I was a springboard diver in college at the University of Nevada, Reno, from 2005-2009. I also competed for a year after college at the senior level, which ended abruptly due to a disc tear and stress fracture in my lower back. I stopped diving in January 2010, started my professional career, and moved on with my life.
Two years after diving, I found myself without motivation in the gym and developed bad eating habits. I gained nearly 15 pounds since I quit diving and had 22 percent body fat. I wasn't happy with the changes to my body.
My friend, Aaron Kint, who was a personal trainer, previously asked to train me for a figure competition, but I wasn't interested at the time. In July 2012, when I was fed up with myself and my bad habits, I called him and asked if he was still interested. He was, and four months later I stepped onstage for my first figure competition at 113 pounds and 11 percent body fat. I got second place out of 12 women. I finally found something I loved as much as diving, if not more.
I always seemed to have an undying drive to better myself in different ways. I didn't start diving until age 16 and always competed against girls who had been diving since age 8. This pushed me to make every day in the pool count and to never let any days go wasted. After diving, I still had the drive, but wasn't sure where to focus it.
Now that I've found figure competitions, my motto is to never let a day go wasted in the gym or in life. My college diving coach, Jian Li You, always said, "No one cares about your life as much as you do. If you want something, you have to work for it. No one else is going to get it for you." That really stuck with me. When you accomplish things you never thought you could, it motivates you to believe in yourself.
My motivation to live a healthy lifestyle comes from an emotional place. In August 2008, when I was 21 years old, my mother passed away suddenly from a severe brain aneurysm caused by high blood pressure. My mom always struggled with her weight and had high blood pressure for years. It's difficult for me to accept that my mom is gone and that her death could have been prevented. I think, if my mom were here today, she would be proud of my sisters and I for being aware of our risks and living healthy lifestyles.
My sisters play a huge role in my ability to lead a healthy lifestyle. They are extremely supportive of my strict dieting and workouts. They go to the gym with me at 5:30 a.m. and yell at me when I have a weak moment and try to cheat on my diet. They are always there for me.
For inspiration, I follow Nicole Wilkins on Facebook and Twitter. She worked hard to get where she is and I admire that tremendously. I also found inspiration and comfort in the girls I met at posing class, a lot of whom I competed against.
My plan is to take this sport as far as I possibly can. I'm in love with the training, hard work, discipline, and accomplishment. There is no better feeling. I want to continue competing in shows and aspire to earn a pro figure card.
Never give up. If you think you're past the point of return, you're wrong. Everyone has to start somewhere. You can accomplish anything you set your mind to if you want it bad enough.
My favorite fitness competitor is Nicole Wilkins. I've followed her since I began this journey and she always posts uplifting photos and quotes that help me through rough days. I think it's amazing what she accomplished and I look up to her as a fitness competitor.
I spent so much time on Bodybuilding.com throughout my journey to my first show. I looked up diet plans, digestive enzymes and related issues, recipes, protein supplements, and more. You name it, I probably searched it. I also created a BodySpace profile, which was great because I posted my before, progress, and after photos. It's encouraging to get feedback from other BodySpace users who are working on similar goals.
Photo Credits: Jenna Mayer Photography, Michael Simon Photography