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Frances Abbott has weighed everything she's eaten for three months.

“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.”

Listen: Frances Abbott is the woman we need right now. Post continues after audio.

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.

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I’LL HAVE WHAT SHES HAVING ????????????So there has been some interest in what I was eating during my competition preparation… I have had a number of people ask me to tell them exactly what I eat “down to every last mouthful” ????I am happy to tell you exactly what I have eaten, I am happy to tell you exactly how I have trained and I am also happy to tell you that even if you do exactly what I did, getting the exact same results is not guaranteed. I weighed my food meal by meal for around three months ⚖️, I woke up at 4.15AM ????most mornings to do fasted cardio and I also had to become a bit of a social recluse to get the results I achieved in the amount of time that I had ☹️ Was it easy? No. Was it worth it? Yes. Would I do it again? Definitely, but give myself more time. And go in with more understanding. I was eating and training like an athlete to compete in a competition. Not just to drop a few KGs “to get ready for summer”. The challenge I now face is almost as serious as the one I was preparing for… reverse dieting and training in a way that will help me put weight back on with out me getting stuck in my head about putting on weight… Interesting huh? ???? So here is what I had for lunch. Very similar to what I had in comp prep in terms of macros/ calories… Just with a little bit more love and colour. Greens and baby spinach. Pumpkin. Tomato (CARBS) Chicken (PROTEIN) Avocado. A dollop of Vegan Red Hummus. (FAT) Pepper. And that’s it. Good, clean, simple food. ????????❤️#sonowyouknow #cleaneating #wtfiswellness #foodporn #whatihadforlunch #compprep #theshredlife #sweat #goodthingscometothosewhosweat #keepingitreal #reversedieting #jerf #saladbowl #yesieatmylunchoutofamixingbowl #anormalbowljustinstbigenough #marcos #nutrition #illhavewhatheshaving #traininglikeaboss #eatinglikeaboss #beingthebossofmybody #justsaying

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I asked Frances Abbott why she chose to compete in her first bodybuilding competition.

“I am often looking for a new challenge or experiment,” she said. “I was motivated to compete because it was a side of the industry [Frances is a personal trainer, yoga teacher and pilates instructor] that I did not know much about and I was interested to learn. I asked around, I researched online, and I figured the best way to know was to give it a go myself.”

Interestingly, while many of us would assume that competing in a bodybuilding competition might be detrimental for a person’s body image, Frances argues that for her, it had the opposite effect. “What I took from the whole experience is that every BODY is different,” she said. “No body will ever be exactly like mine, and mine will never look exactly like the girls on either side of me.”

“That’s my strength, and theirs as well… When I compete again, my motivation will not be to be better than the other girls on stage but to be better than I was the first time round. And for me, to be better, is to get stronger.”

Frances also says she didn’t witness any unhealthy behaviours among her fellow competitors. “There was actually a great sense of community among the girls on the day of the competition,” she said. “It was a big day for all of us, months of hard work leading up to those few moments on stage… And getting in your bikini with all the glam and the tan is quite fun.”

But for many people, there’s something that doesn’t feel quite right about the entire spectacle. The pursuit, as challenging and demanding as it is, seems purely aesthetic. The rigorous counting of nutrients, and widely reported unhealthy practices to achieve peak physical condition for a competition are ultimately undertaken not to be strong, but to look strong.

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FRIDAY NIGHT FABULOUS ???????????? Lol jokes. I haven’t worn a bra in well over 24 hours, I smell like 4 coats of tan and I am dressed like a kung-fu princess in my PJ pants I picked up from Salvos…???? but this hair makes me feel like Ke$ha and that’s exactly the effect I was after ????????????‍????Thanks @neoncoproducts ???? Early dinner ???? Early to bed ????(I’ll be sleeping sitting up) Ready to hit the stage at 12 and 3.15 tomorrow ????????✌️#ICN #haironfleek #braids #1moresleep #fitnessmodelinthemaking #giiiirl #wakeupinthemorningfeelinglikepdiddy #whenileavebrushmyteethwithabottleofjack #feelinglikekesha #thosebigearstho #thatbignosetho #lol #mugshot #fridaynightfabulous #fridayfeels #sweat #goodthingscometothosewhosweat #thatfaketansmell #fresh #thesweatlife #compprep #thenightbeforethebigday #nationalsbaby #letsdothis #goaldigger #wetakeonlife @icn_victoria @ausfitnessshow

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Speaking to Mamamia, representatives from The Butterfly Foundation had a clear position on the bodybuilding phenomenon.

“Engaging in extreme dieting and exercise behaviours to achieve a certain weight or appearance is detrimental to our health and we know this can lead to body dissatisfaction and the possible development of an eating disorder,” they said.

Frances Abbott’s experience with bodybuilding has not been entirely typical. Because of her profile, there’s been substantial interest in her career and achievements. Photos of her competing have been shared on almost every major news site in the country, drawing questions about the diet and exercise regime that prepared her for her bodybuilding debut.

In a recent Instagram post, she wrote, “I have had a number of people ask me to tell them exactly what I eat ‘down to every last mouthful.’ I am happy to tell you exactly what I have eaten, I am happy to tell you exactly how I have trained and I am also happy to tell you that even if you do exactly what I did, getting the exact same results is not guaranteed.”

“I weighed my food meal by meal for around three months, I woke up at 4.15AM most mornings to do fasted cardio and I also had to become a bit of a social recluse to get the results I achieved in the amount of time that I had.”

Speaking to news.com.au, she shared a more detailed version of her diet and training routine.

SUNDAY SOAK UP ????????????When you have all these amazing thoughts in savasana but then get so distracted by this beautiful evening and all the lovely people that are out and about soaking it up that you forget all of those things you were thinking and just decide to roll with how nice it all is just to soak it up too ????Good yoga, good playlist, good good good @kat_harveybarakat_yoga ✌️Good Sunday before a week that is going to be big ????????????Fucking bring it #6days #theshitithinkaboutinyoga #yoga #yogataughtme #soakingitup #sundaysesh #weekendvibes #hellospring #ohwhatanight #flowsohard #allthegoodstuff #bringit #fitnessmodelinthemaking #sweat #goodthingscometothosewhosweat #rollwithit #slowflow #weekendwinddown #gotoyoga #eatyourgreens #liftheavy #dothethings #keepittogether @studiopp_

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While Frances has been particularly careful in acknowledging that people shouldn’t necessary copy her choices, and that those choices won’t necessarily have the same effect for everyone, The Butterfly Foundation warns against sharing these details on social media.

“Sharing your diet and exercise regime on social media can potentially inspire copycat behaviour without seeking professional advice and guidance to ensure health for the individual,” their spokesperson said.

They also highlighted the potential problems with sharing particular images on social media.

“While it would be incorrect to say that sharing images of female bodybuilding adversely affects all viewers, it does have the potential to be harmful,” they said. “For some, this can result in unhelpful comparisons and competitiveness, impacting on ones self-worth and body satisfaction.”

Female bodybuilding is a phenomenon fraught with competing opinions. For some, like Frances Abbott, it’s the ultimate act in self-discipline. “I enjoyed the challenge,” she said. “It taught me a lot about myself, what I am capable of doing when I put my mind to something.”

But for others, the emphasis on the shape and size of women’s bodies is worrying. Especially at a time when women’s bodies have never been so political.

Female bodybuilding is undeniably an area that raises a lot of questions.

But the answers have far less to do with the individuals competing, and far more to do with the society watching.

If you, or anyone you know is experiencing an eating disorder or body image concerns, you can call the Butterfly Foundation National Helpline on 1800 33 4673 (ED HOPE) or email [email protected]

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