Lifestyle

A Lesson in Self-Confidence Which Cost Me Thousands

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For as long as I can remember, I have had a deep rooted insecurity for my body. Yes, me – the girl that has now posted nearly 500 selfies on Instagram; half of which wearing a bikini or revealing clothing of some sort. Yes, me – the girl that promotes self love and confidence to each and everyone of you. Yes, me – the one that can stand on a national bikini stage half naked next to the best bodies in this nation with pride. This here is a small part of my story that I wish to share with you, a story about how my deepest insecurity and flaw has now turned into an experience I am proud to share.

I wish to point out that I am not writing this article to knock on “fake boobs” or “plastic surgery” because I know many amazing, functional athletic women with them, but please remember, this is my personal story I am sharing, this is my experience; all of which is truthful and candid.

Growing up, my biggest “flaw” in my own eyes, and the eyes of those who were bold enough to say something, was my chest, my boobs, my breasts – whatever you want to call them. In elementary school my friends promoted me as the “captain” of the “itty bitty titty club”- seriously, they gave me a membership card and everything. My junior-high boyfriend told me one day he would make enough money to buy me fake boobs and then I would be perfect. I had the nickname “mosquito bites” and “bee stings” given to me by friends and members of my family as if my small chest was a laughing matter. Boyfriends would make comments and remarks about my flat chest which lead to intimacy issues and jealousy towards those girls who utilized plastic surgery. I envied large breasted women whether the rest of their physique was comparable to mine or not. I spent the last 5 years of my life working my ass off to have the body I always desired, I trained hard and I dieted, but boobs don’t grow in gyms or in kitchens. If I could bench press my way to a voluptuous chest, you bet – I’d have one. I am not afraid of hard work one bit, but unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way.

 

“.. plastic surgery had become my number one priority”

 

I started saving for plastic surgery my first year out of high school. I had a “boob” fund in a box, which I stored under my mattress for years. I’d throw extra cash in there from time to time, until I finally had enough to pay for my dream body. As a 20-year-old, female plastic surgery had become my number one priority, and over the course of a few years I compiled close to $10,000 in that box – a huge feat for a full-time student in her twenties if you ask me. No financing, no loans, just consistent saving due to a constant desire to change myself. I was certain, if I had those miraculous boobs I had always wanted, my entire physique could be exactly as I had pictured it. I would be womanly, curvy, sexy, mature, and be able to wear anything I wanted without trying to figure out what bra could turn my A cup into a C cup for a night out with my friends. I would be in sync on that National Bikini stage with all my fellow competitors and would definitely have a better shot of a trophy with my new and improved physique.

And so I went about it. I followed through. I found a reputable surgeon, picked out the best implants money could buy and I booked my surgery. The week prior to my operation, I went to the gym and lifted every heavy weight possible in every which direction, as I knew it would be a while until I was back at it. During this time, I was bench pressing, dead-lifting, rowing and curling more then I ever had previously. I was “on top of my game”. I was still growing (mentally and physically) and I knew a hiatus to recover wouldn’t be the end of the world, but to me, six weeks away from a gym seemed like a lifetime. Any fitness competitor or those verging on the line of passion and obsession in this sport can likely relate. Six weeks away from your gym is a lifetime when it is habitual to attend every single day.

My surgery isn’t something I’ve spoken publicly about in the past, but if you follow me on my social media forums and have seen my competition photos, you likely came to this realization on your own. I won’t lie to you, they looked good. They looked really good. They were exactly what I had pictured- round, perky, big boobs, the ones I always wanted. The aesthetic nature of my physique initially was what I had dreamed it to be. During my six-week hiatus from weights, I went to the gym nearly everyday anyways- I would stretch on a matt, do calf raises, leg presses, and step on that stepper until I was blue in the face- anything to remain in a consistent routine without lifting anything with my upper half. Finally, I was given the “ok” to get back at it – I was able to continue with the sport I loved. I was ecstatic.

 

“My workouts began to suffer, despite being months past my surgery; something I had not planned for mentally.”

 

Weeks passed and I continued to push through my workouts. I was recovering and it was no surprise that my deadlift weight had drastically decreased, and that I could no longer bench press or complete lat pull-downs or push ups, but as time continued, nothing seemed to get better. My workouts began to suffer, despite being months past my surgery; something I had not planned for mentally. I was extremely limited in what I was able to accomplish in the gym, even as time continued to pass.

I had convinced myself that the tugging, the discomfort, and tightness in my chest cavity was normal and likely what many women experience when they have implants, as I understood this was a foreign object in my body, but when simple tasks like removing my socks after a workout, and running on a treadmill became daunting, even after 6 months of recovery, I knew something was wrong. I attended my 6 month check in with my surgeon where I expressed my concerns. I was told that the muscles in my chest were “over-developed” and “mature”- and therefore, the implants were getting pushed in a downward motion every time I was using my chest during my workouts. Let me tell you, everything you do in the gym activates your chest in some way. The surgeon suggested that I book another surgery and have my implants placed over the muscle – something I really did not desire to do initially, but with the discomfort I was experiencing, I was willing to do anything at this point.

And so I went about it, I waited another 4 weeks for a new surgery date, paid an additional $2500 (on top of the $10,000 I paid initially) and opted to have my implants removed and then replaced OVER the muscle. After waiting 4 weeks for my new surgery with limited ability to train again, I was notified that my doctor had changed his mind the morning I was meant to go in for surgery. He felt that with the lean physique I had, placing the implants over the muscle would not be the most aesthetically pleasing look. Instead, he suggested that we create a “sling” of sutures under my implant to hold them securely under the muscle to avoid slipping or pushing in the future. He was confident this was the ultimate way to keep the aesthetic look while allowing me to continue training as an athlete. My surgeons exact words were “How many times have I preformed a second surgery like this? Thousands. How many times have I preformed a third surgery? Never.”. So, I took the professional advice and got the surgery. This lead to an additional 6 weeks of recovery time, which has lead to nearly 16 weeks of non-lifting in the period of 7 months, not to mention I had a bye to compete at the CBBF National Championships in Halifax, Nova Scotia 15 weeks after this second surgery. Talk about pressure.

 

“I was having an extremely difficult time losing weight for the first time in my life.”

 

I went ahead and completed my competition prep for Nationals, struggling with my daily workouts. This meant that my diet had to compensate for my limited workouts (less energy expenditure being executed meant less energy/food I was able to consume). It was a double-whammy of sh*ttiness because I was having an extremely difficult time losing weight for the first time in my life. Imagine, competing as a natural athlete, on a national stage, with no ability to train the way you always have – no push-ups, no pull-ups, no bench press, no heavy lifts. I couldn’t even sprint on a treadmill the way I wanted to, nor could I run outdoors without two bras on. Truthfully, this drove me toward insanity.

Anyone who is passionate about fitness or passionate about anything for that matter, should know that when your outlet for stress is taken away from you, you just are not the same person. It’s comparable to taking away a musician’s ability to play their instrument or a painter’s artistic talent. The gym was (and is) my sanctuary, my place of self betterment, a place I went go enhance myself, to progress, to improve, to push my limits, and it no longer worked that way. I could no longer keep up with my boyfriend or other experienced clients and friends in the gym. Hell, I could barley un-rack plates from the squat rack without discomfort. The thing that used to bond us, was now a struggle. This might seem extreme, but it was real. I was not the same person I used to be. I was devastated in my choice of choosing this aesthetic look over my athleticism and it was demoralizing to me daily.

I found myself now becoming envious of women with the body I used to have; those functional, fast, strong, muscular women. The women who were executing in the gym, pushing themselves, and completing their workouts the way I used to. Those gritty, functional type workouts I had been missing so much. The strength workouts, the power workouts I wanted so bad. I told my fiancé, “I would pay all this money all over again just to have my flat chest back.”. I no longer felt like myself. I couldn’t find an outfit that didn’t make me look busty, and truth be told, the boobs made me look bigger then I ever wanted to be. I couldn’t get a massage without asking for a pillow to prop myself up. My sleep suffered because I could no longer rest flat on my stomach, I hated the feeling of my breasts touching my skin as it was so foreign to me- I slept in a sports bra every night and I felt too provocative in my swim suit around my family. Most devastating of all, my workouts still sucked.

I stepped on stage at The CBBF Nationals and the IFBB World Qualifier in the summer of 2015 feeling unready and completely depleted nutritionally. I had taken a whole year away from competing in order to grow, and returned to the stage looking more depleted than ever. Like I said previously, when your energy expenditure is lacking and you are unable to execute in the gym, your nutrition must compensate. I was unhappy with my physique on stage, and the breast implants didn’t do my physique any justice either; they had created a huge set back for me for an entire year. Two surgeries, over 16 weeks of recovery (away from training), and still the continuous pulling, tugging and discomfort.

 

“My surgeon was absolutely shocked.”

 

So, after nearly a year of crying at the gym, throwing clothes on my floor in dismay and sleeping in a bra, I met with my surgeon for a third time and told him that these miraculous, amazing boobs I thought I would love so much were actually affecting my quality of life and happiness, and they needed to go. My fiancé, the most amazing person in the world who loves and accepts me unconditionally, supported my decision 100%. My surgeon was absolutely shocked. Here I was, a young female who had just invested thousands of dollars into plastic surgery, now wanted her “old” body back despite the fact that aesthetically there was nothing wrong with them whatsoever. The implants still looked perfectly fine, but in the end, looks didn’t win.

I bawled my eyes out in the hospital, scared and nervous to revert back to the body I had once criticized and hated on for so long, but I knew in the end, it was the right decision.

My theory and approach towards fitness as a coach, remains that health and wellness (emotional, mental, physical) are the number one priority, with athletics and performance following, and aesthetics and body composition, following those. I have learned that I will never again sacrifice overall health and wellness or performance (strength, power, agility, etc.) in the name of aesthetics.

Now, nearly 4 months later and boob-free, I can honestly say I am the happiest I have ever been. I wear my flat chest proudly and with confidence. I now put on my “A” cup bikini and wear it with pride. I am stronger, I am faster, I am more agile then I have ever been in my life. I appreciate my body more than I ever have, and I appreciate the passion and love I have for resistance training and functional movements. I am truly excited to step on stage at the 2016 Bikini Nationals this year as a 100% natural athlete, and in the best shape of my life.

This is the body I was blessed with. This is the body that feels right. This is the body that can run faster, jump higher, and lift heavier. This is the body I want, and I am so damn thankful that this body is mine. This is what being a woman is about – not curves, or boobs, but rather- self confidence and self-love. It might have taken me thousands of dollars, 3 surgeries and a ton of tears to learn this lesson, but I am thrilled to be living my life, truly confident in my own skin.

So how do I feel about my cover? A photo in which I am sporting my implants? Well, I believe this photo is a great reminder of my search to find my inner beauty. A time where I initially set my priorities on something materialistic – a time where I had invested, financially and emotionally, into something I believed I wanted, or NEEDED rather, only to be proven wrong. It is a good memento to show that, even during a time when I was struggling physically, I was able to find the ambition to continue my fitness journey and commitment and compete amongst the best bodies in the nation. This photo is a token of a struggle I faced, overcame, and learned from. This photo represents an experience that has enabled me to appreciate my body, my athleticism, my strength, my flaws and my divine passion for fitness and health on an entirely new level. I am thankful for this photo, this experience, and this life change. It is more apparent to me now more than ever, that confidence truly does come within.

From a young age, health, nutrition, and fitness have been passions for Ashlyn. While earning a University-level education in these areas, she began her own personal journey into fitness and bodybuilding, working her way up to the National stage as a natural athlete. Running her own Nutrition & Personal Training business alongside her fiancé, Ashlyn utilizes both her education in science and her friendly, personal approach to help others around the globe achieve their goals in fitness and in health.

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