Perfection, Caring What Others Think, And A Big Scary Goal: Behind The Scenes of My Bikini Shoot
Update: I wrote this post 6 days ago, 5 days before my fitness and bikini shoot, which was yesterday. So the shoot is now done and as soon as I’m able I will share the photos and the ‘on the day’ behind the scenes with you.
Yesterday as I did the shoot I felt very uncomfortable with all the posed shots at first and to be honest I felt quite upset for the first hour or two, like ‘I shouldn’t be here, I don’t look good enough’. Yep…. I still have body image issues BUT – Dallas Olsen was amazing to work with though, everyone at Oxygen and the Dallas Olsen team was so lovely and welcoming and even Lindy Olsen came down to chat and give me some tips and she was raving about my tricep shots which are pretty damn hot if I do say so myself! As the day went on I actually got into it and started to enjoy myself and I am SOOOOO happy with the training pics and the beach pics some of them are stunning. I can’t wait to get the proofs tomorrow 🙂 I felt more confident and relaxed doing the training ones as well as the bikini ones (weird!) whereas the ones that are just me on a white background were freaking scary and not to mention damn uncomfortable to try and hold the poses!
Behind The Scenes of My Shoot Prep
3 months ago, I booked a photo shoot. A sexy bikini photo shoot. A fitness modelling-type photo shoot.
A chance to show off all my hard work and get some great pics for my soon-to-appear new website?
But not really.
Here’s what this shoot was really about back then –
I wanted to – felt I needed to – prove myself. To my colleagues in the fitness industry. To you and my other readers. To all the cool kids I grew up with who I let make me feel like I was a geeky and awkward girl who would never be sure of herself, always be wearing the wrong clothes, always be just behind on the right hairstyle.
Never be cool, never be ‘one of them’.
I’ve spoken about this with my kinesiologist and laughed at the realisation that pretty much my entire Personal Training career came about from a need to basically say “f*&k you all, I AM cool. And I’ll show you. I’ll show you by walking away from my planned career as a lawyer and by being super-fit and having a super-hip job and doing bikini competitions and then becoming blond and tanned and perky”
I don’t know why I cared so much, but I seem to always have. I had a great childhood and great friends but I also have such strong memories of hating that I wore hand-me-down corduroy skirts and ate alfalfa and peanut butter wholegrain sandwiches rather than cool food. I always wanted to fit in, always worried what people thought of me and was never satisfied with being great at the things I was naturally great at, like academics. I just wanted to be great at the things other kids cared about! I know, sad. But I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Anyway, if I’m honest, ever since then I feel like I’ve still been trying to prove myself.
You might see me as an expert, as the face of Woman Incredible, as someone who is fit and lean and outgoing and has it together and is in shape and successful and happy.
And in many ways I am all of those things.
But I’m also still the very shy, very insecure girl wearing those hand-me-down clothes and wishing she could be top of the playground in the same way that it came so naturally to be top of the class.
Pretending it didn’t matter when she was always ALWAYS picked last for sports teams.
Desperate to be naturally comfortable and confident within herself.
And a lot of the way I’ve presented myself in my online business as well as in my role as a personal trainer these past 14 years has been about consciously putting on my mask and choosing to act like the girl I thought I needed to be in order for others to admire and respect me.
So when I booked my photo shoot, even though it was something I’ve always wanted to do as a personal goal and even though so much of the preparation of it was about bringing back a sense of personal power and pride at pushing myself physically to my absolute max again and really just getting back to being ‘on’ with my body, that was just part of it.
It was also – and in a very big way – that I felt a need to show that I too am good enough to do photos like that. That I AM one of the cool kids.
I can say this and sort of laugh at myself because I’ve learned by this stage in my life that I can be the ‘real me’ and still be accepted, loved, respected, and successful. And I’m so glad I never DID pursue the law degree or I probably wouldn’t be here, living my deeper and initially more hidden dream of making it as a writer.
And what I’ve seen as a writer is that the more honest I am – about my eating disorder background but also just in general about showing the real me – the more successful I am. Far more so than if I always just tried to show the right image.
And yet –
And yet for some reason I still had this need to say “f*&k you, I AM important and worthy”. I don’t know why the aggression behind this, but it’s definitely there; definitely part of what I felt a I had to prove.
I write this now 5 days out from my shoot (yes, my shoot was actually yesterday now but I wrote this whole blog last week and hadn’t published it yet) and over the past week or so I’ve had almost like a domino of revelations about myself and about what’s really important to me here. And it goes so very much deeper than what I first thought, which was personal pride. And whilst I can’t yet quite shake off the need to prove myself that is also still there, but in terms of its importance it seems to have slipped far far down the ranks.
What I Have Learned from my Bikini Photo Shoot Prep
I don’t have to be perfect.
When I booked this shoot I had the idea that the only way I could be ‘allowed’ to do a sexy, fitness modelling photo shoot was to be perfect. Meaning, in my mind, not one bit of pinchable fat on me, certainly nothing dimply around the butt or hip area. Ripped ‘cut’ abs, the whole shebang. It’s only in the last week or two as I’ve watched my body become quite lean again – back to where I seemed to maintain when I did simply eat and train according to what felt great and seemed right – that I’ve realised I don’t really like the super ripped look!
I certainly find it impressive. But I want to come across as feminine and sexy and yes lean in this shoot rather than looking like I just did a bodybuilding comp. It’s amazing how powerful our environment is to influence our own ideas of what we want or need, isn’t it? And I spend pretty much my entire professional life – and a lot of my personal life – surrounded by the idea that to truly get admiration for how you look you need to be ripped and fairly muscular.
You might be relating to what I’m saying here if you too are very caught up in the fitness industry world. Or you might think I’m crazy 🙂
I can enjoy the day and have fun – it doesn’t have to be scary or a ‘win or fail’ sort of thing.
It hit me a few weeks ago that even if I were doing the shoot that very day, I’d be happy with where I was at physically. Which was pretty cool, and I had to ask myself why that had become the case, when there was definitely still some pinchable stuff to be found 🙂
I realised that in letting go of the need to be perfect I’d taken the fear and stress out of this experience and been able to create what I wanted but didn’t think I’d be able to have, which was an ability to just enjoy the process come what may. Once I clicked on this I could straight away start to see myself having a lot of FUN doing this shoot. Which I know will definitely show through and make the photos better as well!
When my belief was based around only being allowed to do sexy photos if I looked exactly a certain way, all that came to mind in thinking about the day was worry and self-doubt and a sense that I’d be awkward and not ‘do it right’. Which no doubt would have all been true if I walked in thinking that way!
More astoundingly – I can enjoy the process
I was so scared about embarking on a super rigid diet to get lean enough for this shoot. Sure, I was already in shape but obviously the whole point of this (aside from the proving myself thing!) was to get leaner than what I was, to take back control of my body which I’d let gradually slip away this past year just through not really having any true purpose or inner passion in my training or eating.
So I knew I’d have to make changes. The training didn’t worry me for a second. I was looking forward to doing more workouts, especially to getting back into some HIIT training. I used to be a major cardio queen and even though I now don’t advocate large bouts of cardio for fat loss (especialy endurance) I really did miss the lung-pumping gonna-puke-my-guts-up feel of sprinting at top speed, getting my heart rate up near 200 again and just feeling alive in my training rather than having everything always measured and planned.
I’ve been doing around 9-11 workouts a week (I may write about the details of my prep another time if you’re interested) but that hasn’t been an issue. I’ve really loved having a goal drive me to train my heart out again, I’ve loved having a reason to follow through on doing extra sessions and crazy circuits and so on.
And it’s worked 🙂 These photos are from nearly 3 weeks ago when I first did ‘progress’ shots.
But the eating?
Or at least I thought so.
My eating was already pretty damn clean by all accounts, but I was definitely not quite meeting my protein goal and was also a little bit on the OD side with nut consumption. And raw chocolate. And sometimes wine or 3/4 lattes.
The idea of having to cut out my ‘safety’ foods and be really rigid (and not eat entire jars of almond butter!) was really scary as I I felt like it would bring up my eating disorder stuff again. I felt like as soon as I have rules I will want to break them.
So it’s been quite astounding for me to observe how easy it has felt to simply consistently eat more protein, be more prepared ALL the time instead of some of the time with my foods when out, watch my metabolism and appeitite change from being structured, and even to let go of the need to de-stress with chocolate or nuts.
I don’t mean it’s been easy, as there’ve been days when I did just want to eat a whole block of chocolate. But mostly I’ve felt so energised, had such few cravings, and just felt really ‘in the zone’ with eating so well. To be honest I think this is as much about a mindset shift as about the physiological reaction to a cleaner diet. It’s been about having a reason and it’s also been about the sense of pride from realising I can learn to relax or destress without my comfort foods.
I don’t have to eat perfectly and I can still get leaner and fall in love with my body and myself
This might sound contrary to what I just said. But one of the big revelations for me in the past few weeks has been that I don’t have to actually eat ‘perfectly’ and I can still get great results and can also feel really great about myself.
I’ve had some 3/4 lattes.
Definitely some chocolate.
And I even ate half a jar of almond butter one day last week 🙂
I would say I’ve followed my eating plan about 90% of the time.
At first when I was going off track that other 10% I was being really
hard on myself and making it mean I was going to fail, show up not
But when the whole ‘not needing to be perfect’ thing clicked in I realised that I don’t want to believe looking your best has to mean being an anal robot with your food. So I chose not to believe it. Or do it. And I’ve still been getting leaner 😉
I’ve already proven everything I have to prove – to me.
This is what this post is really about. And I hope that in some way it helps you in your own goals about your body; helps you to figure out your whys and what it is that you really want.
I was training last week and it just hit me –
I’ve achieved everything I wanted to achieve already with this shoot. Including a bunch of stuff I didn’t even consider or know I wanted to achieve.
- I feel like I’ve taken back control of my body which is really about taking back control of the joy and passion of training at my peak, of eating to feel great (which also means not being ‘diet perfect’!)
- I feel ‘on’, alive and in the zone when I’m training.
- I’m having fun with it again, which it was always about for me in the the past; even when I was being obsessive over my body and food 10 years ago I was still having fun. Since pregnancy I would say most of my training has been more from a place of ‘yes I enjoy it but I HAVE to do it and I WILL take charge of my body’. That teeth-gritting approach to getting in shape just doesn’t work, I’ve found. It feels so fantastic to really just be into my workouts again!
- This might sound silly and a little dramatic but I feel like I’ve found my joy for life again. I don’t even really understand what that’s about, but somehow the focus on achieving an important goal physically has carried over into other areas of my life. I’ve noticed I am getting up easier each morning, my energy is better, my motivation is better. I feel more focused and more powerful.
I just feel happier.
I think this reflects the fact that as much as yes, this goal was about proving myself to others at first it was also very much about the fact that I knew I was sort of just drifting along with my workouts and I knew I could go to a higher level again but didn’t really have my reason to and so wasn’t bothering. The reality is I ‘grew up’ (in my late teens and early twenties) with crazy workouts and it’s just something I love for the sake of it but also because it does carry over and make you feel alive and powerful in other ways.
I’d forgotten that, or at least pretended to.
I feel free. I feel incredibly empowered to be so on with my workouts again but also incredible proud of what I’ve let go of in terms of the still-strong bonds I had between emotions and food. Don’t get me wrong – I’m still a girl who wants chocolate when stressed. And I think it’s fine to have emotional bonds with food. But I’m also thrilled to now be in a place where I’ve learned to automatically think about how I want to feel after each meal rather than eating in the moment.
I feel excited about what’s in store for me.
I have a lot of plans for 2013 in both my business and personal life. I always have a lot of plans and goals but this time it feels different. I feel more charged. More determined. I feel like if I’ve been able to face all these demons about the body I thought I have to have as well as the way I thought I have to get there, well then I can face anything.
I feel like with all of that, I’ve already achieved everything that matters.
Which is an incredible and liberating feeling as I now know that when I turn up on Monday I’m just going to relax and have a great day and the photos are the ‘icing’ basically rather than the reason. I’ve stopped making my self-worth based on the outcome of this photo shoot. I know I’m going to be happy with the photos and what I really hope that they show is a girl who is confident and happy and free. I don’t want you looking at those photos and thinking ‘impressive, but I wonder what she had to do/sacrifice to get there’.
I want them to be inspiring, and I want a positive energy to flow out of them. I want to feel empowered when I look at them because I know I did this in a way that was right for me. I could have been more rigid, been ‘perfect’ and shown up leaner. But for what purpose?
And what cost?
How I Did This!
This post has become quite long and a bit rambly now. At some point I will write a more ‘fact based’ post on how I ate and trained and so on, if I get feedback that you’d like me to.
But really that’s just details.
The truth about how I did this comes down to two things I believe.
The two most important things anyway.
- I found the right motivation.
- And I found the right support.
My motivation was about delving into myself and finding my true why – which was personal pride. Wanting to once again feel proud of how I treat my body, feel proud of pushing myself outside my comfort zone and of chasing a scary goal because it’s something I’ve long wanted to do.
Support has come in a variety of ways. From you and my other readers, from my bootcamp girls in particular who’ve had a closer insight into my journey, from friends, my husband, my sister and even my 3 year-old daughter who one day told me ‘no, you can’t have carbs today’! Ha 🙂
But there is one person I have to make very special mention of.
Here’s the thing.
I know a lot of people who follow me online think I’m naturally in shape and confident and yes I have kept myself in good shape (and wanted to go to my version of GREAT) but the truth is that this photo shoot prep has been a very scary and confronting journey for me. As I’ve just shared with you, it’s taken a lot for me to let go of the idea that I can’t do something like this unless I’m ‘perfect’.
And to be honest I really do think I may not have made it feeling proud and excited which I now feel if it weren’t for the incredible support, guidance and friendship of my coach and also new business partner Justine Switalla- Sports Model.If you’ve ever battled to see yourself being ‘that girl’ due to limiting fears or beliefs or simply old body image/emotional eating stuff holding you back then you know that creating your best body is about so much more than just what to eat and how to train.Through my business I constantly strive to empower women with the knowledge they need to change their body and life but also with the inspiration, motivation and the TRUTH about all that crazy girl head stuff and how to get past it. Well – even the experts and coaches need coaching and need someone who they can let their fears and craziness out to! I want to publicly thank Justine for being that person for me, for helping me stay strong and focused emotionally as well as physically and for being a big part of my being able to let go of the need to do this photoshoot to be ‘perfect’ or prove myself and instead do it from a place of absolute personal pride and excitement.
Justine has not only been a coach to me who has shared her knowledge on training and nutrition to go from fit to fitness model fit but she has listened to me tell her how I nearly had a massive binge a few weeks ago, reassured me when I’ve shown her all the fat I can still pinch on my tummy, told me about her own thoughts about her body and the whole ‘nobody is every perfect’ thing, trained me and also trained with me, become a business partner now as well as a friend and coach and even gave me her own photoshoot clothes to wear on the day!
So Now, Let’s Talk About You. Your Dreams. Your Goals.
Before I let you go I really want to say that if you have a big dream about something you’d love to do but don’t consider yourself ready for – well – you’ll never be ready if you’re waiting for perfection.
It held me back for 10 years, how crazy is that?!
So don’t wait. Find your deep inner reason, your why, the personal driver that makes you want to push forward regardless of what others think and ONLY for you.
And of course get the right coach and support crew!
Don’t forget –
Life is Now. Press Play.