Like my six pack? To me, these photos are a reminder that what looks pretty isn’t always healthy. These photos were taken on the morning of weigh-in, the day before the South East England Powerlifting Championships. At this point, I had lost 4 kilos (about 8lbs) in just under 2 days. I hadn’t eaten for 24 hours, I was massively dehydrated and I was exhausted. Why did I resort to such extremes? Let me explain…

This may sound odd for a personal trainer, but I don’t keep scales in my flat. Years of being a slave to the scale and allowing it to transform my mood from feeling pretty good to feeling pretty rubbish has turned me off weight checks. Loads lifted in the gym, body fat percentage and how I’m looking and feeling are far more accurate measures of success in my eyes.

My weight has hovered around 57kg since I was 16. So, for previous competitions, I’ve just turned up to weigh-in without eating or drinking that day. It’s usually enough to hit 56kg or just under (I compete in the under 56kg weight category).

In the run up to competition, I’d been so focused on training I’d lost sight of the weight thing. The scales at my gym were broken, so I’d not looked at the numbers for a while. A couple of days before competition, I asked a client if I could step on her scales ‘just to put my mind at rest.’

58.5kg – SH*T!!!!!!

The bowl of pasta I’d eaten the night before probably wasn’t helping, but I knew an overnight food and water fast wouldn’t be enough to shift 5 or 6lbs. Maybe I’d put on some muscle or perhaps a few extra meals out with my boyfriend had taken their toll, but I had to take action. I headed straight to my brother’s house.

My brother Mark is a weight loss guru. He lost 10 stone and is now a personal trainer and physique competitor. Mark smirked when I told him my dilemma and confessed to last night’s prawn ravioli.

‘Why haven’t you been weighing yourself?’ he asked.

‘I dunno.’ I shrugged. ‘It’s boring.’

‘It’ll be tough losing 3 kilos.’

‘I know.’ I was seething at the prospect.

‘Ok, no more carbs for the next two days,’ said Mark. ‘Your body is 50 to 60% water, so you’re going to have to dehydrate. No more than half a litre of water tomorrow and take a sauna.’
Mark waved me off with a set of bathroom scales.

I had no carbs and minimal calories that day. When I weighed myself Friday morning I was 57kg. A definite improvement, but I still had over a kilo to lose in 24 hours. I had a few scraps of leftover chicken for breakfast, but by then I was getting the fear. I was going to fast until weigh in. I took a water bottle and measured out half a litre. Perhaps it was the prospect of dehydration, but I immediately felt thirsty.

The hunger that day wasn’t too bad. It came in waves and soon passed. I felt depleted, but fasting gave me an unnerving high which brought back memories of my eating disorders. Ridiculous memes were swirling around my head such as:

‘You don’t need food like other people do,’ and

‘Stay strong – don’t let food win.’

Oh. My. God! Those old demons had quickly resurfaced when I’d set myself a destructive goal, rather than the usual positive target of getting stronger.

The dehydration was horrid. To salve my thirst, I resorted to swilling water around my mouth and spitting it out. My evening sauna was far from a zen-like spa experience. I’d read that to lose 1kg of water, I’d need an hour in the sweat cupboard, with breaks every 20-minutes. In the end, I managed 30-minutes, broken with an embarrassing number of shower trips. Sitting in that sauna, my heart was pounding, I was breathless and the metal chain around my neck was giving me third degree burns. My mouth was bone dry and I had nothing to look forward to afterwards except a sip from the water ration.

After a restless night, I stepped on the scales. I’d done it. I was 54.6kg. I was shaky, parched and had a raging headache. I felt anything but strong but, in 24 hours, I was going to have to compete.

Part 2 of this post: The South East Powerlifting Championships will be up soon.