“Sometimes your cardio can be super high – two to three hours a day – and your food can be super low,” she said.
“Being on low food, it plays with your head, it is a mental game. It is telling yourself like if you are hungry, do you want extra food or do you want to win? If you have the extra food, will you win?”
And the question becomes – is that craving worth it?
“You’re paying a lot of money to compete, to reach that goal of yours … So if you were to eat that to sabotage yourself, you want to sabotage yourself like that? And then on the show day when you don’t look good, are you going to regret?”
This is especially tough for athletes who enjoy eating.
“The funniest thing is that a lot of people think that people who go and compete, they are okay with not eating – that’s why they are okay with competing, that’s why they can not eat,” said Lee.
“The thing is that most of the competitors I know, we all love food.”
While on “prep”, Lee is often unable to fully partake in meals with family and friends.
“It is a struggle when you go for dinners with friends and then you cannot eat at all and they are all eating. You just sit there like with your own food and after you’re done with your little bit of food, they are still eating.
But she has a strong support system, Lee said.
“My husband, he’s always been there with me. He was my main support system for every single prep.”
Given how difficult it is to pursue the sport, some ask why she does it, Lee said.
“For some of us, it is something that we can focus on, to put our minds on. For some of us the gym is our ‘me time’, (it) helps with our mental health.
“When you’re struggling with other aspects, you can focus on this and this is yours. There’s nobody who can take this away.”
Having a specific routine to follow is also something she enjoys, Lee added.