On Being A Woman
It is not easy to explain to (ordinary) people why you would want to undergo a 3-4 month diet just for a T-shirt and a trophy. That’s a really long time to spend on physical fitness, and only a few individuals can understand and respect your decision. It is difficult for most people to imagine being involved in an endeavor that takes you away from food and often distances you from the company of friends. No one wants to eat with a person who is weighing their piece of chicken as they gorge on steak. (Though I can never understand why they even care.)
I can’t speak for all, but I can tell you what is true for me.
During the life of a woman, we have so little control of our bodies. In adolescence, our body decides when we will start to bleed, for how long, and how strong. Years after those first drops, it finally gets a regular pattern, and we believe we have tamed it. The sudden crop of acne tells you it is weeks away. The unexpected rush of tearful emotion tells you it is days away. The fullness in your pelvis tells you it is hours away. We all know our patterns. We can predict it. Until the day we can’t. The day it comes two weeks early or one week late or lasts only for one day and then goes away. And that brings a disturbing feeling of unease. Is it pregnancy? Miscarriage? Nothing at all?
During pregnancy, we give our body away to the process of creating a being. We learn to expect the unexpected. Nausea. The swollen ankles. That weird (and incredibly wonderful) feeling of an alien thing moving under our skin. And, of course, the physical shock of labor. After delivery, we delude ourselves to get back our bodies and regain at least some of the control. Instead, we get a body with a slower metabolism and a thicker waistline, and maybe even bigger shoe size. Unexpected changes to which we now have to become accustomed. And it happens with each and every pregnancy.
And then there’s menopause. Unpredictable and cruel, just like the rest. Throwing us back to adolescence when we didn’t know when the bleeding will start, for how long, or how strong.
But during prep (the word we use for the months spent preparing for a competition), we gain back some of that control. For years we have toiled to build up muscle, but it is striking what can be found when the layers that obscure them have chipped away. It is as miraculous as seeing a stone of marble become the statue of David. We whittle away the waist, the shoulders and arms become defined, and the stomach flattens. Every week another positive body change to discover. Our personal work of art is created from sacrifice and sweat.
This is what drives me each year through all the months of dieting, hour-long cardio, and saying no to social events. That (temporary) control is amazing. And that (temporary) control is addictive.
Ask any bodybuilder why they do it, and their answer might be very different. But for me, this is it. I am a woman bodybuilder because I love to uncover the physique that is hidden the rest of the year. Because I get to be my own sculptor. Because, for a little while, I get to control the uncontrollable. And that makes it so worth it.