‘How Training For A Bikini Competition Helped Me Deal With The Pain Of My Divorce’
Then, in 2013, my world was rocked. I found out my husband was having an affair. Commence: screaming, fighting, divorce. At first, the stress dropped me down to 120 lbs. But as the divorce proceedings went on, it got real nasty. The pain was so, so bad and I became severely depressed. I wasn’t working out. I started eating everything.
All I could think was: Who is this person looking at me in the mirror? I wasn’t the woman I remembered before marriage. I felt like there was nothing left to me other than being a wife and a mom, and after the divorce was finalized in 2016, I was only one of those things.
When my 38th birthday hit that year, the landmark kind of snapped me out of it. I woke up the next morning and just said, “Enough is enough. I have to do something.” So I decided to compete in a bikini competition. I honestly don’t know why I chose that—the thought had literally never crossed my mind before. But I was tired of being so angry and sad. I needed to put all this pain and emotion into something more productive. (Kick-start your new, healthy routine with Women’s Health’s 12-Week Total-Body Transformation!)
In May 2016, I went in 100 percent for this new, albeit random, goal of entering a bikini competition. I went to my local gym and got all the information I’d need to start competing. Considering I really knew nothing about working out or eating right, I sought guidance from a nutritionist and a trainer. I didn’t really have the money for it, but I felt so deeply that this was important and something I needed to do. So I went home, found a way to pay for it, and never looked back.
Employing someone else to take care of all the details may have been expensive, but it made all the difference. It allowed me to focus solely on healing emotionally and took away the stress of whether my progress was on track, or what my workouts this week would look like. But I also learned a ton about nutrition in the process. Every Sunday, I’d prepare my meals and pack all my food for the week. Anything that wasn’t on my diet I gave up completely (though sometimes I needed a little reminding from my kids that their snacks weren’t on my eating plan.)
I also never weighed myself. My nutritionist and trainer kept track of everything to make sure I was progressing like I should, and all I had to do was follow their instructions.
From the moment I decided to commit, I never really struggled with willpower. I gave it 100 percent. The pain I had inside me was just so bad, that my goal to to compete had to be even bigger. Fitness became my therapy, and I threw myself into it.
I went to the gym six days a week, even on holidays. My focus in the beginning was on getting my lower body in really good shape, so my trainer had me concentrate on a lot of lifting. I did about 30 minutes of cardio every day—typically some form of HIIT—but my focus was really on weights every day, namely total-body lifting with a heavy concentration on legs and glutes.
I was on track to accomplish my goal of competing this year—I had followed my training and nutrition plan to a T, and I was in killer shape, having gone from 27 percent body fat to 17 percent in a year.
But in the summer of 2017, I had to go back to court with my ex-husband, whom I hadn’t seen since the divorce, and it got really, really messy. The situation took a massive emotional toll; I was completely drained. I had no energy to put into the competition. I had put so much time and effort into the goal of competing, but, after a lot of deliberating, I decided it would have to wait until next year. The stress of court and fighting was just eating away at me, and I knew I didn’t have enough emotional reserves left to give the competition my all so soon after.
See Mama June’s incredible weight loss transformation:
But a funny thing happened: When I got to court, I had been so nervous I was going to break down, cry, and get mad. But I was actually in complete control talking to both the judge and my ex-husband. I realized how weak I had been before—literally and figuratively. Now, after pushing myself so hard during training, I discovered that I had so much more strength inside of me than I realized. I am strong. Fitness helped me discover that.
Still, after the court appearance, I fell off the bandwagon for three or four weeks. I would show up at the gym because I knew that consistency was important, but I had no energy and no motivation to be there. I was so emotionally drained after the court proceedings and letting go of the immediate dream of competing. But I recognized that and gave myself the time off, because sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is rest. After a few weeks, I felt ready to get back at it. Now, I’m training again with an eye on competing the summer of 2018.
Take care of yourself, and recognize your accomplishments. After choosing not to compete this year, I realized even though it felt like I didn’t accomplish what I put my mind to, I had actually accomplished quite a lot. I had learned how to be strong. I had learned how to respect myself and be proud of myself. And that’s more of an accomplishment than any competition or goal weight will ever be.