Contest Prep: Then vs. Now


Contest Prep: Then vs. Now

November 17, 2014

In my last post on contest prep, I talked about why I competed again.

Today, I’ll go over the details of my prep.

Specifically, people have been wondering what differed this time around vs. the last time I went through a contest prep 3.5 years ago.

Below, I’ve broken it all down for you.



  • 12-week prep
  • bodyweight dropped from 119.0lbs to 106.8lbs (averaged out to a hair over 1.0lb/week weight loss)
  • waist measurement dropped from approximately 26.5 inches to 24.0 inches
  • experienced mild degree of strength loss throughout the duration of my prep
  • followed a meal plan
  • had no alcohol, did not attend any social events
  • secretly binged one day a week


  • 20-week prep
  • bodyweight dropped from 116.0lbs to 105.8lbs (averaged out to a loss of 0.51lb/week loss)
  • waist measurement dropped from 26.0 inches to 23.5 inches
  • zero loss of strength in the gym (actually gained strength the first 12 or so weeks, then strength stalled the last 8 weeks)
  • was prescribed macros to follow but otherwise ate (meal timing, food choice) how I wanted
  • enjoyed wine weekly and maintained a thriving social life
  • did not binge once, nor did I experience the urge to binge



  • 4 days a week of heavy lifting, each lasting anywhere between 45-60 minutes long
  • focused primarily on heavy, compound lifts with some accessory movements thrown in there
  • I also performed metabolic conditioning (metcon) sessions once or twice a week, depending on where I was in my prep
  • All in all, I was never in the gym more than once a day and never longer than 90 minutes per session


  • 5 days a week of heavy lifting a la Layne Norton’s PHAT protocol, each lasting anywhere between 45-60 minutes long
  • focused primarily on heavy, compound lifts with some accessory movements thrown in there
  • did no metcon whatsoever; when I was in the gym, it was all about the heavy work
  • all in all, I was never in the gym more than once a day and never longer than 90 minutes per session



  • start off with just metcon sessions, then towards the end, I had one 30-minute steady state session tossed in per week on top of the 2 metcon sessions I was doing
  • came out to 4 days of heavy lifting, 2 metcon sessions, and 1 day of steady-state every week
  • worked out 6 days a week and got one day of full rest


  • started off with 2 interval sessions each lasting 20 minutes from start to finish
  • the last 10 weeks of prep, an extra session was tossed in and time was increased to 25-minutes each.
  • came out to 5 days of heavy lifting and 3 days of 25-minute interval sessions every week
  • took 2 full days off every week



  • started out at around 1440 calories; ended prep at 1080 calories with a weekly refeed
  • dietary adherence was spot-on except for weekly binges, which probably consisted of around 4,000-5,000 Calories
  • confined to a meal plan, which increased my cravings for “forbidden” foods
  • ate 5 tiny meals a day
  • oftentimes would find myself done with all my food for the day by 4:00p.m. and had to white-knuckle my way through the rest of the evening
  • never ate out to eat once for fear of straying from my plan


For details on my macros and what all I ate during my prep, check out MyMacros+ and find me: SoheeFit

For details on my macros and what all I ate during my prep, check out MyMacros+ and find me: SoheeFit

  • started out at around 1530 calories; ended prep at 1200 Calories on my off days, 1260 Calories on training days with a weekly refeed
  • dietary adherence was around 95% (last 8 weeks were 100%) with no binges whatsoever
  • followed the flexible dieting approach – most mornings, I ate grilled cheese or quesadillas for breakfast and would on occasion consume sugary cereal or ice cream as part of my PWO meal
  • ate my first meal at around 11a.m. and finished my last meal at 7 or 8p.m., which, looking back, was inadvertent intermittent fasting
  • consumed 3-4 meals a day depending on my schedule and my hunger levels
  • ate out once or twice a week (except for the last 2 weeks) and guestimated macros while eating out

Peak Week


  • training and lifting protocol did not change
  • sodium did not drop
  • drank 10L water a day leading up to the show; this made attending class and really doing anything extremely difficult as I was running to the bathroom every 15-20 minutes


  • bodypart split for peak week with intensity tapering off as the show got closer
  • all intervals switched out for moderate intensity steady-state cardio (20-35min sessions) consisting of power walking outdoors (modality was my choice)
  • sodium was manipulated only slightly
    water intake was at 4L/day at its highest



  • had no idea what to expect
  • would freak out over the mildest of weight fluctuations
  • was struggling with severe body dysmorphia
  • adopted the all-or-nothing mindset and refused to go out and have fun
  • was determined to compete on stage no matter the cost (binge eating, loss of social life, loss of relationships, etc.)


  • actively made sure that I maintained my quality of life throughout the duration of the prep
  • ensured that I was secure with my body image before even beginning prep
  • did not get discouraged by “slow” progress (because after all, I knew that slow progress was good progress)
  • made it a point to go out and do something fun (not fitness-related) at least once a week
  • did a mindset check every single day
  • promised myself that I would back out if my mental sanity/integrity was compromised
  • understood that this prep was not about winning or “becoming happy” or receiving any kind of external validation, but rather about proving that the sustainable, moderate approach works even when it comes to achieving extremes

All in all, this most recent prep was very different from my last prep.

I ended up coming in with a better physical package, better posing, and even better jewelry and makeup, but that’s not what I’m most proud of.

I intentionally took this very slow. I wanted to give myself ample time, to not feel pressured to speed up progress and panic over whether or not I’d be ready in time.

The first few months, I lost on average 2-3lbs/month, and the last month leading into the show, I actually only lost 1.5lbs.

But I was okay with that. Because I understood this:

Progress does not take place strictly in scale weight, but also in measurements, the fit of my clothes, and what I see in the mirror.

(And don’t forget about the whoosh effect.)

As well, I didn’t worry about my progress. I had hired a quality coach to help me, and I knew that my sole responsibility was to adhere to the program consistently, while his job was to engineer my macros and training. I knew that it was his job to do the worrying on my behalf, and I fully trusted that he’d get me to where I wanted to be.

With this longer prep, we didn’t feel rushed to drop my calories prematurely – and in fact, my calories didn’t change at all for the last 8 weeks leading into the show (whereas with my first prep, my calories dropped like clockwork every 2-4 weeks).

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

There’s nothing I would change about this prep to make it better. It was an incredible learning experience and I would definitely considering doing it again.

For now, my goal is to get more food into my system and slowly reverse diet for the next 6-8 months. I’m looking to build some muscle mass (specifically shoulders and glutes) and bring a better package next year.

The moderate approach may not be sexy, but it sure as hell works.





Looking great doesn’t have to be a miserable process.

Interested in getting stage lean or simply losing some fat the healthy, sustainable way? Let me help you figure out how.

Fill out the form at and I’ll show you how to get started on your journey right away.

  1. KR 6 years ago

    hey Sohee– thanks for being so open about this. Isn’t 1200 cals/day though still extremely low for the amount of exercise you were doing? you must have been netting around 800/900 a day…

    • Sohee Lee 6 years ago

      Considering that I was sitting on the butt the rest of the time, no. The calories were actually relatively high for someone of my stature.

  2. JoJo 6 years ago

    you do realise even your non training calories (1560) is semi starvation? Check out the Minnesota starvation experiment. We should be able to consume around 2000+ and not gain weight.. thats when you know your metabolism is not damaged but it takes time to heal. What you are doing to yourself and promoting is pretty dangerous , you must be going bonkers. Also check out Dr Mc Dougall and Dr Esselstyn, Dr Neal Barnard. You can eat as much as you want when consuming whole plant foods like rice, potatoes, legumes, fruits, veggies etc. Thats the way it should be… do animals in nature have to count macros to be lean?

    • Robert Santana 6 years ago

      2 questions: Have you ever actually coached someone? Do lean animals sit around all day?

    • Nikki 6 years ago

      The smaller one is, the fewer calories they need, typically. Sohee is petite, and doesn’t need 2000+ calories in order to avoid “starvation.” I would think she knows her own body’s needs more than a stranger on the internet.

    • Sohee Lee 6 years ago

      I am aware of the Minnesota starvation experiment, thank you for pointing that out. I’m also aware that the study was conducted on all males whose metabolisms were undoubted much higher than mine to begin with. To say that “we” should be able to consume 2000+ calories a day and not gain weight is a gross overgeneralization. I am a 5’2″ female and my RMR was last tested at 1400-1600.

      I’m sorry, but calories absolutely matter. You can’t “eat as much as you want,” no matter where the source is coming from.

      • JoJo 6 years ago

        Hey, thanks for your response.

        Please check out Dr Neal Barnard, Dr Mc dougall, Dr Esselstyn, Dr T Colin Campbell. You can find them on youtube, books etc. Counting calories to get lean and healthy is misguided. When eating a whole foods plant based diet there is no need to count or restrict (restricting only makes you bounce back). A calorie is not a calorie. If you compare someone who eats meat, eggs, dairy and junk food (even in ‘moderation’), say 2000 calories, they are not going to look or feel the same ( or have the same disease risk factors, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, some cancers, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis etc) as someone who eats whole plant foods in abundance, also at around 2000 calories.
        This has been shown time and time again scientifically.

        Our bodies take care of us and they want an abundance of healthy nutritious plant foods to build a strong foundation. Check it out, do the research and try it with proper information. When i found out all this information it saved me from unnecessary sickness, worry and quality of life. As well as helping the environment and animal rights. There is a great documentary called ‘cowspiracy’ that you can watch online. Another great resource for nutrition information is

        Im not sharing this information to prove anyone wrong, I’m doing it so more people can hear about it and make informed decisions. 🙂

    • Hyok Lee 6 years ago

      “You can eat as much as you want when consuming whole plant foods like rice, potatoes, legumes, fruits, veggies etc.”

      Wow, people still believe this stuff? My mom is 5′ 4″ and weighs 185 lbs. She eats exactly the way you described. She avoids meat, because she’s heard it’s unhealthy, and it makes her feel too stuffed.

      There are plenty of fat animals, such as penguins, seals, whales, etc. Not all animals are lean.

  3. Val Ho 6 years ago

    I LOVE this article. I’ve been thinking about training for a figure show for a while but have been scared off by all the horror stories of women who have destroyed their metabolisms and self-esteem doing so. This has inspired me to do it. Thanks!

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