8 Tips to Deal with Post Contest Depression
Disclaimer – I am a competitor. I am a woman. I am human. Just like you, I have my moments when I let the way I look while I am preparing for a show completely distort the way I should look and feel on a daily basis. I am also no expert but I have been around the fitness industry for a few years and have competed for just as many.
It’s a great feeling to get “in shape” but we have to be real here…and honest. What we do in bodybuilding to compete is quite admirable, requires a lot of discipline but then …what happens when it’s all over and our bodies return to their “normal state”? Most people end up in a terrible slump or depression that can last a few days to months and even years!
Below are 8 tips to prepare yourself for the post-show blues that is inevitable to happen in most cases:
- Prepare yourself mentally and emotionally. You have to understand that the extreme to which you pushed your body through during your weeks of prep is not something that can be or should be done year round. It’s not healthy. Period. Read the many articles from women who have experienced post-show depression. Educate yourself. Being in shape and healthy doesn’t necessarily mean being in contest prep all the time.
- Don’t skip cardio. Sounds contradicting? Not to me. In my opinion maintaining cardiovascular health is just as important as it was when you were trying to lose body fat as it is after your show. You should remain healthy and your metabolism going. I’m not suggesting the 2 hours you had to do in order to get show-ready – I am referring to a simple 25-30 minutes 3 to 4 days per week.
- Reverse dieting might not be a bad idea after all. This concept is brilliant.
You keep a meticulous diet for 12, 16, some for even 20 weeks, you reduce calories, cut out carbs, increase protein….then after your show you are tempted to stuff yourself with all the delicious, flavorful foods you didn’t eat after during your prep. This leads to water retention, and of course, unwanted weight gain. The idea is to slowly re-introduce calories back into your body. But remember, YOU will gain weight again. This is inevitable. The point is to not go all the way to the other side of the spectrum and gain tons of unwanted fat.
- Keep your hormones in check. This one goes especially to the ladies. Having low body fat levels leads to hormonal imbalances which in turn create a whole lot of issues you did not need or want to begin with. Most of these problems can affect you long-term and could be potentially irreversible. Not only that but hormonal imbalances could also lead to depression, something very commonly experienced post-show. Having a feasible hormone check and plan will be of great service. It will also bring attention to issues that might need medical attention sooner than later.
- Go back to your “normal” life. You have probably put off friends, socializing, family outings, weddings, dinners, etc. The sooner you resume normalcy in your life, the easier it will be to mentally cope with the post-show depression.
- Don’t let the post-show depression keep you from going to the gym!!! I see this a lot – you don’t look the same any more, people are wondering what happened, and you are just feeling “blah”. You then just stop working out! This is about YOUR health! Keep moving, keep working out, keep strengthening your body. You simply cannot define exercise and fitness health with competing. Not the same!
- It’s just a trophy. Chill the fuck out. Sorry to be blunt, but unless you are at the Olympia or Arnold level, where there’s actually a significant prize money, there is really nothing you are walking away with other than a trophy. In some cases, you walk away empty handed. But the reward is that you achieve YOUR personal goal and your best. At some point you have to be okay with that pat yourself on the back for reaching your goal.
- Remember this: I bet you are still in better shape than you were before you decided to take it to the next level and compete. Chances are, you are still in better shape than most of the people around you…and society in general. Don’t be so hard on yourself.
Enjoy the journey. Don’t let competing define you. YOU define it.
*** When in doubt and when you are feeling like you can’t pull it together on your own, it is important that you seek the advice of a professional. Take care of your mind as much as you care for your body!