“I just really wanted to eat an apple.”
This is just one of the details Frances Abbott, the 26-year-old daughter of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, shared exclusively with News Corp earlier this week about her extreme diet leading up to her first bodybuilding competition.
“If I ate an apple I’d have to pull back on my carbs at another meal and I wasn’t prepared to sacrifice that,” she said.
“Half of me is like, ‘You sound absolutely ridiculous,’ but if you have that goal you just suck it up for those couple of months or weeks and life goes back to normal. It’s not a sustainable way to live long term.”
In Tuesday’s column, which outlined how the personal trainer “shredded” to be “competition-ready,” Abbott admitted that the current state of her body isn’t sustainable or healthy.
“You need to have body fat for your hormones, for menstruation, cortisol levels,” she said. “In the last few weeks of comp I noticed I would all of a sudden be upset for no reason or I’d be freezing cold.”
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Her words provide an insight into the bizarre world where women (who are starting to outnumber men in bodybuilding competitions) sacrifice their health and personal lives in pursuit of a very specific body type. One with popping veins and visible abs, enhanced by dehydration and layers upon layers of fake tan. These competitors put themselves through what sounds like hell, to transform their bodies for sport.
Of course, lots of athletes go through grueling preparation for big events. The training required for elite gymnastics or marathon running sometimes means menstruation stops, and any sport from rugby to tennis to swimming requires a granular diet and exercise regime that could be interrogated and criticised.
But perhaps the discomfort with bodybuilding exists because it it isn’t so much a sport as a pseudo-sport – where the goal isn’t about what your body does, but what your body looks like.
Frances Abbott, however, is adamant that bodybuilding is a sport.
“Just like any athlete will pay attention to their nutrition, preparing for a competition is the same,” she told Mamamia.
“It is not just a show, it is a sport. Were there times I was hungry? Yeah. Were there times that I wasn’t able to eat whatever I wanted? Of course. But that’s what dieting usually involves… for anyone. ”
Of course, on the one hand female bodybuilding plays into the objectification of women’s bodies, and the way their bodies are seen as a physical manifestation of a person’s “social identity, sexual worth and moral standing”. But on the other hand, female bodybuilding is transgressive. It goes against traditional feminine standards of beauty. Culturally, women have been told that a petite, slender frame is attractive, so surely a parade of women who have worked hard to achieve precisely the opposite is an important statement – isn’t it?
Many would argue it depends on your motivation for participating.