In last month’s article on Metabolic Damage (MD), I discussed how MD occurs and what some of the signs/symptoms are. As a reminder, MD is brought on by prolonged calorie deprivation coupled with over-exercising (ie. too much steady state, endurance cardio). Today I’m going to discuss how to stop and repair the damage, and I want to provide people with names of folks in this industry that are subject-matter experts. I am not an expert on this topic, and I’ve never had MD. I went through 1 horrible contest prep and vowed to never do it again, but I was fortunate to not rebound. I know that MD exists, and I have friends who’ve had it and who still have it. I am sharing this information for them and for others out there who are suffering in silence. I’ve had the privilege of training with a few of the people that I will name, and I can assure you that their prep methods are sane, and that they WORK to get you stage-ready. I am so tired of the “Bodybuilders have been doing it this way forever, so it must be right!” mentality. People are scared to try something new, I get that. But at what cost? Your body? Your metabolism? Your health? Wake up. I see people being martyrs for their contest preps on Facebook and Twitter on a daily basis. “Up for round 2 of cardio, woohoo!!” or “Fasted AM cardio, yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeessss!!” Then there are my favorites: “Ugh, why do I do this to myself?! Prep is SO hard! My hair is falling out, I sweat when I sleep, and I feel like passing out!” On all of these posts, people respond with, “Keep going! Push through! You can do it!” SHUT UP!!! Stop encouraging the madness, people! Jeez. I know you think you’re encouraging your friends, but you’re only making it worse. You’re supporting disordered, dangerous behavior, so stop it. If you cared about your friends, you’d tell them they were fools, not heroes. And for those acting like they actually ENJOY spending 4 hours in the gym a day, stop lying to yourself and to your followers. You’re not doing anyone any favors. People look up to you and you have a responsibility to them, so don’t waste that opportunity. I see young girls with stars in their eyes who look up to the pros. When they see the posts about hours of cardio and tilapia for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, they actually think that’s normal. It’s shameful. How to recover: Ok, here’s the hard part. It’s likely going to get worse before it gets better. Recall in Part I where I talked about PROLONGED calorie deprivation and too much cardio. Think about what your body is going to do after 16+ long weeks of dieting. Then think about what it will do after you’ve done 5 shows in 1 year, each involving 16+ week preps. You see where this is going, I hope……..your body is going to shut down. And, again, unless you have a CRAZY resilient metabolism, it’s not a matter of IF, it’s a matter of WHEN. Most competitors binge eat after a show (been there, done that), so some weight gain is expected. Now, please read this next part carefully. Rapid weight gain that does NOT match calories consumed is a sign of trouble. If you eat a cheeseburger and fries for dinner and wake up 10lbs heavier the next day, trouble is brewing. If you eat cheeseburgers and fries 6 times a day for 7 days straight after your prep, that’s just being a pig, and you should EXPECT to gain weight, and that is NOT MD. There’s a fine line, here. But let’s say that you indulge in some post-show treats (like we all do), and then return to normal eating a day or 2 later, really there should be minimal weight gain. People who have MD will return to normal eating and will continue to gain weight and fat at an almost exponential rate. And there is no magic # here: some people gain 20, some 50, some 70, some more. The point is, if the gains to not match calories consumed, that’s your body’s way of telling you to STOP. So how do you stop? First, you need to fire your current trainer, because they’re the ones who landed you in this mess. Then you need to stay out of the gym, and you need to EAT. Rest and fuel are the only 2 things that will restart your metabolism. NOT CARDIO. I can’t tell you for how long you should stay out of the gym, nor can I tell you how much to eat. THAT type of plan I will leave to the industry experts on this subject. And here are their names, in no particular order: Erik Ledin with Lean Bodies Consulting , Scott Abel with Abel Bodies Experts , Kevin Weiss, who trained and studied under Scott Abel, and my local trainer, Leigh Ann Yeager, who also trained under Scott Abel. I have had the personal privilege of working with both Erik and Leigh Ann, and they know their stuff, folks. The 5 people I listed above are literally the only people in this industry who know what they’re doing, and they are the only people with whom I would ever trust my body, my mind, and my contest prep. Managing expectations: Let’s say you’re suffering from MD right now, and you’re scared and anxious and you just want to be “cured.” I understand – believe me, I do. We are judged on our bodies, our photoshoots are done when we look our physical best, and we’re used to looking like we compete year-round. The anxiety involved with MD is tremendous in that regard. The return to normalcy, the control over your body’s appearance, the ability to fit into your clothes again – all of these things create a huge sense of urgency to restore your metabolism. But, again, this process was caused by a lengthy period of time, so it’s going to TAKE a while to mend. There is no magic pill, there is no fast cure – the road will be long and hard. Everyone is different – I can’t tell you how long it will take. But I can tell you this: if you set your sights on another show, you’re going to be in trouble again. Realizing that you have a problem is half the battle. Understand that you may NEVER get back on stage again. Sad, but true. Take the time away from the gym and the stage to evaluate why you compete in the first place. Is it for the aesthetics? If so, that’s not a great reason to compete. Do you feel external pressure from friends, family, and industry folks? Again, not a great reason to compete. Is it to do a hot photoshoot? Again………you know where I’m going with this. The drive to compete should be internal – it’s a competition with yourself, not anything or anyone else. It’s a mental journey, something to prove to yourself that you can do. I see so many competitors suffering from MD who trainer-hop when they don’t get the answers they want. “Trainer X said he doesn’t know when I’ll be able to get back on stage, so I’m going with Trainer Y because she promised me I can lose 50lbs in 2 months.” Seriously, stop. I am probably telling many of you stuff that you don’t want to hear right now: I’ve told you that your issues were caused by a mis-managed prep, I’ve told you that you need to eat and stay out of the gym to get better, and I’ve told you that you may never compete again. Look, I get it. I’m an athlete and one of the most competitive people you’ll ever meet. But I’m also smart and I know that I only have 1 body, and it needs to last me a very long time. So, to torture it, to force it to do something that it’s designed NOT to do, to abuse it, and to neglect it is counter-productive to living a long, healthy, happy life. In 10 years, is anyone going to remember if I competed and where I placed? No. Sorry, but it’s true. Think long-term, not short-term. If you can’t see beyond your next show, that’s 80% of your problem. STOP, step back, and evaluate your life. Do you want to have children? Chances are, if you keep this up, you’ll lose that ability. Do you want to look sexy year-round? Tough to do that when you constantly have 20+ pounds to lose. This is real life, people, competing is not. Beth is an NPC and OCB figure competitor and has been competing for 3 years. When she’s not rocking the stage in her stiletto heels, she’s either at work as Project Manager at a Pharmaceutical company in Durham, NC or she’s in the gym training clients or teaching spin classes. In her very minimal free time, Beth likes to sleep, eat, play with her dog, and spend time with her friends (who also like to sleep and eat).