The Struggle is Real: Devoted to Unveiling All Sides of Competing
Name: Victoria Segrave
Occupation: Online Trainer and Competition Coach
Location: New York
Thank you so much for agreeing to share your story Victoria. My blog has always been dedicated to spilling the truth in this industry. I appreciate your willingness to join me in being honest with your struggles, in hopes of helping others. I know you have had your fair shares of ups and downs in this industry which is why I reached out to feature you, and congrats on your success! That being said, can you fill us in on a little background about yourself previous to competing and becoming a WBFF Bikini Pro?
Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to share my story, struggles and successes. I aim to share the reality of fitness every chance I get. I commend you on you #TheStruggleIsReal blog because it gives people the ability to relate to various females on their journeys.
Growing up my parents always involved me in sports. I danced for 9 years and played softball from elementary school through high school. Looking back, I noticed that although I played sports I wasn’t as involved in it as I could have been. I was more concerned with my social status and making money. I worked my butt off maintaining three jobs through high school. I think because I was always “bigger” than my friends that I had to work extra hard to be liked and to fit in. I had a great group of friends; many of our peers would have classified us as the “popular” bunch. I took part in an irresponsible activity in high school which caused me to sit out for the majority of the softball season during my senior year. That is where my sports involvement ceased. Instead of going to practice or games after school, I’d go driving around with friends, go eat fast food or go shopping. After graduation, I stayed at a local community college while my friends went off to college. I spent my time out of class putting all my efforts into working my way from a front desk job (that I entered into my freshman year of high school), into a management position at New York Sport Clubs. I started lifting weights in 2011 after being prescribed anxiety medication due to a painful relationship I was in. Working out was an outlet for me. It allowed me to put unwanted energy into something positive.
I believe your first show was in 2012? And previous to that you have self admitted that you were overweight? What made you decide to compete and what was your first prep like?
Yes, in high school and through my childhood I was bigger than all the kids my age. I was extremely self-conscious and lacked self-esteem. In my junior year of high school I was out of school for 2 months with mono. In that time I went from 155 pounds to 125, a weight I always desired to be at. Also in that time of weight loss I started dating a guy I personally thought was way out of my league. A guy I didn’t think I would have gotten to notice me at 155 pounds. As time went on, the weight slowly began creeping on, while the abuse from my boyfriend got more frequent. The verbal and mental abuse was more damaging in the long run than then the physical abuse. After two and a half years I decided to join a commercial weight loss program. I thought that if I could lose the weight, maybe the abuse would stop as well. In time, I lost about 15 pounds but the torture in my relationship stayed. Although, the weight loss gave me the confidence to stop taking the various abuse and break free from someone who didn’t care about me.
I started putting my energy and free time into the gym where I met an incredible guy who shared many of the same passions I did. He pushed me to do things out of my comfort zone and supported my decision to compete. I hired a local coach and met with her once a week for a training session. Three weeks prior to the show, my coach wasn’t really as hands on as she should have been. A coach at my local gym decided to take me under her wing and put me on an incredibly unsafe diet. I was eating strictly tilapia and asparagus with very minimal carbs five to six times per day. I was also doing cardio for two hours per day. My prep took over my life. I had no time for friends, family or boyfriend. I wasn’t performing well at my job. And, my emotions and mood swings made it impossible to be around me. I wasn’t able to enjoy the experience because I was so desperate for it to finally be over.
After your first show, how would you describe the weeks following? How did you handle eating? Working out? Your mental state? How was this different from the way you viewed exercise and diet previous to ever competing?
After my first show I had a serious distorted relationship with food. Three weeks prior to the show my coach had me on white fish, asparagus and VERY limited carbs six times per day. I recall having a few strawberries one day and being yelled at for not sticking to the plan.
After years of my childhood dreaming about this body, I wasn’t going to lose it. I saw that lean proteins, limited carbs and vegetables got me to that point, therefor that’s what I kept on doing. I ate five to six times per day, very low fats, dairy and complex carbs, and a large quantity of protein and vegetables.
Prior to competing, I loved working out! As I mentioned, it was an escape from life. I didn’t need my anxiety medication because working out was outlet. I did limited cardio and enjoyed seeing improvements in my weights on a weekly basis. Post show, I found working out to be a chore and stressful. I did cardio for an hour per day burning at least 500 calories and then lifted weights for an hour and a half to two hours.
I know you have also openly discussed your eating disorder where you said you were bulimic, anorexic, and an exercise bulimic. What was this experience like and what would you say these behaviors were mostly contributed to?
After my second show when I went Pro, I felt like I had an image to uphold. I was being watched by family, friends, peers I graduated with, ect. To maintain this look, I made sure to work out in a fasted state, burning a minimum of 1,200 calories. I didn’t eat more than 900 calories per day. These calories came from protein, vegetables and little to no fats. I excluded dairy and complex carbs completely. My mind was totally consumed and obsessed with calories, meal timing and exercise. I was always in control of how much I ate, when I ate and how it was made. If I had to go someplace where I wasn’t in control of the food, I’d purge the first chance I got.
After being in recovery and sifting through my childhood, competing streak and character defects I believe a lot of these tendencies came from lack of control in my life. Growing up, I didn’t control my weight nor had control on what people thought of me. In my relationships, I didn’t exercise my control during the abuse I went through. When I finally discovered the ability to control what I put into my body and how to maintain a certain look, I went overboard and took it to extreme measures.
How many shows have you done since your first and why do you or didn’t you continue to compete?
I competed in my first show April of 2012. November 2012 I decided to compete with the WBFF where I won my pro card. I decided to take time off in 2013 and 2014 to focus on treatment for my eating disorder, mending my severely damaged hormones and to rediscover why I fell in love with fitness in the beginning. It was incredibly hard to make the decision to step away from the stage. Seeing others competing and the success they were having made me want to go back in the worst way. However, I knew my health was more important that stepping on stage. I knew one day I’d want to have a family and that wouldn’t be possible if I weren’t back to competing so soon.
What would you say your strongest and weakest moments or most significant moments in your journey were?
My strongest moment was developing a deep relationship with God, and having the ability to give my life and decisions along with my power to God – my Higher Power. There were severe times where I felt like over exercising, under eating or purging. I was able to give those urges over to God through prayer and simply have faith that I was on the right track.
My weakest moments were avoiding social functions in fear of foods and drinks being served. I’d fake being sick to avoid going to family dinners. I’d lie to friends and say I had previous plans to avoid going to bars. I spent countless nights alone, in the comfort of my own home, with my own foods. I missed out on so many memories.
As stated, this series of interviews are to really develop the underlying issues, physically, mentally, and psychologically that affect us on the inside and are often not seen from the outside. What would you say your biggest “hidden struggle” is today?
I think my biggest struggle today is fighting the urge to compare myself to those on social media, and, exercising the tools I’ve learned to deviate me away from comparing myself.
What advice would you give to someone in your position, what has helped you find some balance? What helped you overcome your ED?
The best advice I could give is to go slow! Only a small amount of the population truly loves fitness. It’s such a rare and precious hobby to enjoy and yet we obsess and tend to take it to extremes so quickly. I strongly advise people not to go to extremes simply to step on stage. The stage will ALWAYS be there. There’s no need to put your health, social life, relationships and sanity at risk for a brief moment on stage.
Another piece of advice I’d love to give is to look into a flexible dieting approach. A traditional “bro” diet made me obsess over foods and meal timing. It fueled my eating disorders. A flexible diet put’s no label on foods such as “bad” or “good”, “dirty” or “clean”. You don’t have to stress or miss family/social functions. You learn how valuable carbohydrates are in athletic performance. You learn balance and most importantly are able to maintain this approach forever.
I know you are now a big advocate of IIFYM and are eating a very sustainable amount of carbs and fats and staying lean. Was the transition to IIFYM hard for you based on the fact that you were so pre-programmed to certain food groups as “bad” or “off-limits”?
At first, when I made the transition I stuck to the foods I was comfortable with. Complex carbs, lean proteins, healthy fats, dairy, fruits and vegetables. I made these foods fit within my daily intake. I still ate five to six times per day, every few hours. During this time I was also researching and educating myself on macronutrients. I was experimenting with “cheat foods” on a regular basis, as I learned about the role food takes in the body, how food is broken down, and the “bro-science” myths that has been circulating in the fitness industry for years..
Was the process of reverse dieting to help fix your metabolism hard? How did you stick to restricting macros while trusting the process to increase your intake in hopes of having a more sustainable intake? What is the mental part of that journey like?
It was an extreme mental rollercoaster for me having to increase my intake after restricting calories for so long. I did it very slowly and increased a few hundred calories each week. I reversed and worked on mending my hormones, metabolism, and strength for about a year. Although, I wish I could go back and approach my food increase, knowing what I know now about “reverse dieting”. Prolonging a reverse diet only keeps you in a deficit for a longer amount of time. It took me two and a half years to regain my period and get my hormones back to functioning levels because I took so long to get to my maintenance calories. So although I reversed at a speed that was in accordance with my mental state, I wish I would have knew the effects it had on my hormones and such.
How has social media/the fitness industry influenced the way you view yourself?
When I was getting ready to compete and even after I initially turned pro, I looked to social media to validate my journey, I compared myself to others and I found myself portraying someone I wasn’t, posting things I thought my followers wanted to see. For instance, I saw a lot of well known fitness advocates posting their “cheat meals” or typical fun meals. At that point, I was still deep in my eating disorder. I couldn’t imagine eating some of those things, even if they were only once a week. Anyway, I made this one post with a picture of my meal consisting of steak, fries and dessert. I made this long caption about how good it felt to eat these things and the importance of a cheat meal to maintain balance in life. Well, in reality, I worked out for three hours that day and starved myself until that meal. The steak and fries were on a commercial restaurants “skinny menu”, less than 500 calories and the dessert was around 120 calories.
A few short months after this incident I deactivated all of my social media while I was in recovery. I knew I had to take a step away from the pressure of people looking at me for inspiration, and me constantly comparing, idolizing and almost obsessing over other fitness pages and athletes. Doing this allowed me to really focus on loving myself from within, having confidence in my journey and creating my relationship with God.
When I had a solid foundation of all these things, I returned to social media with a different perspective. If I was denying my journey and misleading others, how did I know they weren’t doing the same? I didn’t. Therefore, I had to focus on myself and being true to my followers on my current journey. I began talking about my struggles, recovery and exactly what I was going through and the path I was taking to incorporate balance in my life.
After that point, after I was one hundred percent myself, I began creating awesome feedback and relationships with others. These people watched my highs and lows and gave me encouragement, positive vibes and supported me. I was getting messages that I was motivating, inspiring and communicating with people going through similar situations. Social media then turned into a tool I was able to use to reach others. I am able to market myself as a person who was in this deep common struggle, who found herself out of that struggle and who can help other as well.
How has your body image changed over time?
At first, I was only concerned with getting the skinniest and leanest I could get. I did unhealthy things to maintain that look. I sacrificed my health, sanity, and most upsetting of all, memories with my boyfriend, family and friends.
I still aim to have visible muscle definition and a relatively lean appearance. However, I’m more concerned now, with in taking the appropriate macro and micro nutrients to maintain proper hormone function, fueling my body for heavy lifts and muscle growth. I’m more concerned with how I look and feel versus others in the gym or on social media because I don’t know what they truly do to maintain that look. Yes, there are area’s I’m still striving to grow, but that’s why I fell in love with bodybuilding. You can literally sculpt your body however you envision it.
What motivates you today? Has that motivation changed since you started?
In the beginning, seeing the changes I was making and proving to those who knew me as being “bigger” motivated me. Currently, fellow coaches on Major Gainz Fitness and my clients motivates me more than anything ever has.
I’m surrounded by people on my team and fellow coaches who are striving to break the norm in the fitness industry; all while backing statements with scientific research. They have a passion and desire to learn the science and continue learning as research evolves. The enthusiasm and knowledge is incredibly motivating.
My clients have such an incredible attitude and trust in me, as well as the process. What motivates me about them is that they aren’t willing to compromise their health for quick fix solutions. They refuse to eat low calorie, restrictive diets because they know that it’s not maintainable for life. My clients are in this for the long haul and they want it to be a lifestyle change. Seeing the impact us flexible dieters are making on others in incredibly refreshing.
If you could do it all over again, would you?
I believe everything happens for a reason. If I could go back, I wouldn’t change anything about my journey. I went through those deep and dark addictions for a reason. I overcame those difficult times with faith in God, and valuable tools to get me through every day struggle. I found things out about myself that will allow me to push through hard times and doubt. And most importantly, I’m able to help others lead healthier lives in a safe and maintainable manner with everything I’ve learned.
What are your upcoming career goals, and how do you plan to pursuit your future with incorporating balance in your life?
Right now I’m focusing on growing as an online coach. I truly love doing what I’m doing and I’m investing all my time in promoting balance while helping others. I lost so much time and memories with my boyfriend, family and friends by solely focusing on nutrition and fitness. I now make time for my career while balancing the important relationships in my life. No matter what happens in the future, I’ll always strive to balance my relationships.
If you are interested in following Victoria’s journey you can do so through the following channels:
Email: [email protected]