In The Beginning…
Woof! Woof! Woof! These words haunted me my entire childhood. These are the words that up until recently continued to haunt my dreams almost every night. You see, I was always fat! My entire childhood was one of absolute torture. The other kids in school would all get together in the hallways and bark at me. They would spit on me. They would constantly call me names and tell me I was the most grotesque human being on the planet. This abuse went on for more than 10 years. And in all honesty, it is only recently that I realized they were wrong!
Everyday after school I would run home crying and once I got there I would throw up. At 13-years old, not only was I more than 200 pounds, but I was becoming a nervous wreck. These kids made me feel like I was not worth living. My family would tell me how beautiful I was, but it didn't matter. After all, they were my family - they HAD to think I was beautiful. Over the next several years I evolved. I went from a fat, depressed, child to a severely depressed, anxiety-ridden adult.
At 19-years old, I already developed several nervous conditions and a social disorder. I was miserable and I was sinking deeper and deeper in my own black hole. I thought maybe if I was thinner, I would feel better about myself - but I wanted instant gratification. I wanted to be 110 pounds overnight and I started trying anything I could, to get me there as quickly as possible. I would starve myself, take laxatives, diuretics and try any fad diet I could get my hands on! Not only did I not lose weight, I continued to gain. I was more depressed than ever and it was at that point I started drinking heavily.
Going to the local bar and getting completely drunk had become a nightly routine. Half the time I didn't remember who I was with or how I got home. About a year later my best friend had a party at her house for Memorial Day and I guess I made a fool out of myself one too many times, because when I called her the next day she basically told me I was a drunk and she no longer wanted to be friends. This girl was like my sister, and sisters are supposed to love each other unconditionally.
I knew I must have done some truly rotten things for her to be THIS angry with me. It was that moment when I made up my mind. I was going to start over. I was going to join a gym and start exercising. I was going to learn everything I could about proper nutrition and that is how I was going to start eating. I was going to get rid of anything negative in my life. Over the next few years, that is exactly what I did.
Joining the gym was a huge obstacle to overcome, because I always felt like people were laughing at me or talking about me. Although it was extremely hard for me at first, over time, it did get easier. I made a few friends at the gym and they were all helpful teaching me how to use the different machines, as well as the free weights. I started out going to the gym 2-3 days per week and I was buying every single health/bodybuilding/nutrition magazine I could find.
About 4 weeks after joining the gym, I started noticing incredible changes in my body. My waist got smaller, my arms were no longer just fat, now they had a shape, and best of all, my butt was tighter and higher! (I always admired bodybuilder's and fitness athletes' backsides - and now I was on my way to having one.) I remember thinking to myself, if I made this kind of progress from working out 3 days per week, imagine what I would look like if I started working out 5 days per week. From that moment on, I have been hooked! I went from a size 16 to a size 6 and I have never felt better!
A lot of people in the gym couldn't help but notice the transformation I made to my body and a few people asked me if I ever considered competing. At that moment, in my head, I pictured myself on stage holding a trophy yelling into the audience, "Here I am everyone - remember me? I am the fat girl you used to push around and torment. I am that ugly dog you used to bark at in the hallways at school.
Well take a good look at me now!" I have always felt like those kids and their hurtful words held me down, now I was going to use it to help me. I took all the energy I'd been wasting over the years on these mean kids and I used it to motivate me.
Into The Present…
I recently entered my first figure competition on May 10, 2003. This particular contest was the Mid-Atlantic Natural Classic and was held in the East Brunswick NJ High School. As I walked into the auditorium that morning, all I could think to myself is, "What am I crazy?" As I sat in that auditorium, watching the other competitors file in, the task at hand fully sank in. I was just moments away from stepping on stage in 5-inch heels, and a BIKINI.
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Not only were hundreds of people going to be staring at me, but they would be looking for faults and comparing me to the other beautiful women on stage. As I sat there panicking - thousands of thoughts and emotions ran through my head - Why did I willingly decide to do this? I must be insane! They are going to laugh me right off the stage!
Two weeks before the contest, I woke up one morning with strep throat and was completely bedridden for the entire week. To say I was depressed would be a complete understatement. I was miserable! All the hard work I put in at the gym and all the discipline I exercised with my diet were now down the drain. I was convinced this last week without cardio and without training was going to ruin me. After two days of feeling sorry for myself, I decided I had made it this far and I was still going to get on stage.
Although I didn't have the energy to workout all week long, the one thing I forced myself to do, was to stick to my diet. This was the most difficult thing I had to do in all the time I prepared for my contest. I remind you I had strep throat, so not only was my appetite gone, but my throat hurt so horribly, that the absolute last thing in the world I wanted to do was to eat! Nevertheless, I stuck to my diet and forced down my five meals for the day, every day for the entire time I was at home, sick.
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When I started feeling better I realized that even being home in bed all week, by sticking to my diet, my body continued getting leaner. Although I was not as lean as I would have liked to be, I was lean enough that I felt I would not be laughed off the stage. The day of the show I weighed in at 124 pounds and 13.5% body fat. I was in the best shape of my life and I was about to see how I compared with the other girls.
Before the pre-judging began, they gave us our numbers, briefly told us who was going on stage first (of course it was my group) and told us where we could change, pump up, etc. They then informed us that we had to be ready to go on in 10 minutes. So I, along with all the other girls, went running to the back room to do whatever we could to "perfect ourselves" in these final 10 minutes. Between you and me, I think someone was playing a joke on me because it felt more like 10 seconds later that someone came in and told us we had to line up on the side of the stage!
While lined up on the side of the stage, waiting to make my first appearance in a competition, I seriously felt ill. I was shaking terribly and I thought I might get sick at any given moment. I must have had a painful look on my face because one of the expediters backstage came over and told me I looked beautiful and I was going to do great! As I started to smile and was about to thank him, the emcee called us. Suddenly, it was time!
As I walked out onto that platform, I kid you not when I say that my knees were shaking so bad that the people in the audience most definitely heard it.(OK, so maybe I'm exaggerating just a little). But suddenly, in the spotlight, in my bikini, in my 5-inch heels, a certain kind of calm came over me. It occurred to me that I had just as much of a right to be up here as the rest of these girls. If anything, maybe even moreso! And I made a decision right then and there that no matter what the outcome, I was already a winner. I made it this far and I am just going to smile and be proud to be on stage. I went through my quarter turns with confidence and then I strut my stuff off the stage. I did it!
Later on at the night show, they lined us up backstage and told us they were only calling out the Top-5 girls. I was the third name they called! I thought to myself - "Oh my god! My first contest and I made the Top-5! I was already beyond thrilled. I ended up winning third place and qualifying for the nationals! As I stood on stage, and held my trophy, I knew I deserved it. I worked hard and it paid off!
How I Did It
I go to the gym 5-6 days per week and I train 2 body-parts per workout. Here is an example of what a typical week looks like:
Monday: Back & Biceps
Tuesday: Chest & Triceps
Thursday: Shoulders & Calves
Saturday: Back & Biceps
My back and legs are my weak spots, so I try to work them twice per week. I do 25-35 minutes of cardio 3-4 days per week although the closer it gets to a show, I increased the duration and the frequency. I train my abs every other day. I have always been told that diet is responsible for more than 80% of what you look like. It doesn't matter how many times you work out or how hard you are working in the gym, if you are not eating properly, your hard-earned work will never show.
I saw the best results when I started eating 5 meals per day spread out approximately 3.5 hours apart combined with drinking at least a gallon of water per day. Each meal consists of a lean protein (chicken, fish, or lean red meat), a fibrous carbohydrate (broccoli, spinach), a complex carbohydrate (potatoes, oatmeal, brown rice) and a "good" fat (flax seed oil, natural peanut butter). I believe supplementation also played a large role in my success, although it would take a great deal of time to explain the science behind it all - so I will save that for another day.
The bottom line is this; it takes a lot of discipline, dedication and heart to reach a higher or a competitive level of fitness. Each of us has our own reason or reasons for pursuing the things we do and each of us has our own motivation factors. It is a personal decision and I know without a doubt that I made the right one. Each and every one of us has the potential to be whatever it is we envision ourselves to be. I know now that I can achieve my dreams! So can you!
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