I am a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend, a friend, a manager, and a mother to a 4-legged fur baby. What I am not is a figure competitor: competing has never, and will never, define me. It is extremely important to me to lead a “normal” life when I’m not prepping for a show. I talk to my friends and loved ones about their lives, about sports, about work, about their kids, and about things other than grilled chicken and Jan Tana. Why? Because they don’t really care, and I can’t say that I blame them. Who wants to hear about the cake I can’t eat, or who won my show last year, or how much I can bench? It’s not “real life.” This is a super tiny subset of the population we’re talking about, and although I do enjoy it, I understand that it’s difficult for the average person to look in on this little community and wonder why we all look veiny and orange. It just seems bizarre to them, and understandably so. A ripped umpa lumpa? Wrap your head around that for a minute. I talk about competing with Jim, with my friends in the industry, and with anyone who asks me how my show prep is going; that’s where I draw the line. Creating that balance between competing and the real world has been hard at times, but I think I’m finally figuring it out. Just like you have a work-life balance with your daily job, you must also balance your gym life with your everyday life and the folks therein. I know I won’t compete forever: no one can. I think because I treat competing as a hobby instead of as a living, I have the ability to balance these two very different worlds. I struggle when I see people giving up their lives and sacrificing their bodies, marriages, and education for competing. I truly enjoy it, and I met my 3 best girlfriends through competing, so I don’t want people to walk away from this article thinking that I am anti-competition. But I see this as something fun I do on the side, a nice way to make friends who have similar interests, and a way to satiate my competitive drive. The message here is simple: do what you love, enjoy it, have fun. But know that not everyone in your life will be able to relate or understand why you lift, why you compete, or why you so adamantly adhere to your diet. If you’re an avid gym-goer and your family never sees you, or if you’re a strict clean-eater and you never go out to dinner with friends, you are not successfully balancing your two identities. Enjoy your life – you only get one crack at it. Go out to dinner with friends or take a night off from the gym to take your kids to the movie or your wife out for a romantic night on the town. Personally, unless I’m 8 weeks out from a show I talk, act, and eat like a normal person. I don’t carry broiled tilapia and asparagus around with me (gross), I don’t put tuna pouches in my purse, and I could care less if I miss a gym session. The result? My body AND my brain are at an amazing place right now. I haven’t a care in the world, I am lean, I am gaining muscle, and I’m having fun. Everything in moderation, right? If you stress and worry and obsess about your food and your workouts, you will never be satisfied. And if you’re stressed, I could argue that you don’t really enjoy it. I see miserable competitors all the time, carrying around their purse chicken with frowns on their faces. Why? Why do you do it? I’ll enjoy my chicken lettuce wraps from Cheesecake Factory when I go out with Jim, and I’ll devour my mom’s homemade spaghetti and meatballs when I’m home for Christmas. And I’ll also enjoy cake on my birthday. Why? Because life is too short and too awesome to stress over trivial matters such as what meal I’m going to eat at my next meal. Holidays, family get-togethers, vacations, movie nights with friends – these are ALL things that give competitors agita. Because they know they’ll be forced into a situation where non-plan food will be in their faces, they’ll be forced to talk to other people about something that doesn’t involve iron, chicken, or sparkly suits, and it immediately puts them out of their comfort zones. Believe me, I know this, because it used to be me. I totally isolated myself in my first year of competing, and I just told myself, “No one gets this, no one understands, no one is as dedicated…..” Not really true, I came to find out. It’s not that other people aren’t as dedicated to their physiques as I am; it’s that it’s not as important to them as it is to me, and THAT’S OK! You don’t need to put on a bedazzled suit and walk across a stage in high heels order to be committed to your health and wellness. Why should I impose my hobbies on others? Once I started to understand how competing was affecting my relationships, I stepped back and really evaluated why I was doing this. Was it for the trophy? No. Was it for a pro card? No. Was it for “fame” in a small community? No. Was it for bragging rights? Maybe. When I realized the superficiality of it all, I really started changing my ways. I stopped talking about it all the time, I reached back out to friends with whom I hadn’t spoken in a while, I started going out to dinner with Jim more, I started to cook again, and I started to relax. After that, everything fell into place. I am on autopilot now, and I am the leanest I’ve ever been. I have rambled on long enough. My take home message is this: have your hobbies, enjoy them, be healthy, eat well, but realize that life is an unplanned event. You can’t worry about blips on the radar and you can’t be happy if you’re eating dry, nasty tuna out of a pouch for the rest of your life. So lighten up, enjoy the process, enjoy good food, enjoy get-togethers with friends and family, and enjoy a piece of cake from time to time. It won’t kill you or your progress, or your body, I promise. 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 boyfriend and friends (who also like to sleep and eat).