your metabolism will adjust and over time you should be able to maintain a level of leanness that you’re happy with, without having to kill yourself for it.  I’m much more in-tune with my eating now and eat until I’m full, and don’t overeat.  Bad food doesn’t have the same appeal when you know you can have it anytime you want, but choose not to, or choose to just have a portion of it.  You really have to let yourself be allowed those things for them not to be so forbidden.  Many of my recipes are an example of that.  Not super “clean” but definitely healthy enough that it won’t make you put on fat.

      You’re right, its a long road, but I’m sure you’ll get to a point where you find a balance that you’re happy with 🙂

  • CC

    Thank you so much for this post! I’m in the middle of prepping for my 1st competition but everything you said here is everything I’ve been feeling.  This is a bucket list thing for me so I am not giving up, but it will definitely be my 1st and last time doing this.  I’m am enjoying the process but have been thinking all these things you said in the back of my mind.  It’s almost impossible for me to have a balanced life right now.  My poor husband has been neglected as well as my home.  I plan to have a baby after this but am worried if it will be a struggle since I have lost my period as well.  Thank you for helping me see that I’m not wrong in feeling this way!

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

      Hi CC, thanks for sharing your thoughts.  Yes, its a tough process, and you only really know until you go through it yourself.  Nothing wrong with following through on your commitment, and if its your first and last, at least you will have experienced it.  If you are planning on having a baby afterwards, there’s a good chance you’ll be just fine after a few months if you only do the 1 show.  Just be sure to start taking a bunch of healthy fat supplements like Omega 3. I even found that Cod Liver Oil worked well in getting my cycles back to normal. If you run into issues later, let me know and I’d have some other supplements to recommend 🙂

  • Ali

    This is a lovely and well-thought out post. It really resonates for me, as many of these reasons led to me hanging up my professional dance shoes. Thanks for the great read! 

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

      You’re very welcome! So glad you can relate to it.

  • Akronebusch

    Great post Kristine! I know I do compete a lot, and still am going to give it a shot this year, but I do agree with everything you have said in this post. I am feeling a lot of what you have posted in your blog, and I have made some decisions too. I too do not like that “stripper” act which has made my decision to not compete with certain organizations. I love being fit and healthy, and that what it comes down to at the end. If I so happen to get something out of competing, then that’s great. But in the end I want to have made a difference helping others out and getting them fit and healthy too =)

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

      Thanks for chiming in Angelique, especially being a seasoned competitor.  You are one of the competitors with class I was referring to 😉 I know you’ve inspired MANY people, and will continue!

  • Terraklassen

    You are such an inspiration all around.  You will make your daughter proud no matter what you do.  I have realized through your blog and others that balance is the key.  I tried the strict plan and trainning rigiment but you are right it is very self centred as it was all about training and eating.  My kids even told me that I didn’t have as much time for them.  I got down to 125lbs and was starting to see great muscle tone but I became obsessed.  Now I am trying to learn balance which is hard in its self.  But like you I want to be healthy and in shape to lead an example for my kids.  I have cooked many of your receipies and have not had a bad one yet.  I hope you get a published cookbook as I would be the first to buy it.  I tell everyone about your website cause you inspire us to be real and that being a busy wife and mother it is possible to stay in shape.  Good luck on baby #2.  Good luck and I wish you the best and keep up all the good honest work

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

      Thanks Terra, you are so sweet!  Yes, its really a learning curve to get to that balance, but I’m sure you’ll find a place you’re happy with where you feel confident with yourself without sacrificing family and health. It can take time, but I know you’ve got what it takes to get there 😉

  • Gillian Bliss

    Great blog post Kristine its nice to get a balanced view on the industry.

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

      Thanks Gillian!

  • http://twitter.com/eatspinrunrpt Angela

    Wow Kristine, what a post! I loved reading about your competing and as much as the pros are attractive, I have to agree with you that the cons strongly outweigh them. I have never competed in a fitness competition but I have heard the horror stories about the binges, the inability to focus in the weeks leading up to the date due to improper nutrition, the self-centeredness, etc. I think you’re making a wonderful choice, and I bet you’ll find something else to compete in that is good for your mind, body, and soul. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

      Angela, you seem to be a great example of being balanced!  Whatever your doing is working, so my advice is not to mess with it! Ha!

  • Wetjck

    Very informative!  Helped me with a lot of questions I was having about possibly competing.  Thanks.  Praying for you and your “health goal”.

    • https://busybuthealthy.com Kristine Fretwell

      Thanks! Glad it gave you some insight.

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