The Truth Behind The Glamour – Competitors & Disorderly Eating

Trigger Warning


‘The brutality with which we judge and then treat the body reveals the desperation to make it perform as we imagine it should.’[1]


Three months before show day is the beginning of the end. At this stage, Bikini competitors exchange body building for sculpting; stripping away soft flesh to uncover the goddess-like form that waits beneath in all its defined, curvaceous glory. This phase typically begins eight to twelve weeks prior to  a competition, depending on the amount of body fat that must be cut in order to create a winning physique.

The final stage of preparation requires a meticulously calculated plan. Calories are decreased, carbohydrates are cycled, macros are precisely weighed. Supplements are consumed: pill after pill of vitamin C for dehydration; green tea to boost metabolism; fish oil to aid recovery. Early morning HIIT is factored into the daily routine to burn stubborn fat cells. Fasted hill sprints at dawn are not for the faint hearted.

This is tupperware territory. A freezer full of turkey and tilapia; cupboards stocked with pink salt and calorie-free condiments in order to survive the months of no sugar and no sauce. Food is green or white.

The competitor loses touch with civilisation: she forgets what it is like to dine at a table, or on a plate. Meals are cold and eaten with fingers. Consumption becomes animalistic, desperate.

Pans scraped, spoons licked, every last morsel devoured. It is no longer possible to keep ‘forbidden’ foods in the house. A teaspoon of peanut butter easily becomes a whole jar; two rice cakes turn into a packet. Chewing gum; bed at 9pm; snapping elastic bands on  wrists: anything to keep hunger pangs at bay. Chain drinking black Americanos until hands begin to shake.

The irritability begins, the insomnia, the night sweats, the fainting spells; handfuls of hair start to fall out in the shower. The mind becomes fanatical; the body fatigued and training is a chore with weak, depleted limbs.

Obliques begin to emerge, muscles are separated. There are collar bones and veins. It is almost show day.

The fat has gone.


–  Victoria Stockwell (Pro Bikini Competitor)

[1] Susie Orbach, Bodies (Profile Books: London, 2009), p.73

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