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Personally for me, the past few years have been a period of clean up…. Digging deep into the dirty places I had been avoiding for a long time. This year, I feel so much lighter, so much more nimble and so much more alive. Free, even. Sure, I still have more cleaning up to do (don’t we all have emotional baggage!?) but I’m at a much better place than I was a couple years ago in January. If I told you I had multiple breakdowns, trouble breathing when I saw people I couldn’t trust, and that I lost nearly all my confidence in myself, my career, and my leadership – would you believe me? I was so unhappy because I let other people dictate my self worth. Well let me tell you guys. In life, there will be really low lows and really high highs. But you cannot stay down when you’re down. You must rise again. Because it is in the rise where you will find yourself again. It’s in the rise where you will know who’s really on your team. It’s in the rise where you will build the strength to crush the thing that once crushed you. So far, Jan 2020 has been good to me. I am happy. I am alive. And I am grateful. I love who I am surrounded by, and I am inspired to create – no longer bound by other people’s judgement. It feels SO GOOD. See More

What Cassey Ho’s Bikini Competition Days Taught Her About Plastic Surgery

@blogilates/Instagram

As the number of plastic surgeries performed each year continues to rise, the body-positive community has been buzzing about cosmetic procedures: Are they an empowering choice, or a way to cover up insecurities? When fitness influencer and Blogilates founder Cassey Ho referred to her one-time wish for breast implants on Instagram last week, we had to learn more about her take.

A little background: Ho’s #ThrowbackThursday post provided a glimpse at her bikini competition days. The photo, taken in 2012, shows Ho and three other bronzed women clad in tiny swimsuits.

In the caption, Ho writes that she noticed that day that the women who placed in the top five all had one thing in common: breast implants. “t led me to believe that if I wanted to be a winner, I’d need to get breast implants too,” she wrote. “The problem was…the reason for changing my body wasn’t for myself. I wanted to change my body for a panel of judges I didn’t even know.”

RELATED: These Are the Risks of Breast Implants, According to a Surgeon

Ho didn’t end up going through with the plastic surgery she so desperately wanted. In an interview with Health, she explainedthat she decided to move on from bikini competitions when she realized she had lost her passion for exercise. “I was only working out to see physical results, that was it,” she says. “Working out for vanity isn’t going to fulfill your soul.”

So Ho returned to the physical activities she used to love: dancing and pilates. And since then her joy and enthusiasm for fitness has attracted some 1.4 million followers on Instagram and 3.8 million subscribers on YouTube.

WATCH: Cassey Ho’s 7-Move Total Body Workout

Sign Up for Cassey Ho’s 30-Day Total Body Challenge

While she’s no longer interested in plastic surgery herself, Ho believes the decision to have a cosmetic procedure is entirely personal. As she wrote on Instagram, “100% do it if it’s for you.” But if you’re doing it to try to please someone else, think twice, she warns. “Changing you body to make someone else happy is a NO-NO.”

In our interview, Ho went on urge celebrities and other influencers to disclose any work they’ve had done, since the effects can have such a powerful effect on young women in the age of social media. “If you take a selfie and say it’s a no-makeup selfie, some girl is going to look at that and be like, Oh my god, I’ll never look like that, even if you’ve had fillers and injections,” she explains. “Especially with a group of young women still figuring out what makes them beautiful and confident, it’s important to disclose the truth. Just say it and own it if you do get .”

And for anyone looking for a way to feel more confident without going under the knife, Ho suggests shifting your focus from how you look to what you can do: “What makes me confident is when I’m working on something and get better and better at it…. It’s being able to practice and refine a skill that builds that confident feeling.”

Ho also recommends making a similar mental shift when it comes to your fitness. Rather than targeting a number on the scale or a specific physical change (say, a six-pack), choose strength and endurance goals, such as holding a plank for a full minute, for example, or beating your 3-mile PR. You’ll be more likely to reach your goals, she says. “Plus it makes the journey more fun, too.”

A bikini competitor felt pressured to get breast implants because everyone else had them (iStock)

As the number of plastic surgeries performed each year continues to rise, the body-positive community has been buzzing about cosmetic procedures: Are they an empowering choice, or a way to cover up insecurities? When fitness influencer and Blogilates founder Cassey Ho referred to her one-time wish for breast implants on Instagram last week, we had to learn more about her take.

A little background: Ho’s #ThrowbackThursday post provided a glimpse at her bikini competition days. The photo, taken in 2012, shows Ho and three other bronzed women clad in tiny swimsuits.

In the caption, Ho writes that she noticed that day that the women who placed in the top five all had one thing in common: breast implants. “t led me to believe that if I wanted to be a winner, I’d need to get breast implants too,” she wrote. “The problem was…the reason for changing my body wasn’t for myself. I wanted to change my body for a panel of judges I didn’t even know.”

RELATED: THESE ARE THE RISKS OF BREAST IMPLANTS, ACCORDING TO A SURGEON

Ho didn’t end up going through with the plastic surgery she so desperately wanted. In an interview with Health, she explained that she decided to move on from bikini competitions when she realized she had lost her passion for exercise. “I was only working out to see physical results, that was it,” she says. “Working out for vanity isn’t going to fulfill your soul.”

So Ho returned to the physical activities she used to love: dancing and pilates. And since then her joy and enthusiasm for fitness has attracted some 1.4 million followers on Instagram and 3.8 million subscribers on YouTube.

While she’s no longer interested in plastic surgery herself, Ho believes the decision to have a cosmetic procedure is entirely personal. As she wrote on Instagram, “100% do it if it’s for you.” But if you’re doing it to try to please someone else, think twice, she warns. “Changing you body to make someone else happy is a NO-NO.”

In our interview, Ho went on urge celebrities and other influencers to disclose any work they’ve had done, since the effects can have such a powerful effect on young women in the age of social media. “If you take a selfie and say it’s a no-makeup selfie, some girl is going to look at that and be like, Oh my god, I’ll never look like that, even if you’ve had fillers and injections,” she explains. “Especially with a group of young women still figuring out what makes them beautiful and confident, it’s important to disclose the truth. Just say it and own it if you do get .”

And for anyone looking for a way to feel more confident without going under the knife, Ho suggests shifting your focus from how you look to what you can do: “What makes me confident is when I’m working on something and get better and better at it…. It’s being able to practice and refine a skill that builds that confident feeling.”

Ho also recommends making a similar mental shift when it comes to your fitness. Rather than targeting a number on the scale or a specific physical change (say, a six-pack), choose strength and endurance goals, such as holding a plank for a full minute, for example, or beating your 3-mile PR. You’ll be more likely to reach your goals, she says. “Plus it makes the journey more fun, too.”

Inspirational PIIT28 Before and Afters!

Hey guys!

OMG! Your PIIT28 transformations are endless! I’m seriously blown away every time I search the hashtag #PIIT28 on IG and see all your amazing progress. No matter what round you’re on, I can see how much stronger you’re getting! And you know what? It’s not just from looking at your pics – it’s from reading your captions. You guys know how much dedication and hard work it takes to stick to a workout plan. You know that it’s both physically and mentally demanding. But, you did it. You’re DOING it. And I’m SO PROUD OF YOU ALL!

Here are some real deal before and after progress pics from the Spring 2016 season of PIIT28!

Meet Shannon, @go.mommybear

“PIIT day 84 is the last day of PIIT28 2.0! The before pic on the left was taken on March 1st at 3.5 weeks postpartum and the pic on the right is today at 16 weeks postpartum. I have seen such an improvement in my body and my mind. Thank you PIIT28!”

Meet Corina, @chill678

“Wow! You guys! The biggest difference I see right when I look at this is my confidence! In my before picture, the lighting was darker, I was slouching, I wasn’t smiling – clearly I wasn’t happy about doing this before picture … I see such a huge difference in my current photo. The lighting is brighter, I am stranding taller and straighter and I’m smiling. I feel amazing. So here’s my story for any of you who ma not really know my journey. I lost 25 lbs 4 years ago doing POP Pilates with Blogilates and I was the most confident I have ever been in my life. And living on an island, always being at the beach, the pressure to feel good in your own skin is even higher here, and for the first time ever I felt great in a bikini, but something happened to my body after we got back from our Mexico/Jamaica trip in 2014, I started gaining weight and wouldn’t stop. I don’t eat bad nor do I drink that much anymore so I couldn’t understand why, I was working out with POP Pilates still and following the calendar but my rive and focus wasn’t up to par as I like it to be, I just wasn’t happy or motivated, and I continued to gain all the 25 lbs back plus ten more, but then Cassey introduced PIIT28 to us and I initially was really excited to try it but was hesitant if I paid for it, would I even stick with it and I told myself give it two weeks and see how you feel … Well I never looked back and I wake up everyday motivated by each and every POPster and PIITster in the community that I see on Instagram. That motivates me to get into my POPFLEX gear and head to the mat! Seeing my before and after picture really makes me feel elated knowing that all the sweat that drips out of my body, all the pain my muscles feel doing plank jacks, and dead man walking was all worth it! I am so thankful for the program Cassey has introduced as it has given me a whole new perspective on being confident in my own skin – strong really is the new skinny! I am down 10lbs and 11 inches in 3 months! The journey of my transformation continues!”

Meet Jalé, @popster_23

“I finished PIIT 2.0 yesterday and I can’t believe I’ve stuck with the PIIT program for 84 days. The results are beyond amazing and I am so much stronger than when I started March 1st.”

Meet Emily, @popgoddessemily

“I am the WORST at before and after photos lmao, like I never have any continuity. Oh, well. Today was the last day of PIIT28 2.0 – crazy!! The last 3 months have been so transformative. I look and feel so much stronger – when I cross in front of a mirror I think, “damn!!” I think everyone should love their body as it is, but there is a certain type of pride in knowing you worked hard to improve yourself like this. To everyone still in the middle of the program, YOU’RE DOING AWESOME DON’T GIVE UP! And if today was your last day, CONGRATULATIONS, and who’s going to join me for a second round of 2.0??”

Meet, Courtney @piit.fit

“Day 28: before and after. How do put into words how I feel? The past 28 days have been amazing. I have become my own motivation and inspiration. I feel unstoppable and I feel strong. I am so excited to continue this journey right into round 2.”

Meet Kristen, @piitbridekristen

“I cannot believe these photos! Here are my before and day 28 afters that I took yesterday. I lost 8 lbs and 9 inches overall! I am so unbelievably pumped right now!! You better believe I’m doing another round! I feel so much better and stronger than I did 28 days ago. In fact, just finished my day 29 workout!! I also have to give credit where it is due in my diet. I’ve been doing The 28 Day Reset in conjunction with PIIT28 and I think it has made all the difference. Yummy food, no calorie counting and amazing results! What more could I ask for!? I even cheated a little and still got amazing results.”

Meet MacKenzie, @mackiee.d

“PIIT has been super easy to follow and commit to every day. I love how clear it is each week that I’m getting stronger. More than any other workout program I’ve followed, I’m seeing myself build muscle rather than just losing weight. I’ve been doing Blogilates for 4 years and I feel like Cassey and I are best friends.”

Meet Amanda, @amandalates_xo

“PIIT day 84 so here it is! I really am the worst at taking before and after pictures but ohh well! I’m still trying not to focus on vanity, and measure my progress by how I feel … Which is AMAZING! The before picture on the left was actually at the start of PIIT 2.0 and I was crazy bloated! I’ve noticed the most difference in the upper part of my stomach area – definitely flattened out a bit. Dresses that were tight on me in that area last summer are NOT tight in that area anymore! I did another comparison photo of my original day 1 photo vs. day 84 in the same mirror pose and it looks comparable to the pictures here. I probably should have turned on the light and not just rely on natural lighting. Anyways, I’m feeling truly amazing. I went outside tanning in my backyard yesterday for the first time this summer and was really loving how I felt in my bikini. May even post one of the photos I took! I started PIIT 2.0 again today and will continue doing it this week until I’m told what to do next. Also mixing in practicing POP 5 because my POP Pilates training will be here before I know it and I can’t wait!”

Meet Bim, @bibimpopster

“Day 28! Never in my wildest dreams that I’ll be determined enough to finish such a challenge and achieve something like this. Thank you so much Blogilates for inspiring me and the whole #PIITfam as well. I have the Blogilates timer but I usually get bored… I prefer using the videos to hear Cassey’s voice like she became my workout buddy. It takes 21 days to form a habit…we”re on the 28th!! I will continue for the 2nd round after my father’s operation and a short vacay and that’s after 2 weeks. I will surely miss it, but I promise to come back and I’ll keep you posted for the “progress report.”

Meet Alicia, @blogilates_alicia13

“Ok, so I’ve been really bad about posting stuff this month, but I wanted to post my Day 1 to PIIT day 84 pic! Holy crap! I’ll be honest, I didn’t do very well with the workouts during PIIT 2.0; I really miss Cassey’s calendar and her videos, so I’ll probably go back to doing that. But even though I didn’t get all of the workouts in, I tried to stay active and eat well, and I think that helped a lot! Overall, I’m really glad I participated in PIIT28 and I would definitely do it again.”

Meet Jennifer, @littlejuicebox

“Finished PIIT28. This is my before/after photo and I’m really proud of the changes I’ve made to my body. I feel stronger, more flexible and above all that a little bit more confident in my own skin. Although it took me a few days longer than the 29 scheduled, I’m so glad I completed it, and can’t wait to do it all again with some added strength training! Until next month’s progress pic …”

Meet Brina, @fitbribri

“Arms and back progress is the most rewarding. I know it’s tough to stay motivated doing any sort of arm working or plank-based move, but pushing through and staying mentally strong will help you go so far! I love fitness because it allows me to test not only my physical strength, but also my mental. How far are you willing to go?”

Meet Katie, @popwithkatie

“YOU GUYS! We made it – it’s time to post our before and after PIIT pictures! I gotta say, it’s been awesome. It has been so much fun to go through both PIT 1.0 and 2.0 and watch us all get stronger, fitter, and more confident. I don’t think I’ve ever posted a bikini picture online before – it feels weird but also kinda awesome 🙂 PIIT has changed me, not just physically, but mentally too. I push myself farther, hold my head higher, and expect a little more from myself each and every day! Fitness is a journey – a marathon, and not a race – and getting in my 28 minutes of intense cardio and Pilates in every day gets me that much closer to MY finish line. I don’t ever weigh myself, but I do like to measure myself – since starting PIIT, I’ve lost 5 inches overall and I feel so much more toned! My cardio has also improved tremendously, running has gotten easier and I actually like burpees now! I’m so proud of how far I’ve come and am so excited about how much farther PIIT and you amazing POPsters will take me! Onward to the next challenge!”

****

All of your stories completely amaze me! I am honestly so proud of you all. You inspire ME to be stronger, fitter and faster! This community isn’t just about looking a certain way. It’s about pushing your limits and reaching YOUR potential. We are a team and we are here to encourage each other!

If it’s your first time completing PIIT28 1.0, then I suggest doing a second round before doing 2.0. If you just completed 2.0 then I would suggest completing 2.0 again! This time you will notice a HUGE increase in strength and endurance. I can’t wait to see your progress after the next 28 days!

It’s a beautiful, rainy morning here in Lubbock, Texas, today. I should be grabbing my running shoes and my road companion to go out for a jog in it! The only problem with that is, my running companion gets ear infections when he gets water in his ears. 😦

Jan 30, 2015

I went to the gym last night after my boyfriend brought me home some pad Thai for dinner… mmm, a big yummy bowl of carbs! The thought was nice, but I don’t think he gets my goal and how I’m getting there. So, like the polite Southern girl that I am, I ate enough of that pad Thai to get by with, and hauled my butt-in-progress to the gym!

And at the gym, I worked my butt off! I ran 2 miles straight (5mph) on the treadmill to start with. Then I went over to do some squats and lunges with a weight ball (the ones with handles on the side) with a few other Pilates type leg exercises. It turned into a 2nd leg day, basically, which is good since the leg muscles are the biggest muscles in your body and burn the most calories, right? I also did a bunch of abs, mostly lower abs. I worked the heck out of my abs!!

Aside from the pad Thai for dinner, I did fairly good yesterday on food, too. I had this Western style omelet for breakfast, with a side of fruit instead of hash browns. I didn’t end up eating the whole wheat toast. Or the weird blueberry cream stuff that came on top of my fruit. I drank coffee with no-calorie sweetener and some cream.

For lunch I made a quick run to Subway and got a flat bread sandwich, and didn’t eat the baked Lays potato chips that came with it. Still drinking lots of water!

Today… is the last day of the #JanYOUary workout calendar and yesterday was the last of #30DayFlatAbs. That means we’ll be getting a brand new calendar, #FABruary, sometime today! We are also getting a new 30 day calendar to tone up the booty – the #30DayButtLift Challenge! Oh my gosh, I’m so excited about this!

So today is the last Fat Burn Focus workout. Cardio, cardio, cardio. I usually just do my own cardio instead of the cardio videos, so I’ll probably do the same and head to the gym again today.

Before and After

So here’s my next Before/After for this year! It looks like #JanYOUary and #30DayFlatAbs was overall a pretty good success for me! (Just ignore the fact that I just got out of bed and haven’t showered yet today. I know, I look a little rough!)

I can see a lot of difference in my stomach, which is my biggest area in need of progress.

The scale? Well, I actually gained weight since my last Before/After photo on 1/9/15, but my body fat percentage has gone down, and obviously you can see some toning up going on. The scale is not always the best indicator of progress!!!

Today’s weight: 151.4 lbs

Body Fat Percentage: 32.5 %

How Blogilates Star Cassey Ho Deals With Body Criticism

I came up with the idea for POP Pilates—a fusion of ab-chiseling and total-body strengthening moves choreographed to POP music—while I was attending Whittier College in California and working at a gym on the side. I was inspired and motivated by music, so I combined it with Pilates to make the workout more intense and fun. Then, when I had graduated and was about to move to the East Coast, I posted my first workout video on YouTube as a farewell to my students in California.

When I started making YouTube videos, the negative comments I received were mostly about my workouts. But as my channel started to grow, so did the number of nasty comments directed toward my body.

People would say that my stomach was too big, my boobs were too small or that I “didn’t look fit enough to be a fitness instructor.” All of these comments were clearly ridiculous. My ability to teach Pilates has nothing to do with how my body looks; being a good instructor means motivating and inspiring people to reach their potential, and my physical appearance is irrelevant to that.

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Still, the cruelty honestly overwhelmed me and really upset me at first.

As the frequency of these comments kept increasing and the words became more hurtful, I decided to turn the situation into something positive. I’m not the only person who’s had hateful comments directed toward them, so I thought, “Why not do something that will raise awareness of online bullying and help other people going through the same thing?”

I made a video in which I took specific comments from people and literally changed myself to “fit” their standards. I used Photoshop to make my stomach ridiculously small and increased the size of my boobs and my butt. In the video, I wondered whether the haters would be happy now that I’d changed into what they thought I should be—or if they would still have something negative to say. I wanted to make a point that it’s ridiculous to judge someone based on what they look like.

One thing that really helped me ignore the barrage of body criticism was realizing that, sadly, it might never go away. People will always have their opinions, even though they aren’t always true. So I just focus on all the positive things I’m doing.

Since the one thing haters want is attention, I refuse to give it to them. I refuse to waste my energy and time focusing on negativity. Instead, I create positivity and live my life teaching others, helping others and spreading love to the Blogilates community. Negativity and hate have no place in my life.

Cassey Ho is an award-winning fitness instructor, entrepreneur and online personality. She is the creator of Blogilates, the #1 female fitness channel on Youtube with over 300 million video views and 2.8 million subscribers.

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Blogilates’ Cassey Ho Shares Her #1 Weight-Loss Trick

Cassey Ho-founder of the über-popular blog Blogilates, pop-music-fueled Pilates YouTube videos called Pop Pilates, the HIIT-Pilates mash-up called PIIT28, and a super-cute activewear line-didn’t always have an Insta-perfect life. She recently opened up on Instagram about how she had a tough childhood (including living in “a converted wooden garage. 1 bed, 1 bath for 4 people,” where it would flood when it rained too hard).

So how did Ho turn into the sixth most influential fitness professional of the modern age, according to Forbes? A lot of hard work, staying humble, and keeping her priorities straight with the three things she says are integral to remaining a functional human: a supportive squad, a daily workout (try Ho’s Slim in 20 workout), and enough sleep.

There was a while, however, when that last one wasn’t so obvious: “I used to think I could get more done if I slept less,” says Ho. “Sometimes I used to sneak a workout at 12 a.m. or edit videos until 3 or 4 a.m., and then just wake up at a regular hour and be so sleep-deprived… I was doing that for years since high school.”

“I realized it started taking a toll on my body,” she says. “It was hard for me to lose weight.” She couldn’t figure out why, and turned to doctors for answers. When Western doctors couldn’t figure it out, she turned to naturopathic ones, who told her that she had incredibly high cortisol (stress hormone) levels, which increase lower belly fat. The culprit? Lack of sleep, which sends levels of that hormone sky-high. (Here’s all the science behind why sleep is the most important thing for weight loss.)

Now, Ho says she tries to get seven or eight hours and be in bed before midnight: “I didn’t start doing that till two years ago, but when I did, my body started to function,” she says. “I finally saw the results from all the hard work I put in versus when I wasn’t sleeping enough and I worked so hard, but nothing came of it.” (Speaking of mistakes, see Ho’s fixes for the most common Pilates mistakes.)

But now for some #realtalk: How on earth does Ho still get enough sleep when she’s busier than ever and jet-setting around the world to maintain her Pilates empire? “I really like reading right before bed because it calms my mind,” she says. “And for some people, it’s a book, and I would probably recommend that, but for some reason when I read the news, even though it can be really tumultuous at times, I think the act of reading puts me to sleep.” But when she’s constantly hopping between time zones and a regular sleep schedule isn’t an option? She swears by ZzzQuil (for which she’s become a spokesperson) to get her on-track for a great night’s sleep whether she’s in Singapore, LA, or NYC.

  • By Lauren Mazzo @lauren_mazzo

Blogilates’ Cassey Ho Reveals How a Bikini Competition Totally Changed Her Approach to Health and Fitness

In August 2015, Blogilates founder and social media Pilates sensation Cassey Ho created a viral body-positive video, The “Perfect” Body-it now has more than 11 million views on YouTube. In January 2016, she posted a #realtalk blog post about her eating disorder, and why she’ll “never diet again” (watch that video below). On April 1, 2017, she posted an April Fool’s Instagram post poking fun at the ridiculousness of quick-fix weight-loss products, Photoshop, and unrealistic body expectations.

But her body love wasn’t always *quite* on this level; it took going through a bikini competition-and wrecking her metabolism in the process-to take a big step toward finding and embracing her place in the fitness world. A place that might not be picture-perfect, but results in a helluva lot more happiness. (Can you say #LoveMyShape?)

In 2012, Ho did her first and only bikini competition, hiring a retired bodybuilder as a coach and losing 16 pounds over the course of eight weeks to get “stage ready.” Technically, losing two pounds a week is deemed safe-“but I wasn’t doing it in the right way,” says Ho. “My trainer had me barely eating anything. I was eating like 1,000 calories a day and I was working out for four hours a day … everything was impaired, like my cognitive function-I couldn’t even think well.”

Ho said she first decided to try a bikini competition when she moved from Boston to LA, wanted a fresh start, and wanted to see how far she could push herself as a fitness individual. To get there, however, she was told to limit her diet to tilapia, chicken breast, egg whites, lettuce, broccoli, and protein powder-and nothing more. “It was really unhealthy,” she says, “but because I hired this trainer, I thought, ‘Maybe that’s just how you do it.'” (Peek into another bikini competitor’s diet plan.)

Long story short, she made it on stage in a leopard-print bikini, and all her social media followers reinforced the idea that she looked ~amaze~. “When you start losing weight, people are like, ‘Wow! You look so good!’ and you kind of feed off of that,” says Ho.

But post-show, she started eating normally again-albeit still quite healthily-and her followers watched the pounds pile on. “Just adding in some quinoa, apples, etc., and I started ballooning up like a sponge,” she says. “It was pretty devastating because I had to do it in front of the camera. I do YouTube videos every week… so all of a sudden I started gaining weight in every video and people are like, ‘do your workouts even work anymore?'”

“I didn’t realize this was a kind of metabolic damage,” says Ho. Her body was starving and holding onto every calorie that came its way. “And that continued for two years,” she says.

After a couple of years of trying like crazy to lose weight, Ho threw in the towel and said: “Whatever, I’m going to have some pizza and burgers and not work out.” Tada!-she started losing weight. (Another key component of her weight-loss revelation: getting enough sleep.) At first, it was confusing (understandable!), but then Ho said she found her “balance” and realized how she wanted to fit into the fitness world: “I’ve come to realize that I am strong and it doesn’t matter how I look-it matters how I feel,” says Ho. “I’m not in competition with other women; I’m in competition with myself and who I was yesterday. That experience really helped me understand my body and where I stand in the fitness industry and why I work out.”

For some people, bikini competitions are a great fitness goal to have and perpetuate a lifestyle that makes them happy. For others-like Ho-the negatives outweigh the positives.

“Everything that happens in your life is meant to happen, and for me, I know that it’s meant to happen so I can share my story,” says Ho. “From 2012 to 2014, I was so vanity-driven because during that contest, you are being judged on how your six-pack looks and how round your butt is. Imagine that: You’re in a bikini in front of seven old men who are looking at you … and I put myself in that position! Then you walk out, and you think, ‘Why is my self-worth based on these seven people and the score that I get in a scantily clad bikini?'” (She’s not the only one who’s quit bikini competitions and is happier than ever.)

“For me, it’s about finding a workout that fits my lifestyle so I can still run my business, do everything else, and have a social life,” says Ho. “That, to me, is happiness, and when you can find that balance, that’s true success.” (Have all the feels? Ditto. These women will give you the same body-love vibes.)

  • By Lauren Mazzo @lauren_mazzo

5 Reasons Why I Will Never Compete in a Bikini Competition

*Note: I put off publishing this article for almost a year, because I didn’t want to sound like I was bashing bikini competitions. But similar to my article of Why I Stopped Eating Meat, people would ask me this question so often so I figured i’d put it down in word. Also, this blog is meant to be educational and straight-up, and I want YOU to have as much information as you can if deciding to enter a competition.

There was a time when I almost competed in a bikini competition.

You know. Bikinis. Stripper heels. Lots of sequins. Spray tans. Curled hair. Seriously, serious make up. Prancing around on stage. Pretty much the polar OPPOSITE of who I am.

I was so close to going through with it too. I was living in Vancouver, and it was 2014. Bikini competitions really had started to pick up in popularity around that time, and more and more people at my gym were telling me about them. Random strangers would approach me in the middle of a set, and ask if I was training for a bikini competition (to which I would glare at them, finish my set, take out my headphones and say “What are you asking me??!“)

Beats me why so many people were interested, but after being asked again and again, I slowly started to consider it. If you know me, you know I like to win.

No; I love to win.

And it would be easy! I was already fit, a pair of heels and a bikini were the only things I needed, right???

WRONG. So wrong. All sorts of wrong.

5 Reasons Why I Will Never Compete in a Bikini Competition

1. It Costs a LOT of Money ($1,000+)

I can’t remember exactly how much everything was going to cost, but this is approximately how much it broke down for me

  • Clear stiletto heels: $100 (off Amazon)
  • Competition Bikini: $100 (bought used from a friend)
  • Posing clinic: $65

*Note: This is where I stopped paying once I realized it was going to be much, much more than that*

Let’s not also forget about:

You think i’m finished here, but i’m not. There’s also the glue you need to keep your suit in place. All the protein and supplements that these body building companies push on you. If you’re not in the city that the competition is in, you have travel and hotel costs as well.

Sadly, lots of girls don’t know how to train for a bikini competition, so don’t forget about your training coach and your posing coach (EASILY, $500-$800 spent on coaches).

If you add that all up, it comes out to around $1,400. That doesn’t even include all the additional food/supplement intake, coaches, or travel costs. Like I said – it was way too much. I ended up selling the bikini and heels for less than I paid, and went to Cuba with Adam for half the cost.

2. Extreme Dieting Will Mess Up Your Metabolism

I don’t have too many friends that I know who have done body building competitions, but I’ve talked to a couple about it, and I also like to think I have a basic knowledge of nutrition and health. The lengths that some of these competitors will go to to lose any ounce of fat or undesirable body-weight is shocking. In the weeks leading up to a competition, their caloric intake goes way, way down. To a very unhealthy level.

For those few weeks, their body is essentially in starvation mode. I’ve seen competitors spend hours at the gym, sweating their hearts out, and hardly eat a thing afterwards. This ‘starvation mode’ means that your body is lowering its metabolic rate to burn calories slower, to make up for the deficit.

As soon as the competition is over, they bounce back with chocolate, chips, fries, burgers – basically anything they can get their beautifully manicured hands on. I’ve talked to and read from competitors that this ‘binge’ which is supposed to last one or two days, can last months and months. And since their metabolic rate has slowed down substantially, they are gaining weight much quicker than they are burning calories.

3. The Meal Plans are a Joke

Back in 2014 I googled some meal plans to get an idea of what other competitors were eating. On bodybuilding.com and muscleandfitness.com they even have a section of for meal plans for body building competitors.

Each one I found, looks VERY similar to this:

Breakfast: 2 egg whites, 1/3 cup oatmeal, 1/2 cup blueberries
Mid Morning Snack: 1 chicken breast, 1/2 sweet potato, 10 walnuts
Lunch: 1 more frigging chicken breast, 1/2 cup brown rice, 1 cup steamed broccoli
Afternoon Snack: 1 scoop whey protein, 1 tbsp peanut butter
Dinner: 1 piece tilapia, 2 cups salad, 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Ummmmm. Are u kitten me?

First off – who eats two pieces of chicken in one day. Secondly, who eats only 1 tablespoon of peanut butter. Thirdly, who wants to eat steamed broccoli with no cheese on it? Fourth, how are people getting away with charging for crap like this? ALSO – WHY WOULD ANYONE EAT A CHICKEN BREAST BETWEEN BREAKFAST AND LUNCH.

Oh my God. Enough said.

(p.s., I have a very, very good free 4-week meal plan that looks nothing like this. All you have to do is sign up)

Training for the Physique is Boring & Unfunctional

Similar to the meal plan, the training programs that I’ve clapped eyes on put me straight to sleep. And that’s coming from someone with insomnia!

In a bikini competition, the judges are judging you on your appearance. Your musculature, your glutes, waist, symmetry, etc. Because of this, the training needs to be very isolated and muscle specific to develop the ‘right’ physique. That means there are very few full body, compound movements, and instead many isolation exercises where only one single muscle group is trained.

When you train like that, the program becomes very structured, rigid, and uninspiring. Your days are given titles such as “leg/glute day, back & biceps, chest & shoulders, ab day” and so on. Both compound and isolation exercises are key to a strong workout routine, but when the latter starts to take over, it gets truly unexciting.

These training programs also LOVE high reps at low weights, which to me, is also super boring. 20-25 reps of bicep curls? I’d rather do 10 chin ups and get the same burn. I found an article written by a manager for MuscleContest which advocates the benefits of donkey kicks – when you do 4-6 sets of 100 of them. Yeah. I’m not doing 100 reps of anything. Instead i’m going to go home and enjoy my life.

It’s Demeaning, Subjective & Political

WOAH WOAH WOAH WOAHHH CHENG.

Well, I did say these are the 5 reasons why I wouldn’t compete in a bikini competition. Sorry if you find this offensive and cut throat.

I am very, VERY confident with my body and the way I look. And if I walked on stage in a bikini, after working my ass off to get ripped, lean, tanned, curled, sequined, posed and smiled my heart out, and didn’t even place in the top 3, I would be pretty upset. And pissed off.

Personally, I find it demeaning to let people judge your ass, legs, back, shoulders, face and stomach based on their subjective standards, and give you a rating on how well you compare to others. Not to mention that the reason a lot of girls decide to join bikini competitions for the first time is because they’ve lost some weight and want to stay motivated.

To stand on stage and be proud of everything you have accomplished, only to lose to the girl who’s got 5 years of experience under her sequined bikini can be a hard pill to swallow. And as competitive as I am, I wouldn’t take it easily.

And just like every other sport out there, politics are always involved. I don’t know too much about that aspect, but have heard things here and there. There’s no point in competing in a sport that may already have its outcome determined in advanced.

OBVIOUSLY, in the end, it’s always going to be your prerogative whether you want to take part in a bikini competition. I am so glad that I never went through with it, because I would have been so out of pocket, I may or may not have won (and walked away with nothing to show for it), my diet and metabolism would have taken a hit, and knowing me, I would have gotten fake tan all over my clothes and bed sheets.

Do what makes you happy. 3 weeks into my plan to compete, I was more stressed and anxious, than excited about the competition. That’s when I knew it was not for me. If you’re interested in another point of view, I thought this article was very well written and honest.

Want a functional, fun, and fat burning workout program that you will actually enjoy? Check out my 12-week HIIT E-Book, The Sweat Series!

Cassey Ho of Blogilates is ready to share her story. (Picture: Instagram/Cassey Ho)

For years, Cassey Ho of Blogilates has been inspiring women around the world to be strong, not skinny, sharing meal plans and making pilates fun, cool, and accessible for anyone with an internet connection.

She’s known for her bubbly personality – smiling and chatting even through rounds of burpees and earthquake poses.

But Cassey had been hiding a secret. In the early parts of her career as a fitness blogger, Cassey was battling an eating disorder.

Four years later, Cassey’s coming clean.

She shared a powerful blog and video explaining how encouragement from a retired bodybuilder led her to undertake an extreme diet to lose weight for a bikini body competition.

While competing in bikini competitions, Cassey took on an extreme diet in order to stay skinny. (Picture: Cassey Ho)

‘I was at 1000 calories a day,’ she wrote. ‘It was tough for me to get creative. I wasn’t designing. I wasn’t drawing. It was tough for me to even blog.’

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Cassey’s coach kept directing her to eat less and less, at one point telling her off for eating lettuce.

She made it through the bikini competition (but didn’t win), and rewarded herself with a big slice of cheesecake.

Her coach pushed her to starve herself. (Picture: Cassey Ho)

And that’s where the problems began.

‘I cramped so hard and had to curl into fetal position in the car for a couple hours before I could walk again,’ wrote Cassey.

‘My stomach wasn’t ready. I cried. It had been starved for so long that it didn’t know how to react to cheesecake.’

From that moment, Cassey developed a fear of ‘unhealthy’ eating, continuing to restrict her food intake to her bikini competition diet.

Cassey says she felt ’empty’. (Picture: Cassey Ho)

She wrote: ‘I kid you not, I was afraid of apples. I didn’t want to have anything to do with any type of fruit because I thought they had too many carbs and sugars.

‘I thought they would make me fat. And I couldn’t even fathom having grains. Grains meant fatness guaranteed.’

But after starving herself for the competition Cassey was putting weight back on. And her followers were noticing, commenting on her videos to ask why she was gaining weight.

Cassey developed orthorexia – an obsession with eating clean. (Picture: Instagram/Cassey Ho)

This only made her restrict her diet even more. Cassey developed orthorexia – an obsession with eating super healthily.

It took a year for Cassey to break down and change what she was doing. She decided to refocus on being strong, rather than looking skinny.

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She started to eat foods that made her feel good and did exercise that made her happy. Slowly, she recovered.

Now, Cassey is ready to share her story.

Four years later, she’s recovered by focusing on being strong, not skinny. (Picture: Instagram/Cassey Ho)

‘I have always been open and transparent with the Blogilates community,’ Cassey told metro.co.uk.

‘However my past disordered eating experiences have been difficult for me to share because I didn’t want to admit to myself that I had an issue.

‘Four years later, I decided that in order to move on from the past and truly heal, I needed to share my story in order to help others who may be in the same situation.

‘It’s important to turn past experiences into strengths.’ (Picture: Instagram/Cassey Ho)

‘It’s important to turn past experiences into strengths and learn how to become a stronger person.’

Writing the blog post was scary, and Cassey worried she would received critical comments.

But instead she was overwhelmed by the support from her fans.

‘I didn’t realise how many other girls were going through the same thing, but were hiding it, just like I was,’ Cassey told us.

Now, Cassey hopes that being honest about her struggles will bring comfort to others experiencing similar troubles, and that her recovery will inspire others to get better.

She told us: ‘I want them to know that it’s okay to go through a struggle or negative experience, but what matters the most is HOW you turn that struggle into a strength and how you can become a better person because of it. It’s about the resilience.

Cassey’s sharing her story to show others dealing with eating disorders that they’re not alone. (Picture: Instagram/Cassey Ho)

‘Know that you are never alone. More people have disordered eating problems and poor body image than you may realise.

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‘The most important thing is to refocus your energy and ask yourself what your goals REALLY are.

‘If your goals are to be “skinny” – then ask yourself if you’d rather be STRONG. If you work towards strong, the leanness will come anyway.

Through Blogilates, she wants to give people healthy goals. (Picture: Instagram/Cassey Ho)

‘But if you work towards skinny, you’re going to feel weak and unhappy. Trust me, I’ve been there.

‘Find what makes you happy and work towards that.’

To follow Cassey, head over to YouTube and Instagram.

MORE: ‘Going vegan made me ill’, health food blogger claims

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