International Transformation Of The Month: Yulia Pak

Instead of miring herself in cigarettes, bad food, and stress, Yulia signed up for the BSN Summer Shred and totally changed her life. Here's how she did it!

Enough Is Enough!

My whole life, I was shredding. Well, it's probably more accurate to say, "I was trying to shred." I danced, went to the swimming pool, did aerobics, and lifted weights. I wanted beautiful curves and six-pack abs, but I was only in halfway. I wasn't serious about getting results.

I wasn't exactly fat, but I have never seen my abs or any muscle definition. I looked like a girl whose only sport is disco dancing. I worked out hard a few times per week and I thought it would be enough. It just wasn't. I saw all the photos from fitness magazines and did the workouts in them, but I was disappointed in the results. Nothing seemed to work for me. I liked training and did it with pleasure, but I underestimated how important my diet was.

I thought that "diet" was an empty word for me because I would work so hard in the gym. I figured I could just eat anything I wanted. I didn't know anything about nutrition, protein needs, or supplements. My ignorance was my biggest obstacle. I always thought that "tasty" was a synonym for unhealthy, and healthy food was absolutely unpalatable. I was lazy and addicted to unhealthy food. This lasted my entire life until I was sick and tired of not seeing results.

Downward Spiral

Four years ago, I got a so-called "good job." I woke up at 5:30 in the morning and returned home at 8 p.m. I was always tired and absolutely broken, so I skipped all my training. I sat in a chair the whole day eating buns, hamburgers, and other junk food. My ass was just getting bigger and bigger. I even started to smoke.

I didn't have any time to keep my diet or go to the gym. I actually forgot all about my body and my health until my jeans stopped fitting me. My allergies got worse, my spinal problems got worse, and my whole body started to give me signals that something was very wrong. This period lasted for a couple years.

I knew I gained too much weight and looked like a goblin. I couldn't eat or sleep and even my skin looked bad. I looked tired. I was unhappy, annoyed, and aggressive. I stopped meeting my friends and preferred to stay at home in my bed instead of going for a walk. I was full of disaster and started to hate myself. I ate everything that I saw, I smoked, and I was fat. I was sick and tired of it.

Then, I realized in order to stay young and pretty for a long time, I had to be healthy. This was the pivotal point. Approximately one year ago, I started my way to healthy living. This year, I participated in the BSN Summer Shred Challenge and transformed into a person I could be proud of.

Learning Fitness

First of all, I started to read. I knew I was doing something wrong and needed to find out what it was. I had no money to hire a professional, so I had to educate myself. It took time, but now I'm really proud that I did it myself. Without, my transformation would have been impossible!

I focused on Jamie Eason's LiveFit Trainer and my diet. I trained every day. The hardest thing was cardio! Once upon a time I did a lot of cardio. I was queen of cardio, master of the treadmill … and I looked like a skinny bag full of fat. As I started to learn more about training, I began doing cardio after I lifted. At first, it was impossible to run more than five minutes. But I was stubborn and increased my cardio sessions day by day.

For weight training, I focused on difficult, compound movements like squats, deadlifts, bench presses, lunges, and pull-ups. Barbells and dumbbells became my best friends! After one month my workout included 8-9 exercises for a single muscle group and 30 minutes of running. I couldn't keep the pace, so I stopped training every day.

I wasn't giving myself enough time to recover and thus began to suffer. So, I turned to a four-day split and stick to that even now. Now, I feel joy in the gym. I love training!

Nailing Down Nutrition

As much as I liked training, the main challenge was waiting for me at home in my kitchen: my diet. I was afraid of the word. Many people believe diet means "starving," that you have to feel hunger every single minute of the day, and that's frightening.

To get over my fear, I started with the basics. Every day I looked for a healthy recipe, read nutrition facts, and learned what those strange words—carbohydrates, sodium, trans-fats, and protein—meant.

I bought hundreds of eggs and chicken breasts and started to eat five or six times per day. I avoided sugars, fats, and simple carbs. I counted my calorie intake. At first, it was hard for me to eat so much; I felt full all the time. I dreamed about sugar and hamburgers, even at night! But I stuck it out and was soon enjoying my new nutrition plan. It was the first time in my life that I was active and full of energy for an entire day. I counted the hours until I was able to hit the gym.

After the first month, I began to see changes. That motivated me to do more, work harder, and eat cleaner. Thanks to BodySpace, I've met so many people with the same goals. We support each other. It's important to stay social because a lot of people want to support you. I was also very inspired by bikini stars like Nathalia Melo and India Paulino. I looked at them and thought, "If they can do it, I can too!"

For the BSN Summer Shred, I made some changes to my nutrition. Day by day I reduced my carbs, which was driving me crazy. I started to feel sleepy and lazy, but I kept going. I cheated, but I was still on my way. I worked hard, swallowed boiled chicken breast, broccoli, and a gallon of water every day.

A couple of times, I was ready to quit. I thought, "Hey, what are you doing? You need to have a rest and eat pizza!" Every day I was starving and felt miserable. But this hard period lasted only for couple weeks, and then everything became good and positive.

Sometimes, I buy products from my past life. But now they're just unappetizing—too sweet or too fatty. So I stopped buying them, even if I want a cheat meal. I learned healthy baking recipes and now my favorite meal is protein muffins with cherry. They're healthy and so tasty! I realized that it's easy to eat healthy food that tastes good, too.

Nutrition Plan

My daily meals depend on my training regimen. When it's a training day, I add some cereal and oats to my breakfast and eat more nuts and whole grains when I feel hungry. If it's a rest day, I try to eat only meat, nuts, and veggies.

I also try to reduce any dairy products. If I cheat, I try to make it all-natural. I like to treat myself with chocolate, cottage cheese desserts, fruits, and ice cream.

Find Support

It's hard to continue on a positive path if nobody supports you. Make friends with positive and active people—they'll help you when things get difficult. Tell your family about your goals and don't let them hinder you.

Don't pay any attention if they don't want to support you and say things like, "It's nonsense, go and do something more useful!" After your transformation, those same family members will look at you and ask "Oh my God, how did you do it?"

Fitness in Russia

Russia is a big country and no two cities are alike. I live in a small town in the far Eastern part of my country where sport is not so popular. There are only few fitness centers and they are quite expensive. That's my biggest problem!

For example, a one-year membership costs $1,000, which includes gym, aerobics, and yoga. If you want to use the swimming pool, that's extra. Of course you can go outside or run in a stadium for free. Or, you can find a cheaper, simpler gym with only barbells and dumbbells. Yeah, we Russians are hardcore!

Thanks to the Internet, information about sports and nutrition is more available. If people are interested, it's pretty simple to get the necessary knowledge.

My Thanks

I have to thank my adorable husband who supports me all the time. During my transformation, we trained together and ate together. When I was ready to quit or skip a workout, he treated me gently and with kindness. He is my rock to hide behind, my partner, and my love. Without him, I couldn't have reached my goals.