{thinking out loud} Are fitness competitors really just narcissistic, needy wannabes?

gymselfie1I’m not sure if it’s just because I’m in the fitness industry and follow many like-minded individuals on social media, or because it’s suddenly become trendy to eat chicken and broccoli out of Tupperware containers all day long, perform upper/lower splits six days a week, chug 4 litre bottles of water everyday and take endless progress selfies… but I’ve noticed more and more people preparing for and competing in fitness competitions. That’s great if it’s growing as a sport, but are all these new competitors really in it for the right reasons?

This great article by Christian Thibaudeau (who happens to be a bodybuilding coach), which I came across yesterday in my Facebook feed, pretty much sums up my feelings about fitness competitions and why newbie competitors could be getting into it for all the wrong reasons. Thibaudeau, who’s been in the industry for awhile, points out that “people who are years away from having what it takes to think about maybe competing… are thinking about competing,” and that the majority of newbie competitors who “have no business doing a show” are simply “narcissistic, needy wannabes.”

A bit harsh? Yes. But I see where he’s going with that. Obviously there’s a bigger, underlying issue going on here. And I think the large influx of male and female fitness competitors we’re seeing these days has everything to do with the selfie-loving, photoshop-happy, unrealistic and poor self-perceptive way we share our lives on social media.

“Social media is largely to blame,”ย  Thibaudeau explains. “People want to be admired, they crave the attention, and they want to broadcast themselves. They want to be told how good they look. So they start to play ‘pretend physique competitor.’ They live for their daily picture on Facebook or Instagram to see how many ‘likes’ and comments they’ll get.”

I’ll admit it — there was a brief moment in time when I thought about competing in a bikini competition. I thought to myself, “This will really be a challenge — forget the fact I ran a 50 km trail race! That will be nothing compared to this! I wonder if I can be disciplined enough to change my body?” Luckily, my boyfriend promptly talked me out of it, as he knew a few fitness competitors and explained how miserable their lives were during competition prep. You have to constantly pack around bland food, avoid social events, and spend hours in the gym; plus you feel generally moody and irritable most of the time due to hunger and constant DOMs. Also, I just couldn’t picture myself prancing across a stage in a glittery bikini, orange tan glowing like the setting sun. Hell no. I’d much rather be all sweaty and dirty running a trail with my friends.

Although competition prep is a true challenge and test of discipline for some competitors in the same way training to run 42.2 kilometres is a true challenge and test of discipline for marathon runners, I believe the focus on body image, appearance and restriction of fitness competitions has more lasting psychological damage than marathon training. By far. Not only are fitness competitors at risk for developing disordered eating behaviours, but they also have an increased risk of psychological vulnerability, which is only exacerbated by our selfie-loving culture on social media. I don’t know about you, but being judged on my appearance and tying my self-worth to how disciplined I can be with food and exercise doesn’t sound like a recipe for a happy, healthy life.

If competing is something you really want to do, please consider all the pros and cons before stepping into that world. If you have a history of disordered eating behaviours, I would avoid it all together, including unfollowing any fitness competitors you currently follow on social media. As Thibaudeau puts it:

“Listen, not everybody has what it takes to be a good physique competitor. Everybody can improve and build a body they can be proud of, but competing should be left to the elite or those who have the potential to be elite.”


Thanks Amanda for the link-up ๐Ÿ™‚

Have you ever competed in a fitness competition, done competition prep or maybe had it on your bucket list? What are your thoughts on this? Do you agree or disagree with Thibaudeau?

– B