Three days out from the South East Bench Press Championships and I was one pound too heavy to compete in the under 57kg weight category.

This wasn’t planned. I’d been weighing myself at the gym in the weeks leading up to the competition, but I’d been making a slightly generous deduction for water weight and having eaten. When I finally stepped on the scales with an empty belly, I didn’t like what I saw.

I have an acute dislike of scales having spent too many years in my teens and 20s obsessively weighing myself. Until now, I’d refused to have scales in my flat, but I’d been caught out by my uncompromising attitude. Unfortunately I was going to have to cut weight.

Thursday was miserable. I did a client consultation and four personal training sessions without food. By late afternoon I was fuzzy headed to the point that I felt unsafe to drive. I had to eat something. A paltry 300-calorie meal of white fish and spinach got me through my evening sessions. At home later I cried on the phone to my boyfriend. I was scared I wouldn’t make weight and all the training over the last few months would be for nothing.

On Friday I was down to 57.3kg. How was that possible? I’d had a day on starvation rations and yet I hadn’t even lost half a pound. If I’d thought about it logically, I’d have realised the numbers added up. One pound equates to 3,500 calories, so it’s impossible to lose a pound in a day even if I’d eaten nothing.

Another day of near fasting followed. Now I was neither hangry or emotional. I felt numb. It reminded me why starving myself had once been so appealing. Hunger dulls emotions. You zone out of reality to the point that everything, good and bad, is no longer important. It’s a way to opt out of life’s more complex problems and fixate on something you can control.

Not that an extreme diet brings peace of mind. I was in a state of heightened neurosis leading up to the competition, obsessing over every millimetre of milk that went into my coffee and stepping on the scales every few hours.

On Saturday, I was 57.1kg. I went back to bed and pulled the covers over my head. I had to eat that day or my strength would be compromised for the competition. It was time to cut water weight.

That day I ate foods that were energy dense, but wouldn’t be heavy in my stomach; mainly chocolate and white bread. I measured out 250mls of water and took tiny sips only when necessary.

I weighed in on Sunday at 56.2kg. I’d done more than I needed to, but my stress didn’t abate from there. I felt depleted and had under an hour to refuel, hydrate and warm up before the competition started. I also knew I’d be given a run for my money by another girl who had the same bench press personal best as me.

I made my first lift of 60kg, but unexpectedly failed on 65kg. Was my failure down to the referee’s slow commands or the fact that I wasn’t 100%? I can’t say for sure, but I was pacing like a caged tiger before my second attempt at 65kg.

When I made the 65kg, I punched the air in celebration. I’d won my weight category and qualified for the British Bench Press Championships. My tears were as much relief as happiness.

Yes, this competition ended well, but I made it hard for myself. It’s taught me that I cannot leave my weight to chance before a competition and if I want to perform at my best, I must lose any extra weight slowly and responsibly.

Lifting makes me feel empowered, positive about my body and the food that I put into it. Crash diets make me feel the opposite. They are wholly negative and promote an insidious self-hatred. From now on, I’m saying no to extreme diets no matter what the circumstances. I hope you will join me.