My Journey to Empowerment and Self Love (PART 1)
We spend a lot of time observing bodies on social media.... But very rarely do we read about the emotional struggles and pain hidden behind them.
This is more than a story about Rhian's experience in fitness modelling.
It is more than one industry or one show or one person.
This is a story about the impact aesthetics has on a women's sense of self-worth and value.
This is a story for all the girls who ever looked in the mirror and hated what they saw.
We have all been there.
This story is here to show you that it doesn't have to be that way.
ARTICLE BY Rhian Roussos (PArt 1)
If you asked me when I was 20 … “Rhian, where do you think you’ll be in seven years” … I would have said something along the lines of “working back stage for Christian Dior make up artist team or teaching make-up artistry.” My answer definitely would not have been Personal Trainer and Coach.
I remember calling my sister when I was 20 years old. She had just opened her first gym in Brisbane with her then boyfriend. They had both been personal trainers for some time and decided to launch a chain of 24/7 gyms. All I knew about fitness was my previous experience swimming at national level. I said the same thing I hear so frequently from women … “I want to lose weight. What do I do?” … She told me to come down to the gym meet one of the trainers and start doing some personal training sessions with her.
At this point in my life I had no confidence. I was in an emotionally & physically abusive relationship and was desperately searching for something to make me feel better about myself. I started training with my personal trainer one session a week. That one session a week changed my whole life. I got 60 minutes where I felt completely empowered, strong, challenged and capable. Something I was not feeling at home. One session turned to three, three turned into training on my own outside of my sessions and before I knew it I was working out almost everyday.
I started spending time with people from the gym who were supportive & encouraging. I watched my own confidence grow. So much so that after living with someone for four years … who punished me for feeling good about myself … I finally found the courage to end that relationship. Something I think I never would have been able to do if I hadn’t taken that first step towards training. It was at this point in my life I decided I wanted to be a personal trainer. I wanted to help people in the same way I had been helped. I got my qualifications and I started working out of my sister’s gym.
I am a naturally competitive person and I love nothing more than having a goal and working towards achieving it. I started looking for somewhere to direct my energy … and that’s when I came across bodybuilding. I was lucky when I found my coach (who is now my best friend and such a massive part of my life) she was a natural competitor, which was great because I had no desire to use PED’s (Performance Enhancing Drugs). I wanted to see how far I could take my own body. We worked together for six months training and completely overhauling my diet. She got me to eat healthy and balanced before we even considered a show. Once we both decided that I was ready we chose a show and did a 16-week prep.
Looking back now, it’s clear that I was avoiding some serious emotional problems and dumping all my energy into these competitions to avoid facing them. At first the prep was fine I was eating and training normally with a re-feed day each week. My prep was a success in the sense that I had no issues dropping body fat. Looking back, however, there were some major red flags … things that would end up causing issues for me after my competition. My starting weight was 59kgs I went on stage at 49.5kgs … 9% body fat. There was one point in my prep when I was two weeks out and I weighed myself … I was 51.7kgs. I know the exact number because I remember looking down at the scales in my mother’s house and crying. I thought I was too fat and I was never going to be able to get on stage. I thought I would get up there and make a fool of myself… This is what was running through my head. I remember sitting in the kitchen pantry sniffing a jar of peanut butter…. It blows my mind to think that this is something I ever did… but I had a goal and peanut butter was not part of that goal.
I was so tired all the time that I had to take the last two weeks of my prep off work and go live with my mum so I could have all my meals cooked for me and just wake up do my cardio, train and sleep. I know plenty of people manage just fine and continue to work, but I physically couldn’t. I was so exhausted I would frequently walk into a room and forget why I was there.
I was lucky to have my sister (who was competing as well) going through all this with me. A lot of these “silly things” we would laugh off and put down to the shit that just happens when you diet… but looking back now there’s nothing funny about being so malnourished you experience cognitive impairment.
Before I continue, I want to say I have nothing against bodybuilding. It takes a lot of effort, time, training and dieting. It is taxing and difficult and requires 100% commitment. I respect a lot of the people in this industry, like my best friend who still successfully coach’s women to the stage and was up until recently still competing herself. There are very few people in this world that can do it successfully though … without compromising relationships, friendships and special events... I am not one of those people.
I made it to the stage and placed third in both shows I competed in. I ended up qualifying for nationals but never made it. I had every intention to … but then my little bubble popped. I became super depressed when my shows were over… everything I had been working so hard for had come and gone. I had isolated myself to the point where I hadn’t seen any of my friends in the longest time because I couldn’t drink or go out and have a meal with them. In fact, one of my friends got married and I had so much anxiety about being around the food at the wedding that I brought my own food and when everyone else was eating dinner I went and sat in my car and ate my prepared meal. At the time I thought I was being “disciplined” ... now I look back and cannot believe how incredibly wrong and un-healthy that is. I was literally missing out on one of the most important moments in my friend’s life because I wanted to be able to stand on stage at sub 10% body fat. I had ignored my deep emotional issues for too long and now everything was bubbling at the surface.
My coach gave me my reverse diet which I followed for six weeks. I then went on holiday to America. I had kitchens in all my holiday rooms so I could prepare food and not have to eat out all the time... I was literally going on holiday with my sister and two friends and I had anxiety about what I was going to be eating. I had fun in America I let my hair down more then I had originally intended and I didn’t regret it until I got home and weighed myself…