Name: Zarah Pacheco
Weight: 122 lbs, 114 lbs contest
Occupation: Personal trainer, promotional model (brand representative), fitness model
Contest History: NPC nationally qualified in Figure, WNSO Fame Pro, now NPC Bikini nationally qualified
Great fitness athletes don't have to get their start in sports, but it doesn't hurt. Youth athletics taught Zarah how her body moves, how teams work to win together, and how to physically and mentally prepare for competition.
This Canadian model played every sport she could, everything from intramural sports at lunch like floor hockey, basketball, and flag football, to more competitive soccer, skiing, swimming, volleyball, and finally rugby. After her first taste of battling it out on the rugby pitch with other tough women, she also played in college and maintains an abiding passion for the sport.
Now she's an aspiring pro with a foothold in BodySpace. She's active online and off. She uses the re-designed site and its new functions to help reach people across the globe looking for motivation. But she also leans on the same people to lift her up in hard times.
That's the beauty of fitness social media and Bodyspace: You help when you can, and receive help when you ask.
What led you to the decision that you needed to get in shape?
I was always an active and energetic child, so I put my energy toward school and sports. I ate too much, was always conscious of how I looked, and compared myself to the other girls. It's frustrating not eating and not losing weight—or even gaining weight!
I realized when I wanted to be a fitness model that all the girls were eating the same 5-6 small meals every day, and that's what I needed to do to make myself fit-looking. I always trained a lot, but what matters is what's in your fridge and what you put into your body.
How did your youth in Canada help prepare you for a life in fitness?
I simply always had to be active. In the winter we shoveled tons of snow—a great back, abs, and thigh workout—scraped the cars free of ice, and we went snowboarding, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.
In the spring it was about running trails, staying in shape from the winter, raking the dead leaves that were left behind, trimming the garden and trees, and sawing off branches that fell from the winter. In the summer we swam in the lakes and ran the hills.
The autumn was for cording the wood outside to dry—we have a wood stove and buy the wood already split—wheelbarrowing the wood into the house, and stacking it again. The autumn offers beautiful weather to run or bike the trails, and as the leaves change colors we spent plenty of time raking leaves. We also trimmed the plants to get them ready for the winter and covered the plants that needed to be covered.
What would it mean to you to win your IFBB pro card?
It would be a dream come true! I started off reading Arnold's "New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding." It pretty much teaches you everything about bodybuilding and competing.
Then later I fell in love with Lee Priest, Dorian Yates, and their old-school hardcore training tactics. I know I can be at that caliber. It is attainable. I've been meeting other IFBB members, and it feels like family. I just feel like I fit in.
How did you discover BodySpace?
How do you think BodySpace has helped you reach your goals?
I get pumped up from motivational quotes and great pictures. When I need extra motivation or feel like I've taken a step back, I look at transformations and they inspire me to do better and be my best. If regular people can change their life around at any day, at any age, why can't I? Why would it be any different for me? That drives me.
You have a unique name. Where does it come from?
My mother saw it in the Baby book when she was looking for names for me. It's a Canadian baby book, that's why I've met three other Zarahs in Canada. They each also happened to be my waitress at the time. Now there is a Brazilian store called Zara, so most people understand my name.
I'm used to saying "hi I'm Zarah with a Z." That's why my Instagram is KeepitupZ. My name means the "Beginning of Dawn" and I was born in the morning with the sun, so it fit.
We heard you were a rugby player? Do you still play?
I wish! I heard there are pickup leagues here in Florida. It's very tempting. The ball is so much fun to pass behind you with a spiral, fun to kick—and it's really fun to tackle!
What is your favorite feature on BodySpace?
I now love the FitBoard! At one point I was posting those babies every day. It's great and inspiring to see some of the photos people post. Plus, who doesn't love photos with a few words rather than reading an article! That's why I love Instagram over Facebook. I find Facebook … yawn ... boring.
How have social media sites like BodySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram affected the way you've shared your fitness journey?
BodySpace I feel I share more for some reason. I have a hate for Facebook. They know all of your information and possess all of your photos, but on the other hand, it is great for reconnecting with old friends.
Instagram I just got into, and I love it! They don't take all your personal information and exploit you with ads. You share photos and the hashtags on the photos get grouped into categories. You can search and find cool photos all day long. In my opinion, it's way better than Facebook. Twitter I never got into, but I think I'm opening a fitness account in the near future.
Someone will read this feature and consider joining BodySpace. Why should that person become a part of the largest fitness social network?
Everyone on BodySpace is helpful and wants you to reach your goals. It's inspiring to see your own transformation and how far you have come from when you started. Some of your friends really might have great advice for you if needed, and they care when you're not around. You can talk about anything that's going on in your life—really!
What are some of your favorite new features of Bodyspace?
The photos are now added when anyone posts a message. It puts a name with a face, and helps me remember who I spoke to. The FitBoard is new and similar to Instagram, with all the inspirational photos. The fit status posting on the profile is new too, and it makes my profile easily accessible to my friends, so we can share thoughts and ideas.
How does your BodyBlog help you interact with the other members of BodySpace?
The comments some friends make on my BodyBlog are very positive. It inspires me that I inspire them! I answer questions that are asked, usually about carbs and training. It's really a community and we're all after similar goals.
You've been on BodySpace for a few years. How do you stay motivated for the long term?
I still haven't gotten to where I want to be. I feel I have my body there, but in the marketing department, some people have surpassed me and then fizzled out. I want to be a spokesmodel and help more people develop staying power. I'm motivated to feel healthy and look a certain way, and to feel comfortable in my clothes: a tank top, shorts, or skirt.
When you start covering up, and making excuses to yourself—saying that you'll be on track soon—or you need to lose "xx" amount of weight, just quit wishing, start doing, and you'll get there soon enough. Do you want to age like a fine wine or age like a raisin? I love older people who are fit and healthy. I want to be like that.
You've been featured in a number of magazines. Which one meant the most to you?
I think "American Curves" was pretty cool. Unfortunately it's out of circulation. I got the centerfold and a headshot in the mag. I understand that magazine don't have many headshots, so that was cool. I met Robert Kennedy and his wife Tosca Reno at the Arnold Expo in Ohio. My condolences go out to their family for the loss of Robert.
What are your favorite supplements?
I love branched-chain amino acids! I can take them immediately after training or before training if I feel I don't have enough food to train. N.O. Xplode ready-to-drink shots by BSN kick my ass if I'm tired or have a killer workout ahead of me—like legs.
I take a multivitamin in the morning, fish oil for joint inflammation and to reduce food cravings, and CLA to burn fat for fuel. And of course I take the mother of supplements: whey protein. If it's after training, I recommend a whey isolate. Before bed or as a meal replacement, I take a whey protein concentrate.
What type of music do you listen to in the gym?
I've broken two iPod Nanos, an iPod Mini, and a Shuffle. So I'm training with the gym music most of the time. I hear the clanking of weights and deep breathing. It's how I always trained when I started out, so it's familiar to me.
I love Limp Bizkit's "Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog-Flavored Water" album, Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and electronic artists like Aviici and David Guetta.
What are your biggest nutritional challenges? Are you a beer lover?
Oh yes, I love beer. I used to drink pitchers in college. I gained so much weight! If you drink occasionally, limit it to one day only, and only a couple of drinks. You'll lose 5-10 pounds right there.
My other challenge was eating and snacking at night. To stop, I had a meal plan and stuck to it in order to reach my goals. My meal plan had no time limit, meaning I can eat protein and veggies before bed if I wanted. If I was hungry I could drink water or tea or munch on veggies like celery or stalks of romaine lettuce. The habit of eating at night goes away with time, just like any other habit.
If you want something sweet, take a bit of water and mix in a scoop of protein. If you love chocolate, add in unsweetened cocoa powder, a pinch of salt to make it sweeter, and voila: protein pudding! Pop it in the freezer for an hour and bam: protein ice cream! Just remember that it does count as a meal.
There's been a lot of chatter lately about how Photoshop can make models look better than they do in real life. What's your take? When we see pics of you, can we trust what we see?
It's very true. I see some of my friends and I know they look nothing like their photos. Photographers also are great with angles and lighting so they create art on their own. Yeah now there's the computer aspect of it, and with a click that girl has a bottle and a waistline! I'm guessing that's why people love selfies so much, it gives you a clearer image of what the model looks like.
Is there anything you would like to say to your fellow BodySpace members? Have any of them made a special impact on your life?
Thank you guys for staying with, pushing, and believing in me. Yoshi you're awesome and it's been really cool to see you come a long way! Lisa your progress is awesome and I know you'll be on stage really soon! Aneducatedidiot Mike very smart input. BigJim you're the best and have always been there for me, even on Instagram! Chaunska, DaChamp107, StevenSki, Easton54, TonyMMARock, skullguitar, Bennygood, Bsuarez, Hamid, and Melissa my new Canadian Friend! All my new friends and anyone else I forgot to mention thank you all!
How has BodySpace helped you help other people?
I answer questions and discuss issues like bringing cloth bags to the grocery store instead of plastic. I'll suggest alternative healthy products like unfiltered raw apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, and nutritional yeast, which is full of B-vitamins and tastes similar to Parmesan.
Your health and how you feel matter most. Think positive and stay strong. Work toward your goals. You'll get victory.