First I will show you my tranformation pictures. The set with the light-colored bra are of me in January 2001 at 176 pounds, 32% body fat. The set with the dark top is September 2001 at 135 pounds, 15% body fat. That is a weight loss of 41 pounds and 17% body fat.
I've always been physically active, studying dance and gymnastics since the age of 3. In high school, while majoring in Dance Production, I was also a captain of our competitive dance/drill team and lettered in track and softball. I served 4 1/2 years on active duty in the U.S. Air Force and maintained a healthy and fit lifestyle. When I met my husband in 1996, at the age of 25, I was an even 150 pounds at 5-foot-6.5-inches, strong, and content with being a size 10. And, well, he didn't seem to mind ...
Over the years, working in restaurants does do wonders for your figure ... in fact, you wonder where all that food is going. In my case, it went directly to my neck, back and thighs. On a good day I weighed 170 pounds and fit into a size 14. My diet consisted of ANYTHING I felt like eating at the time and not worrying about the calories, fat or anything else for that matter.
In 1999, I changed career focus and became a gymnastics instructor figuring that it would also help me get back in shape. For the most part, I did grow stronger, more flexible and regained some of my agility. But since I still ate the same old things I'd been eating for years, I remained a solid 165 pounds. During this time, I took an interest in watching the ESPN Series of Fitness America and admired the stamina, shape and strength of the women competing. I thought with my background in athletics, dance and gymnastics, I might be able to get my fanny in shape and maybe get noticed. I hired a personal trainer who gave me some good nutritional advice and started focusing on competing in 2000. Well, as luck would have it, 6 weeks into training, I found out that I was, of all things, pregnant! Well, there went the goals of competing in 2000, but it was a great year that saw the birth of my son, Brandon.
Obviously, I did not workout in the gym for some time and I still did not get the idea that I might have to change my eating habits. No, it wasn't until I went to visit my in-laws over the holidays, that I actually saw it all clearly. I had allowed myself to gain until I could no longer fit into a size 16 at 185 pounds, all along using the "I just had a baby" excuse (by the way, Brandon was already 8 months!). I was an unbelievable 32% body fat!
My New Year's resolution for 2001 was not unlike anyone else's … to lose weight and get in shape, EXCEPT, I was serious about it. So serious, in fact, that I immediately call Fitness America to find out when I would have the chance to compete locally. The next regionals in my area were scheduled for April (too soon) and September (perfect). That gave 9 months to get my act together and change some things in my life! My goal was to just make it to Nationals my first year out. I just wanted to be able to say I'd been there.
I started out like most people do, trying several fad diets and gimmicks hoping to see some kind of improvement. And I did; by April, I lost 30 pounds! The thing I wasn't seeing with the fad diets was that my body was getting skinnier but not necessarily better. Most of the weight I was losing was water weight and I still had a lot of fat hiding underneath my skin. When I started to train in gym harder and more consistently, I actually appeared thicker! Because I was taking pictures every month, I could see exactly what was happening and knew what I had to do. Change my diet!
Finally, I sat down and studied a few nutritional guides, magazine articles and diet books. I decided the best thing for me would be to balance my protein intake with my carbs, lower my fat intake and, believe it or not, consume at least 1700-1800 calories per day. It worked; I lost another 20 pounds and entered my first competition at 135 pounds! Not only did I feel like a million bucks, but I actually felt good in a 2-piece bathing suit for the first time in 8 years! My body fat was at 15%, which compared to other competitors is high, BUT no one could take away the fact that I reached my goal and did not look like a woman with a 16-month old child! AND I had a spot at Nationals. Now the real work begins ...
To compete at the National level, you have to decide for yourself if you are going to be able to make all of the sacrifices that it takes to be "competitive" like proper dieting, time spent choreographing, time spent choosing the right outfits for you and time spent training to get in the best shape possible. I made those sacrifices, raised my protein intake slightly, and entered Nationals weighing 129 pounds at 11% body fat and wearing a size 5/6. I was content with my placing at my first "big" show and knew the things I needed to improve. But one thing, I came to grips with is the rebound effect that happens once you are not dieting and training as hard in your off-season. Thank goodness my pre-contest diet was healthy and sensible, because I found that once I returned to a moderate diet, my weight leveled out again at 135 pounds and 14% body fat. I got to enjoy my 30th birthday without fear of gaining everything back that I worked so hard to lose all year.
Entering 2002, my focus is on improving my rankings in competition and helping others to reach their own dreams of competing or just feeling better about themselves. My best advice for anyone trying to lose weight, get in shape and maybe even strut their stuff, is to be patient with your body, stay focused on a realistic goal and by all means, believe in yourself! Competition is not made for everyone, but no one should feel like they have no right to dream.
I'm happy to help anyone in need of motivation and support; contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.