by Paola Deocampo Jackson
I am often told that I look great, that I’m so fit and tiny, that I’m skinny and one to be envied. These comments are all made in reference to my social media pictures. Pictures from prior competitions and bikini photoshoots. Shoots that were very carefully timed during intense training and dieting. Those compliments are very flattering…..for the woman in those pictures. What I’m trying to say is, I don’t look anything like that. Yes, there are definitely about two weeks out of the year that I resemble the woman everyone sees on those Throwback Thursday Instagrams. But if you’re looking at my bikini photos as a form of inspiration, you should know that I’m seeking inspiration from them as well. All year long. There has been a big trend (which I am caught up in myself) that involves following athletes and models on social media in order to find motivation. People begin following certain individuals with their ideal body image and strive to resemble them. I see nothing wrong with admiring and getting inspiration from great-looking people, BUT when you begin to feel envious or discouraged because you feel so far from looking like a certain model or competitor, I have to step in and let you know that it is not all that it seems. Here is an example:
These are a few photos taken when I was in my best shape. These were taken in late September 2011, one week prior to placing 2nd in a bikini physique competition. I was on a strict whole foods plant-based diet, lifting weights, and doing long cardio sessions nearly every day for 6 weeks in order to look like this. I was training significantly more than average, monitoring my body fat daily, timing my carb intake around my workouts, drinking a ton of water, and dedicating so much time to focus on the upcoming competition that I dropped several opportunities to train new clients and take on paying gigs (I’m also a voiceover artist). I was on a mission. And yes, I accomplished what I set out to do. I built muscle, lost a lot of fat, and took home a trophy. I even started seeing a hint of a six-pack! THEN, life went back to normal. The following picture, in the very same bathing suit, is the normal healthy me, post competition:
This is what I really look like all year round, until it’s time to begin prepping for a competition or photo shoot. I’m actually about five pounds heavier, at the moment. I took this photo when I was in the middle of enjoying the summer season, still weight lifting, running long distances, and eating a well-balanced diet, but allowing myself to indulge here and there on sweets and wine. This is me. No six-pack, a bit of a muffin top, saddle bags, glutes covered in stretch marks and cellulite. Boom. There you have it.
Long story short, it’s not all that it seems in the world of social media. Many people prefer only to post their best shots, at the perfect angle, using the beauty shot feature on their phone, only during a time when they are photoshoot- ready. I know this because I’m one of them. Seriously, other than the picture above, at what other time have you seen me post a tummy-baring selfie? That would be February 2013, when I last competed.
I write this in hopes of preventing people from drastic dieting and overtraining due to the images that flood their feed. Bodybuilders, competitors, and fitness models, mostly follow strict, closely monitored diets and training regimens that often require professional coaching. If your goal is simply to lose weight and be healthy, you can accomplish this by changing certain eating habits and becoming more active. You will get there. Don’t compare yourself to others. Find inspiration not in the image, but in the person’s dedication and work ethic. If you are actually striving to become a model or competitor, welcome! But I highly recommend professional guidance, a willingness to pick yourself up repeatedly, and patience. It is hard, hard work. Whatever your goal, be good to yourself (and to your fellow earthlings). Success will surely follow. Peace.