My Journey- Cutting, Bulking and the Ups and Downs of Weight Gain and Loss
This blog post started as me just wanting to share something, but it kinda evolved into something much bigger than that.. so read on for a look into my body journey from when I started competing back in 2010 to where I currently stand. This post is pretty revealing and I’m not really sure about posting it.. but it’s actually been kind of therapeutic for myself to go through it, and maybe it can help someone else who is going through the same thing.
But first, I just wanted to share something that is kind of exciting for me- I’m in a video and on a poster!!!
I was asked to do the photoshoot a couple of nights before the WBC Competition in April, but because it was all done through broken English Kakaotalk Messages (a form of instant messaging) I wasn’t really sure what was happening or what I was getting myself into. I also didn’t want to get my hopes up in case they decided not to use me in the poster. But they did! So I can post it here! Yay!
In case you are wondering, I am still training intensely, still working with my same coach and still weighing and measuring my food. I’m pretty happy with how its going, and I have been focusing on a different goal for the past 2 months- to build muscle. When I told my parents that I’ve been building muscle they give me answers like “well don’t you already have a lot of muscle?” and “don’t get too muscular!” and my response is definitely annoyance at that last comment. But I understand that my parents do not have the knowledge of this so I will explain here.
1. It takes many YEARS to build muscle.
Erin Stern, pro Figure athlete, has spent more than 10 years developing her physique. More than 10 years!! As you can see in the 2003 photo, Erin already had a lot of muscle to begin with.
And, as you can see in this photo of me, I don’t have a lot of muscle.
Now, before you say but you’ve been training for 3 years, let me explain further.
2. You can’t build size while dieting
I began competing in 2011. But I wasn’t in enough of a calorie surplus to grow. You see, you need to be taking in a little bit of a surplus in calories in order to build muscle. I’ve always done the dieting part, the cutting part, the restricting part if you will, but never actually focused on the building part. Big mistake on my end I know. But when I started competing, I thought I was going to magically change from this:
But this is what I did look like:
As you can see- I don’t look like Erin Stern- shocker!!! Instead I look just a teensy bit more muscular than when I started (which wasn’t very much).
So here’s the deal- from December 2010 to July 2011, I did hire a competition trainer, start training and eating a high protein diet. However, because I was required to stay lean for the competition, my calories were not in a surplus, thus I wasn’t able to build much muscle.
2010-2011: Total amount of muscle gained= not much. Maybe 1-2 pounds?
After this competition, I moved to Korea, and again, hired my same trainer who trained my for the BC show. Again, my training did not give me much muscle as I was starting 12 weeks out from a show, thus not much time to build muscle. So the result? Actually I looked worse for this show. After following a high protein, low fat, low carb diet of very limited food choices for 12 weeks, along with hours of steady state cardio- up to the point of 3 hours a day as it got closer to my competition- I actually looked bloated, overtrained, and not good. For some reason, maybe because I was the only foreigner or something, I did get a trophy and placed 4th.
After this competition, I fell back into restrictive eating/disordered eating behaviours. I was so unhappy with how I had looked at the competition that I abandoned my diet, began eating very limited amounts of carbs and fat, and decided to start running again.
I lost weight as a result, and probably muscle too.
I continued eating a very low calorie diet all summer, and continued pushing it in the gym and outside doing cardio. I competed in 2 10 kilometer races, so I was running distance 2-3 times a week. I was also experimenting with the Paleo Diet and became very carb phobic, drastically limiting my carb intake.
In September, I competed in another bodybuilding show, this one was a small local show in Cheonan, where I was living at the time. I didn’t do a long prep for this show, as I was already really lean, and just changed my diet about 2 weeks before the show to high protein, low carb, low fat and no processed foods.
I should mention at this point that my hair had been falling out, my nails breaking, my body temperature dropped… I’d already lost my period years ago when my eating disorder was at it’s peak (in 2009 I weighed 95 lbs and was diagnosed with anorexia) and I would wake up at 5am because my body was starving. Of course I wouldn’t eat because I’d started Intermittent Fasting and my “eating window” didn’t start until 12..
Well because I’m not a complete idiot, despite ignoring the symptoms by body was giving me, I finally realized my body did need calories and I was done with my nails breaking and clumps of hair falling out in the shower. It just took me a few months to realize that. Also, I bought a bodymediafit armband- basically a device that tracks how many calories you burn in a day, and was shocked that my expenditure was in the 1900-2600 range.. and that I was only eating 1500 calories at most.
And so, finally I started “bulking” and gave my body a much needed rest from dieting. I followed a very simple, but effective 3 day split weight training program by Nia Shanks and ate what my bodymediafit said I burned- about 1800-2400 calories on most days. I still did cardio- but I cut out the running and high intensity stuff. Instead I just did enjoyable, moderately paced brisk walking, for about an hour about 5-6 times a week.
Total bulking done 2012-2013: 3 months. Weight gained= 6 kilos, or 13 lbs.
So as you can see- I have barely done any bulking. I’ve always cut, dieted, restricted. Then in January, I started again, with a new trainer, in prep for the WBC Korea Championship that I did in April.
Again, because I was dieting, and not in a calorie surplus, I wasn’t really able to gain much muscle. However, because the training was unlike anything I’d done before, my body shape did change alot- check out these comparisons.
So that brings me to where I am now. Finally bulking. You can see the pictures above taken last week. I am thicker. Which is hard for me to get my head around. But I am also more muscular. I know these pictures don’t really show it- the lighting does not emphasize my muscles and the posing isn’t awesome nor showing my most flattering angles. However, by the measurements I’ve been taking, plus by the way my clothes are fitting, not to mention the heavy weights I’m progressively lifting each workout, I know I definitely have more muscle. Also my weight now is *gasp 59 kilos. Ahhhhhhh!!! That’s officially the heaviest I’ve ever been! I don’t even want to convert that into pounds But the truth is, at my height, that’s actually a healthier weight. And especially for someone who wants to compete in a bikini competition- did you know that most of those ladies weigh 125 lbs on stage? And stage weight is different from normal weight because your are super lean, dehydrated and carb depleted. Actually, Dianna Dahlgren, pictured below said she weighed around 134 on stage, and off season usually weighs 150 (height 5’7).
So you see, me gaining weight is a good thing. Even though I’m having a hard time with it mentally, it is going to bring me closer to my goals. Writing this post has really brought me so much more understanding into my personal situation. I know it seems obvious, but it didn’t compute like this in my head. For me, I just felt I wasn’t dieting hard enough, and that’s why I didn’t have ripped muscles. The thought hadn’t occurred to me that the reason I don’t have ripped muscles is because I haven’t allowed myself the time to actually build the muscles.
Now 8 Weeks Bulking, Total weight gained= 4 kilos
And by the way, my goal for my physique is along the lines of Jamie Eason and Lindsay Messina. Strong, hard and sculpted but still feminine, healthy and sexy
So that’s where I am right now. Feeling strong, but also feeling insecure about my size. I won’t even go into how much bigger I feel because I’m in Korea and surrounded by sticks for co-teachers.. just kidding I love those ladies. But serious they are sticks.
And I know some people believe bulking isn’t necessary. That you can add muscle without gaining any fat at all. Well I’m obviously not one of those people. And yes, I have been following my meal plan, which has been a reverse diet since I did the show. Every two weeks usually, my trainer has added in 50-100 calories, so slowly, we’ve been bringing my maintenance up. I do have 1-2 cheat meals a week, but for the month of June, I worked out 25 days in a row, not taking any rest days. We’ve just changed my program to incorporate more rest (my body was experiencing major DOMS every day and I was pretty exhausted) so now I have a 4 day weight training split, 2 cardio/ab circuit days and 1 rest day. So maybe gaining 4 kilos seems pretty excessive, but that is what happened and I’m just doing my best to accept it… and we shall see what happens from here. (By the way I am trying not to be embarrassed to admit this.. but I’m not perfect and hopefully you won’t judge me more than I already judge myself).
So that’s my story. Thoughts? Have you ever bulked? How did you deal with the getting big thing? Please add your comment below.