Friday, January 30, 2015 • San Diego, CA 92120

 

Life is a Journey. Live it. Love it.

As I start the second half of my life in sunny San Diego, California, I must say I feel very blessed. At the age of 46, I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would be doing what I love as my career.

I was born in St. Cloud, Minnesota, a city of approximately 65,000 people. I was the shy girl growing up with no confidence, scared to talk, I didn’t have a lot of friends, and I thought that this is just ‘how it is’ as I got older. I was a skinny girl and could pretty much eat what I wanted without worrying about weight gain. I can’t say I ever gave my weight much thought.

I did a lot of bike riding, roller skating, and playing neighborhood games. Being active definitely helped me stay skinny. Being born with good genes also helped, but what you see on the outside is not always what is going on in the inside.

COMFORT FOOD 

I didn’t come into this world being healthy and fit. Like most people, I learned along the way. I was raised on fried foods, mashed potatoes and gravy, pastas, and soda was always available. Hostess cupcakes and pies and the penny candy store was just a few blocks away, which we walked to on a weekly basis. There was no shortage of food that’s for sure and, yes, I did eat fruits and vegetables as well. Truth is, I loved food (still do) and I was an emotional eater so food for me was my comfort.

High school is when reality hit my body. I was less active; I ate à la carte at school; I bought pop and candy in the school bookstore along with all the foods available at home; and, good genes or not, it all added up to weight gain. I grew up with seven older sisters (yep, I’m the eighth) and all of us tended to gain weight in the hips and thighs during high school. I was no exception and I gained about 15 – 20 pounds. My heaviest weight was 145.

These days I fluctuate between 120 and 125 pounds with more lean muscle, which makes an incredible difference. I now know how to eat smart. In high school, I was like a living yo-yo. I tried fad diets and pills (Dexatrim comes to mind and speed). I would starve myself for two weeks at a time, only drinking water and exercising for two hours a day. I even tried to become bulimic, but I couldn’t figure out how to get myself to willingly vomit. Lose a few pounds gain a few pounds. Talk about ridiculous!

HIDING THE HURT

I hid many things in high school very well, including the hurt I felt (and remember) when a friend’s dad referred to me as her chunky friend. I can’t imagine being an overweight kid nowadays since there are so many overweight children at a much younger age.

My self esteem suffered and my emotional side wanted to eat to take the pain away, but I also hid another secret. I haven’t told many people in my life this, but I also used to cut myself. There were days when I would look in the mirror and ask why I was living and I didn’t want to live. I would cut myself with a razor blade up my arms and my legs and feet. To this day, I have scars on my left wrist.

I also remember the night I took almost a whole bottle of Tylenol. I decided that I would just go to sleep and not wake up. After I took them, I realized I didn’t really want to die, I just wanted to be happy. I forced myself to stay up all night and paced around my room until I could call my best friend and ask for help. I was an unhappy girl in high school and as I look back now, I ask God for forgiveness and offer thanks. I know those memories will always be there as a reminder of who I was and who I have become.

I started dating my now ex-husband when I was 16-years old. By the time was 21, I was married and a mother. We were together for 20 years before I realized I could not continue in a marriage while being so unhappy and abused. I will always be grateful, however, for that part of my life because I was also blessed with two beautiful daughters and many lessons along the way.

During those years, I continued my roller coaster of self-love and self-hate. My husband wanted home cooked meals with meat, potatoes and gravy, processed boxed meals, soda and beer. I continued down my emotional eating path. I went through cycles of eating to be happy to mask my sadness and loneliness and then dropping weight from stress. For some reason, I never really regained my chunky high school weight, but I still wasn’t healthy.

LESSONS LEARNED

My mother died of lung cancer shortly after my first daughter Kayla was born. Kayla was just 5-months old, and I was stressed out and became very thin. I remember thinking I looked good. I call those my ‘skinny fat’ years. I was thin but I was not healthy by any means.

My mother’s death affected me in many ways, good and bad. My mother was an alcoholic most of my life. Four years before she died, she quit drinking on her own and I actually got to know her as how a mother should be. I loved her more than anything during those years, so when she died it was very difficult for me. Sometime after her death something changed inside me and I decided to start taking Kayla for walks several times a day. Eventually, my husband bought weights and I started using them. I can’t explain what was going on inside my head, but I just felt the need to be truly healthy so I could be there for my daughter while she was growing up. I started caring about my life and wanted to make positive changes for myself and to pass along to Kayla. I will always thank my mother for that lesson.

I didn’t really know what I was doing when I first started training with weights, but I read fitness magazines and used those as a starting point. Eventually, I got my first gym membership at Gold’s Gym. As I got to know people there, I started asking questions about lifting. That’s when I learned about protein powders and added them to my routine.

 

I took kickboxing class twice a week along with weight training and quickly discovered I could change my body along with looking and feeling great. I gained confidence, not only in my body, but also in myself. I was no longer the shy girl I was growing up. People noticed my hard work and I felt great. I also realized that I was in an unhappy marriage and it was not going to get better. I decided I wanted a better life for myself and my two daughters, so I divorced my husband.

NEW CHALLENGES

In 2006, I started looking into competing. The competition world is a whole new level of training, and once I made up my mind to compete it took all of my focus for several weeks. I soon discovered how much mental discipline competition requires leading up to an event as well as in the weeks after.

I compete in Figure, which is in between Bikini (toned/fit body with minimal muscle definition) and Physique/Bodybuilding (very defined musculature with low body fat). It takes a lot of work to get on stage not to mention confidence and poise.

Sticking to a clean eating regimen and specific workouts is a must in the competition world no matter what category you choose. I personally prefer to compete in natural competitions versus National Physique Committee (NPC) although I have competed in both.

In a natural competition, participants must train without drugs or diuretics. I would rather see how I can change my body with food and working out on its own than taking over the counter enhancement drugs. There is a clear difference in the competitors when you compare NPC and natural competitions.

I placed well in my first event winning 1st in my height class, 1st in Masters (age class), and won Overall Champion in the Natural Classic. I competed in the North Star the next weekend and took 2nd in my height class and 3rd in Masters. Life was good and I was on cloud nine.

Then the post competition set in and the roller coaster started all over again. I remember I wanted to keep my competition body and I tried so hard. I stayed on the same eating regimen as long as I possibly could, but the reality is that it is not healthy and it wasn’t realistic. I went through a depression and for a few months I couldn’t even stand looking at myself in the mirror because I thought I was fat. My eating habits spiraled through periods of binging and starving myself again to try to lose the weight I gained. It took my body several months to feel back to normal and to be able to accept myself the way my body was meant to be. I eventually found my balance and I went back to working out, but with a new healthier eating plan.

FINDING PURPOSE

Life never stands still and I went through another round of changes with a new job and a newly discovered sense of purpose. I got my personal training certification and since then I’ve been able to help hundreds of people lose weight, learn healthy living and eating, and become the owner of my own business, Fitness Forever Personal Training Studio near St. Cloud, Minnesota.

I look at myself today and I see a stronger and even more determined woman. I know nothing can stop me as long as I have faith and work hard for what I want out of life. I am a successful businesswoman and entrepreneur. I returned to competition in 2014, taking 1st place overall in the Figure category at Fitness America in Minneapolis and 5th place in the Mr. & Ms. Natural Minnesota for height and Masters classes. I started my Isagenix business and I continue to train with clients and help them be successful in their healthy living goals. I’ve been featured in magazines and newspaper articles; written and published a cookbook now available in print and online; and I have been blessed beyond belief at where I am today. Age has no limit in what a person can accomplish in life; my body has served me well over the years even after all of the stress it has taken through many yo-yo diets and emotional eating.

I love what I do and I am serving my life’s purpose. I want to continue to help people in every way possible. I want to feel good for years to come and to be strong in mind, body, and soul.

My life’s lesson: Take time for you so you can be good for them. Life is a journey. Live it. Love it.