Tabitha Shuman - Bikini Competitor
Throughout my life I have always been an active person, I enjoyed playing sports like basketball and backyard football and did competitive dance for most of my life. At a young age in high school, I endured some mental abuse that led me to having eating disorders and body dysmorphia. I came to a moment in my life where I could physically not even walk without being too weak to function. At that moment, I had a realization that this is not a way to live and I was just killing myself slowly to meet someone else’s standards on what I should be or look like. I took my own life into my own hands and never looked back. After gaining a substantial amount of weight back, it made it very difficult not to relapse when you hated the reflection in the mirror. I would look at this fitness models and be envious… I wanted to be like them, so I set my goal and my sights on being a competitor one day.
My diet doesn’t change much throughout my off-season, I don’t believe that is beneficial. This is a lifestyle change not a diet that has a deadline. So my off-season I just have meals planned out according to my goals and training. When I am show prepping, my meals just slowly decrease to fewer carbs and fats. Most effective type of diet for me is “bro-diet foods”, I think cleaner foods is way more beneficial than trying to fit a poptart into my macros. Flexible dieting works well for some, but for me being a habitual eater, I need those foods “out of sight out of mind” or I will crave them all day long.
I have tried flexible dieting and will use it more in my off seasons, but when I am competition prepping I cannot do flexible dieting. Being a habitual eater, I am fully aware I have a hard time keeping things in moderation so it would be diet sabotage if I did flexible dieting, especially when my macros are in a deficit. Too each their own, what works for me may not work for you so find what works so you stick to this lifestyle choice.
My training all adjusts based on my preps. If I am in an off season my cardio is lower and I’m lifting heavier. The closer I get to the show the more cardio I do, I incorporate more HIIT cardio like sprints on either the treadmill or stairmaster, and my exercises have more supersets and dropsets. My diet is usually revolved around what time I train but it isn’t anything extreme.
I go by the motto, “fake it until you make it”… I would rather blend in and act like I know what I’m doing then stick out like a sore thumb because I’m trying to cover up. Me stepping on stage is more of a psychological exercise for the trauma I went through in high school. I step on stage to face my fear of judgment by being put out there to be judged. Sometimes you have to do what you fear most to realize your own self-worth. So I wouldn’t say I have built my self-confidence up for the stage, I say I got comfortable with being uncomfortable to get past the things from my past and love who I am.
Shows are always up and down physically and mentally. You are depleted and 90% of the weekend spent is just waiting around. Athlete check-ins your standing in line with a lot of cranky bodybuilders who just want to go rest or eat their next meal but the day always seems to drag on. Prejudging is when the pressure is really on, for me I try to avoid all mirrors because with body dysmorphia my mind tends to over exaggerate my problem areas. I get ready in the comfort of my hotel room so I can stay calm and relax before I get around other competitors. Bikini always goes close to last at most show for both prejudging and finals so it is a lot of waiting around. When I am backstage, I try hangout with friends and talk about any topic except the show. If I feel like the company I'm keeping is talking too much about the task at hand I just put my headphones on and kick back and relax, or I go and hangout with my family.
After I am glazed, glued, and lined up to hit the stage, I tend to dance around in my area to get my nerves out. Finals are all the same routine for me, I'm just typically ready for the day to be over at that point so I can have something nice to eat. As far as experiences that have happened, literally anything bad that could happen has actually happened to me. My first show my number fell on the stage during first call out and I lost my placement. I have got a calve cramp during a battle for the overalls that make me stumble forward. I have gotten sick from spoiled chicken on show day, retained water, heck even started my menstrual cycle in my suit before I went on stage. Literally you name it, it’s happened to me or has total potential to happen to me. Anyways my last 3 shows I have won my class, never gotten the overalls yet but that is perfectly fine. I am just going to continue to shoot for that and then try nationals at least once.
Being an Athlete
In all honesty, and this may make some people mad I say this but…. This is a selfish sport. Your whole life revolves around 5 minutes on a stage. What you eat, what you do, what choices you make are all towards trying to meet this one goal. Sometimes people put friends and family on the back burner or choose the gym over the people that really care about them. It is hard to find the balance so I try not to compete too often because when I die I don’t want people to remember me as “a good athlete”, I want to be remembered for the person I am and the love I had for the people in my life. I refuse to let this sport take over my whole life, and that’s perfectly fine if someone’s life goal is to be a pro in this but that’s just something my focus isn’t 100% on. My focus is on loving myself, and dedicating my life to the things that are more important when the stage will always be there. I base my plans on competing around my personal life, not basing what I do with my personal life around competing.
My future plan is to compete in the fall again, then look into the option of a national show just to mark it off my bucket list.
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