Three years ago I was preparing to stand on stage in a bikini. I was less than a month out from my first (and last) bodybuilding competition. For 12 weeks I did an extreme diet that consisted only of broccoli, tilapia, chicken, plain oatmeal, peanut butter (if I was LUCKY), very very lean ground beef and egg whites. For the majority of those weeks I was eating under 1000 calories a day. I did fasted cardio for 45 minutes to an hour each morning. Fasted meaning with no food in my system. Then I would go back to the gym at night and I would have a weightlifting program I would do each day and then more cardio when I was done with that. Usually another 45 minutes. It was my entire life. I left my best friend's wedding early, ate lettuce while I was there as a bridesmaid. I went to another friend's engagement party and ate out of my tupperware container and went home early to do cardio. I lived in the gym. I was obsessed with how I looked. Every single day I spent time in front of the mirror doubting myself and my abilities. I thought I'd never get tons of followers on instagram. I thought I'd never be the fit chick all these other girls were. I lost over 30 pounds in 9 weeks. I was starving but I wanted so badly to fit into that community of girls. I remember my mom saying "I can't believe you want to strut on stage in a bathing suit." Honestly, me either at this point. I spent over 10 years of my life starving myself to control how I looked. There were periods of two or three days where I wouldn't eat anything at all. I wanted to be a size zero. I wanted to be 100 pounds. I wanted to see cheek bones, clavicle bones and hip bones. I wanted to be a cool, skinny girl. I cared SO much about my outside appearance. I remember the feeling of loving being in control of eating or not. It gave me a sense of power. I'm sure that if you've never experienced an eating disorder before, that this all sounds NUTS. But I can't even begin to tell you how many girls and women go through this on a daily basis. It's taken me years to be o k a y with the skin that I'm in. It's taken me years to not feel the need to work off the calories I eat every single day. I used to talk to myself like I was a dog. Okay, so if I do this hour of cardio then I can treat myself to a donut (or chicken tenders, or whatever). And you know what? After all that hard work, instead of being proud of myself for the accomplishment, I was upset. I didn't look anything like those other girls. I was nowhere ready to get on that stage. I got up there and was looking at other girls then doubting myself. And the worst part is that you could see it on my face. I remember Rialand yelling at me from the crowd to tell me to smile. I was so out of it...and SO hungry. Good grief. What an experience. As I was standing on stage I could see the judges critiquing their clients (who were on stage). I was so uncomfortable. On my big huge special day that was supposed to be so amazing according to everyone else. I tell y'all all of this because I fell out of the gym for at least 6 months recently. I just got back into it and my diet still stinks. I'll be honest, it's been horrible. I haven't been giving my body the nutrients that it needs, or the exercise for that matter. So I'm back in the gym but not forcing myself in any way. I was there earlier this week and saw this super fit smaller than me girl who has two kids and just looks amazing. And I couldn't help but be jealous. Why don't I look like that? Why didn't I stick to it? If I would've just stayed in the gym then I'd still be small and look great. But of course I had to talk myself off the ledge...during my workout. I didn't let it ruin my workout for too long but I definitely let it affect me, unfortunately. I'm not that fitness- obsessed girl anymore. In some ways I wish I still was so that I could have less body fat and look amazing in a bikini but there's so much more to life than that now. It's all about balance. Making it into the gym at least 3 days a week, drinking all my water, eating more veggies, cooking at home more, going out to eat less. Balance is one of the most important things to me, because of my past, the second I start to feel like I'm failing or feel restricted, I give up. So now it's all about feeling my best, respecting my body, and allowing the looks to take their place last. Galations 6:4-5 says "Then you can be proud of your own accomplishments without comparing yourself to others. Assume your own responsibility." As we spend our time in the gym, scrolling on social media, and in our everyday lives, let us compliment others but remember how worthy we are ourselves. Comparison is only the thief of joy if we allow it to be.