By Erin Petracco

OK, so before I begin I just want to state that these are my experiences and mine alone. I’m not necessarily saying that everyone competing will go through the same situations as myself, but I am just being honest with my experience as a first time competitor.

So here goes...

Prepping is hard... like really, really hard.  Now if you have never dieted for something like this before, you definitely need to be prepared mentally for how hard this might possibly be.

Be ready to be hungry all the time.  I’m not talking just a little bit peckish here and there. You will probably be starving from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep; as soon as every type of food you love is cut from your diet you crave it. Especially in the final weeks of your prep when your calories are most likely to be at their lowest.

You’ll probably have little to no energy.  Again, this is especially true when you’re towards the end of your prep when your calories are low and you're doing a fair bit of cardio. You need to push through this and just keep going. It's worth it in the end.

One of the problems I had was always thinking I wasn’t going to be ready.  This was more mental than anything because everyone around me could see my body changing, but I couldn’t. This is where you need to trust the process and your coach; don’t let your head get the best of you!

I was constantly moody.  Probably more than anything from the lack of food and craving every type food I wasn’t allowed, but also more than likely from my hormones going crazy too. However I’m not an expert on that so I can’t be sure.

Make sure you have a coach that is honest with you.  Find a coach that you can communicate really well with and make sure they are straight up with their plan for you. Then take their advice. If they tell you it will be impossible for you be ready for your show while maintaining your sanity, then listen to them and maybe focus on the next season. From experience a very low calorie diet and a huge amount of cardio from 8 weeks out is not easy to maintain. If I were to do it again I would definitely find a coach that is happy to incorporate flexible dieting for as long as possible into my prep for sanity’s sake.

Don’t have a certain “goal body”, everyone is different.  Get this “goal body” idea out of your head straight away. We are all different and all have different genetics. You are not going to look like Andreia Brazier because you are not her. Just focus on being the best you possible can, and be happy with that.

Its expensive.  This definitely needs to be taken into account before competing because a lot of people overlook the overall cost.  The essentials such as gym membership, a good coach/personal trainer, posing coaching etc. can not be over looked; especially for a first timer. Don’t skimp on these because how you do on show day can depend on these things.  The cost of your tan, nails, make-up and hair on show day all add up too. If you can do your own then that’s great, but if not be ready to fork out quite a lot of money for these services.  Depending on which federation you compete in you need to be ready to buy a bikini, evening gown, theme wear, shoes, jewellery etc. All of these things are expensive and you may need to re-think your federation depending on what the requirements are.

You’re probably never going to be really happy with your body ever again.  This part more than anything is from MY own experiences and what I went through, so please keep that in mind.  The water weight I put on within the first week post comp was ridiculous - rookie error not expecting it - and played major games with my head. Even though it is mostly just water, it's still really hard to see your body change so quickly.

Definitely implement a reverse diet for sanity.  I didn’t do this and it was a big mistake. After dieting for so long I went crazy, and I wouldn’t recommend it. This is partly why I recommend finding a coach that can incorporate flexible dieting so that at the end of your prep you aren’t eating 3 months worth of restricted food in a week. Make sure your coach writes you a reverse diet plan and stick to it.

Don’t just quit cardio.  Taper cardio down along with your reverse diet plan.

Get in the mind set that its not healthy stay comp lean all year. This is a big one for us ladies especially, after consulting my GP post comp I was advised that it isn’t healthy for women to stay as lean as they would for comp all year round. So as soon as I got that through my head I began being happier with my body.

Be happy with YOU

If you're thinking of doing your first show, then this is everything I wish I knew before I started prepping and stepping on stage. Those who have may understand...