The Journey To The Stage

I went into this competition prep with one goal: a Champion mindset.

I wanted to honor the privilege of stepping onto the stage as an NGA Bikini Pro knowing I had done everything I could. That I trained like an athlete. That I tackled the tiny details. That I had the discipline and mindset of someone who was ALL in.

I learned so much in this process. I let go of old ideas of myself that I’ve been fighting to let go of for a long time. I, with a lot of work, discovered new ownership and self worth.

What did this process look like? Let’s dive in.



No part of this process was without effort. Mastering my mind was my biggest challenge. I wanted to let go of my insecurity in the gym, get better at calming my anxiety, and to be able to go onto stage with full confidence.

Training with my dear friend and coach - Jacob Dembaugh - was a big part of this. As a former pro football player and extremely spiritual dude, he understood the challenge it would be to get me out of my head and into game mode.

We trained together from November onwards. We started with 4am wakeups, warming up by running the dark street outside my gym, and then training in the little cement room before I worked with clients all day. I told him I wanted to look and feel like a true athlete, so we combined athletic functional training with traditional bodybuilding. We did a lot of stuff that was new and awkward to me. I would hate it in the moment and then be super grateful when I saw improvements and realized how strong and healthy my body was becoming. I remember going for a hike in December and feeling like someone was literally pushing me up a hill.

Along with our training, I worked on myself a lot. I journaled. I read. I did several hypnotherapy sessions to help me with confidence, self care and my Night Eating Disorder.


Anyone who struggles with Night Eating Disorder realizes how hard it is to meet your diet goals when you have this challenge. If you don’t know what this is, you can check out my previous posts, but to sum it up, it is basically a disorder not unlike binge eating where you wake up in the middle of night and feel like you NEED to eat.

I have done a lot of work with my NED over the years and have a deep understanding for the psychology behind it, and have found great ways to manage it.

During my bulking period I had a pretty good hold on it, with some bad nights, but always applied the same rule: don’t stress about it. Let it go.

If you’re struggling with any kind of eating disorder dieting is not recommended. I only felt comfortable going into my prep because I had such a good mental and physical hold on it, and knew it was something I had been dealing with for years no matter how healthy I was.

During the last push of my diet it was definitely a challenge. As my calories dropped, when I woke in the night, I wasn’t able to step in with my usual common sense of “You don’t need to eat, you are fine, go back to bed.” I was still very conscious though, especially after all the research and hypnotherapy, so would eat a small snack or meal and go back to bed. On the last haul of low calories of prep this was challenging however as I would often reach for calorie dense snacks likes nuts or dried fruits which would mess with my meal plan and leave me with little fuel for the day.

I chose to simply do my best. I didn’t beat myself up. I tried to balance it with my day eating. I reminded myself that this was a very short term thing for a big goal and soon I’d be eating a healthy amount again.


I wrote in my journal: ‘Going past comfort is where the true glory is! Pushing sucks in the moment but is SO deeply rewarding after.’

This was a huge lesson in my whole prep. I learned that to truly change my body and mind I had to push to a new level. Pushing feels impossible in the moment - as you are pushing past your comfort zone and previously set limits - but reveals another level when you do. I found this in my lifts, in my running, even in pushing harder in the discipline with my diet. When I see the improvements in my physique from last year, I am flooded with memories of the PUSH, knowing this is what allowed me to grow new muscle tissue. My coach was a huge help in this. Some days I wanted to cry on the leg press or doing squats, but I kept going, and felt deeply rewarded every time I did.



Competing forces me to let go of a lot of my shit.

My shit includes: questioning my worth, playing small, feeling alone, being anxious, underestimating myself, self doubt.

This is a fear mindset and it is not the true me. I know, deeply in my heart, that I am worthy of all of my dreams and desires, that I have an important role on this earth, that I am loved and supported, that worrying helps nothing and that I have great value in what I provide in my work and in my relationships.

When you are in the depths of competition prep you are vulnerable. Tired. Hungry. Pushing through the days. Giving your best in all you do despite the inner battle. A lot of my “shit” came up, but it felt less and less like mine. I worked through it. Realized it for what it was and released. There was some crying. Some bad days. But unlike in the past, I brought these feelings into the light and looked with them and communicated them as clearly as I could with those around me.

The biggest win for me this competition was the amount of people who reached out to me after the show telling them they felt like it was their show too. That I inspired them. That I made them stronger. THIS. THIS. THIS IS WHAT I LIVE FOR. My heart is full.


We are all spiritual bodies having a human experience.

While I had challenges with my body in the past - judging it, comparing it; being unkind to it - I’ve let that go.

Throughout my bulking period, gaining around 10 lbs of muscle and some body fat, and then dieting to get as lean as possible (losing body fat while maintaining muscle), I loved my body through the whole process. I don’t compare my body to anyone elses. I don’t speak to it unkindly. I have so much respect for it and what it is capable of. I can look at it with a bodybuilding eye and see where I need to improve, but it is not where I rest my worth.

Bodybuilding is simply a great way for me to express myself, improve inside and out, and build.


Stepping on stage as a Pro means you have dedicated yourself to going to the next level with your body.

While I am SO proud of what I have created, I still see the work that needs to be done, and was honored to take second place against a better seasoned and conditioned competitor.

I am still very young in my bodybuilding years as I started lifting around 4-5 years ago in my late twenties. The physiques I admire have years on me. But I am motivated. I have made incredible progress in a short time and have no doubt that I will continue to improve over the years.



One of my big goals for this show was to “flow”. To handle challenges with grace. To improvise with my routine and feel comfortable on stage.

I was thrown a few curveballs, including having my period show day, being put on stage before I could fix my tan, suit or get a pump on, and more. I owned it all as gracefully as one could and am proud of that.


I’m so proud. I’m so grateful. I had more support than ever before on this prep which has been an incredibly healing and rewarding experience. My coach, Jacob, was there through the whole experience and even backstage with me. My incredible husband was patient through all of my challenges, and after the show, showed me a deep level of respect for my hard work which I am holding closely to my heart. I also had help in my recovery (Glacier Bar Carmel and Dr.Barkalow), my posing (Sarah Malone and Bing Fit), my aesthetics (NakedTan Carmel and o2 Skin Renu), and my diet with my online coach Red (who I’ve been working with for 5 years and highly recommend). More importantly I had you - dear reader, and all of the incredible online support from my growing community here.

I will soon post about my next goals. In the meantime I’m easing back into routine and still drinking it all in. Thank you for coming along for the journey.

A special thank you to my sponsors and glam squad: Naked Tan Carmel, Glacier Bar (recovery), Max Fit, Dentelle Lingerie, Ravish Sands (my suit) and Ericka Engleman Couture (my robe), o2 Skin Renu (my skin!)

Gillian YoungComment