The Unhealthy Pursuit of Perfection

The Unhealthy Pursuit of Perfection

gazeboIt’s a gorgeous September day out here in the Ottawa Valley. I’m currently house sitting for my parents, passing the time (and maintaining sanity no thanks to a shitty internet connection) in their tin roofed gazebo.

Nestled away here in the forest, surrounded by the peacefulness of the trees and chatter of the wildlife that inhabit it, I’m sprawled out on the gazebo floor, foam rolling my back between sips of Tim Horton’s coffee, breathing in the fresh, damp air from last night’s rain.

It doesn’t really get more vegan hippie meathead than this…

In this perfect moment, I’m overcome with a feeling of gratitude. A feeling I don’t allow myself to experience very often or at least not in a while. I have such an appreciation for growing up here now. And I secretly love that I haven’t been able to get on the internet for 19 hours.

In my regular day-to-day life in the city, my existence always feels like one giant “to do” list. If I’m not working, I’m working out. And if I’m not working or working out, I’m thinking about that “to do” list or feeling guilty for not working or working out.

But this weekend, away from civilization and life’s everyday hustle and grind, I’m having a much-needed “me date.”

Last night, I baked some chickpea blondies and ate ALL of them without any regrets. I gave myself a facial and a coconut oil hair treatment. I sat in the gazebo, listened to the rain and I READ an actual BOOK! Then I went to bed at 10:41pm and slept for a solid nine hours. It was the most lame AND fun Saturday night I’ve had in a long time. 🙂

Truthfully, the last few months have been somewhat chaotic for my body, mind and spirit.

I thought I was in a good place (mentally and physically) last spring. My vegan coaching business was going well. I was working out five or six days a week, enjoying new styles of training. I was eating a healthy, balanced diet but not feeling deprived or miserable. I was about 15 lbs. over stage weight (very reasonable for the off-season.) And I was happy to be lifting heavy again.

In April, I went to Vegas with a girlfriend.


And on our last night in Sin City, I met a charming international businessman who swept me off of my five inch stilettos. We had an intense connection right from the beginning and less than a week after I’d been home, I received two dozen roses and a card that said he couldn’t stop thinking about me.


I remember being so overwhelmed with excitement and happiness that I honestly thought I was living a fairy tale. He was everything I was looking for: successful and driven. Tall, dark and handsome. He had presence and dominance. Life experience and intelligence. He seemed so incredibly perfect and as luck would have it, he was as attracted to me as I was to him.

Two weeks later, he flew to Ottawa to see me. We had a great time together. But on the last night of his visit, he said something that should’ve been a HUGE red flag.

He said I was everything he looked for in a woman—kind and compassionate yet strong and quick-witted. A true nurturer who’d make the perfect wife and mother but also a ball-breaking businesswoman with a fierce passion for success and greatness.

The only thing that was apparently “wrong” with me? He wanted me to be competition lean…. All the time.

“I see all these pictures of you as a champion,” he said. “How could any man not want this perfect woman for himself?” He told me I was stunningly beautiful and so well-proportioned that it was a waste for me to not live my life looking my absolute best at all times. And according to him, my “best” meant 12% body fat. He also liked me to wear my hair down, forever adorned in dresses and heels and even bought me new outfits. He just wasn’t into the everyday Sam Shorkey who wore gym clothes and a sweaty ponytail. Instead, he was adamant that I embrace my femininity and even went so far as to say that I shouldn’t train my upper body anymore.

He liked to throw around terms and phrases like how “genetically-blessed” and “well-made” I was or with a little effort, I could look even better than Michelle Lewin. Or my personal favourite: “you’ll be so perfect once we buy you some boobs.”

“Just lose a little bit of weight” he asked me. And even went so far as to say that my off-season body is not what motivates and inspires the people who follow me.

He said he would give me everything I could ever want and hope for in life and all he asked for in return was the version of Sam Shorkey who won the overall bikini title in 2014.

samantha shorkey vegan bikini pro vegan nutrition online coaching

At first, I was livid! I explained to him that in order to look like that, I’d be working out like a maniac (even MORE so than I was already doing), living off of tofu and asparagus (and STARVING 24/7.) I told him that I’d have zero desire to have sex and probably be unable to have children because my body fat would be too low to even produce a menstrual cycle.

His response was that I was being overly dramatic and that it shouldn’t be THAT hard. According to him, all I had to do was eat less food and increase my cardio.

I remember feeling such hurt and anger. How the hell did this guy know ANYTHING about diet and exercise or how MY body responded to either?! But instead of telling him to go eff himself or explain that a healthy and SUSTAINABLE amount of body fat for women is somewhere between 15 and 20% (I’m around 17% in the off-season) I turned into a weak and pathetic loser and begrudgingly obliged.

We had plans to celebrate my birthday together at a tropical resort one month later. So with the countdown on, the competitive athlete inside of me was once again summoned.

Four weeks out. 15 lbs. You can do this, Shorkey.

As I share these personal details, I’m honestly so ashamed and embarrassed to even admit that I let this man and his unrealistic expectations get the best of me. 🙁

But I started running for miles every morning then doing more cardio before bed every night. I tried restricting my calories so much that every night would end in peanut butter binges because I was so tired and depleted that I couldn’t muster up the brain power to write client plans or answer emails.

I was doing the complete opposite of what I suggest to my own clients. I was crash dieting hard and yet, the one thing that was ruining my efforts (and willpower) more than anything was the fact that I was doing it for reasons other than for ME.


As luck would have it, running too much, too soon resulted in my first-ever case of shin splints.

And much like any sport-related injury, recovery from shin splints entails REST! But with my birthday vacation fast approaching and my weight only down 5 lbs. in two weeks, I ignored my body’s signals and pushed through the pain. I was smart enough to stop running but increased my weight training and other forms of cardio. And what a shock—my shin splints got worse! It reached a point where I was literally hobbling out of the gym, in constant pain, and barely eating enough to fuel my workouts. Then I’d get home late at night and have to deal with clients and be so sore and stressed–questioning WTF I was doing–that I’d end up resentfully eating a giant bowl of maple syrup drenched oatmeal or a box of dates dipped into a jar of tahini. Then I’d wake up ridden with guilt and repeat the whole vicious cycle all over again.

The whole time this craziness was going on, of course I knew it was wrong.

I could hear the little voice of reason saying “practice what you preach, Shorkey.” “You know this isn’t healthy.” “Is this really the kind of life you want to live?” “If he really does care about you, he should love and accept you for who you are today.”

I did end up celebrating my birthday with him as planned in a gorgeous, private villa overlooking the ocean.


We had a blast together but alas, upon my return to Canada, I realized that this relationship was an eating disorder or years of psychotherapy just waiting to happen.

So much good and bad have emerged from this short romance. But I always try to come out of every relationship with a positive life lesson or self-reflection that I can apply to the next.

And although my neglected shin splints have now turned into a tibial stress fracture that I’m STILL recovering from three months later, I did get some expensive new clothes and free travel out of it.

Props to my pal Dr. Romana Schmidt for fixing me up. If you’re in Ottawa and in need of some sport injury therapy, hit her up!

And for a brief period of time, I got to experience the glamourous lifestyle that accompanies being the girlfriend equivalent of a “trophy wife” and realize that I have far more to offer this world than a body.

Most importantly, I developed a stronger sense of self. And instead of waking up every morning, running miles for the sole purpose of losing weight, I stretch and I foam roll and I say to myself:

Today, I am believing in myself and not caring what other people think of me.
I will honour my body with healthy and nourishing foods.
I will not obsess over my physical appearance.
I will love and accept myself exactly as I am.
I will be kind and gentle to myself all day long.

samantha shorkey meat free athlete vegan gym clothes

And despite this guy making me feel unworthy of the recognition I’m given for past accomplishments simply because I’m not competing anymore or because I’ve put on a healthy amount of weight, he was right about a few things…

I’m not perfect! In fact, NO ONE IS PERFECT. Not me, not him and not the “me” who won a pro card in 2014.

And yes, I AM well-made. And I am forever grateful to my parents for their good genes but mostly for raising me in a loving home, and for teaching me to be a strong & self-sufficient woman who doesn’t need validation from any man, judge or scale to know her worth. ***Cue Destiny’s Child***

it's not your job to like me it's mine

And in all seriousness, all money and looks aside… I’d still opt for a relaxing “me date” weekend in this love-filled log home in the bush over an exotic $1,400/night, stress-filled romantic getaway any day. 🙂


-Sam Shorkey, Jacked on the Beanstalk

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  • Nigella: September 21, 2016

    Dear Sam, I cannot thank or praise you enough for sharing this experience with us. It resonated with me on so many levels as I too have had similar experiences, but with the sole exception of being a feminine, successful woman who likes to date other feminine, successful women. My experience taught me that it is not so much gender as the class – the economic standing – of a person that shapes their mindset & behavior towards others. Having dated outrageously narcissistic women – who at first pretended to be down-to-earth, sincere, and caring – working in the legal, medical, and business fields, I finally realized three life-saving lessons that my experiences with them was meant to teach me: (1) If someone cannot accept me because of what they might perceive as imperfections in me, then it is my responsibility to identify their lack of acceptance & to bow out of the relationship (if not run for the hills at the first warning bells). (2) The professional, financial, and social successes of a person can never be a substitute for their behavior towards me in public and private domains. Their public persona is not the same as their actual character, which means that I should not be overly seduced or concerned with the amount of money they make or spend on me. The same is also true for their looks – good looks can never compensate for bad relationship habits. P.S. The rich Don Draper sort of chap you dated reeks of entitlement – he (like the rich, educated, and successful women I dated in the lesbian community) seems to think that he can treat you as an object, buy you as if you were an object, and have you built in ways to suit his preferences. Your own thoughts or feelings do not matter during such objectification as you are not much different than a newly-coveted, customized, purchased Bentley. (3) I learned that I need to continue building on my own strengths & to achieve the sort of success I admire in others. Once you learn to achieve whatever you want on your own – learned to afford expensive clothes, trips, houses, cars, and so on – then materialistic success of another person (broadcasted through conspicuous consumption) is most likely going to hold less power over you. The success of a person can be a starting point. Or, just one among many things that we might notice, but never an over-riding point that puts blinkers on us, preventing us from seeing that person in a more balanced & clear-headed manner, and leading us to disrespect & betray ourselves. Ultimately, it is self-betrayal that hurts the most – the fact that one could not or did not protect oneself from being objectified & devalued. In any case, I should bring this torrential text to a close. I was touched by your story. It reminded me of the lessons my own dating experiences aught me. Heartaches are the best teachers. I swear I will never let anyone else – man or woman – objectify me. If people cannot value you for whatever reasons, then there is no need for you to value them. Flush em. Take care, Nigella

  • Sam: September 20, 2016

    Haha love that my clients always have my back. And you already know how much I have yours. Thank you, Crystal. Responding to your email momentarily xo

  • Sam: September 20, 2016

    Wow, I can’t believe how touched I am by all of these comments. Thank you, Charity. You have no idea how much it means to me that you’re reaching out. And how much your comment inspires ME so thank YOU from the bottom of my little plant-eating heart.

  • Sam: September 20, 2016

    Awww please don’t feel bad. He fooled ALL of us. Even my own mother was pushing me to be with him despite me expressing I had bad vibes about the situation. Lesson learned and even if you gave bad advice on this one, it doesn’t even come close to outweighing all of your good advice xoxo

  • Crystal Spence: September 20, 2016

    Sam, You have always stood out from anyone I have ever worked with and this is a perfect example of how open, honest, genuine, real and amazing you truly are! We are ALL human after all. It’s so funny how both of us met new guys at the same time and yet how similar our situations evolved. As I said before, if he ever hurts you “I’ll break his kneecaps!” LOL. XOXO

  • Charity Norem: September 20, 2016

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, for writing this! This “you” is the one that inspires, not that 2014 pic. Thank you for your transparency, and choosing you, I stead of someone else’s idea of you.

  • Kathy: September 19, 2016

    We loved it, friend. So well written and heart wrenching. As the friend that watched this unfold but not truly understand what he was actually doing, I slap my wrists constantly for not helping you get far far away from this womanizing maniac. He had me fooled. You are perfect, the way you are. You are a dream woman.

  • Sam: September 19, 2016

    Hahahahaha good idea!! Thanks lovely xo

  • Alina: September 19, 2016

    You should have smacked him with those two dozen of roses as soon as he proposed stage leanness 100% of the time!

  • Sam: September 19, 2016

    Awww thank you soooo much for sharing your own story, Jessica!! I am so incredibly touched (and kinda shocked) that so many women can relate to this. How sad is that?! And how ridiculous that these men think they can manipulate us and control us to become the pathetic losers they think will never leave them. Good for you for being stronger than his mind game. And you’re so right that once you see the light, you have a newfound appreciation for how amazing you really are. That’s awesome to hear about your GOOD man and daughter together. Gives me hope :)

  • Jessica: September 19, 2016

    The day I met “him” was the day I unknowingly learned the true meaning of narcissistic personality. I too reflect on those mind twisting, manipulating 3 months and shake my head at myself as to how I could have fallen for his controlling ways. But quickly remind myself that it was me that fought for me which in turn made me, up front, state why I love me, which I knew inside, but having to state it and fight for it made it that much more clear. So when I finally broke out of his hold, I was more sure and confident of who I was and what I wanted in MY life. Even after his months of stalking and trying to tell me that me running away from him was a bad pattern I had which would result in me never finding true happiness and therefore need to break this pattern with him! Ha. After that mind exhausting experience, I was on a break from men and on a long long date with me. It was only about 5 months later I met Paul, which seven years later we now have a beautiful daughter and a healthy, calm and beautiful life together. I didn’t have to work on me to have this happiness. We love each other for who we are everyday and it honestly is sooooo easy when it is right. Good job for fighting for you, I hope everyone can be inspired by your honestly and example and break free from other people’s toxic ways.

  • Sam: September 19, 2016

    big virtual hug Thank you <3

  • Robert Pavone: September 19, 2016

    i read just read your blog, i didn’t think i could be any more proud of you, i was wrong. I’m sure your other friends will agree that we think you’re perfect just the way you are.

  • Dellanney: September 19, 2016

    What a tool he was. I hate that you and so many women I know have to deal with this kind of mentality. You are in great shape spiritually and physically – no one can ever take that away, unless you let them. Keep inspiring people with the real, everyday version of you. :)

  • Sam: September 19, 2016

    I wish you could see the big smile on my face and feel the heaviness in my heart reading your comment, Sheralee. It took me two months and the inspiration of the forest to finally put down on paper (er, laptop) what I was feeling. Thank you for sharing your own struggles and reassuring mine. And the dating world isn’t so bad. Always lessons to be learned and insightful blog posts to be written based on it :)

  • Sheralee: September 19, 2016

    Your honesty and willingness to be vulnerable shows just how strong you truly are ❤❤ As someone who has entered back into the dating world and thought I knew exactly who I was, I too found myself falling back into old habits. It was truly shocking and made me step back and evaluate myself. Reading this today, has taught me that everyone goes through this ❤ no matter who we are, we are all just humans trying our best every single day. You truly are a strong woman ❤❤❤

  • Sam: September 19, 2016

    Awww thank you, Kristen! Sincerely love and appreciate you more than you even know. And not just because I’m your fitness mom ;)

  • Sam: September 19, 2016

    Thanks Sarie. Really did take a lot of courage to get it out in the open. And now that I have, a huge weight has been lifted off of my JACKED shoulders that I’m DAMN PROUD OF! :)

  • Kristen gilbert: September 19, 2016

    I am so proud of you coach, you’re such a beautiful soul and it inspires me so much. Never ever change who you are because that woman is such a badass vegan!!

  • Sarah Shorkey: September 19, 2016

    Great job, Sam!! I’m sure all your followers will admire your honesty and hopefully, take comfort in the fact that we ALL struggle with body image and self-love. SUPER proud of you!!

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