I wasn’t always fit, trim and active. In fact, I was the polar opposite! My name is Amanda Marie, I am a 30 year old personal trainer from Sydney and here is my story from fat, to fit and beyond.
In February 2010, I started a weight loss blog called mevsthebulge.com. I was around 85kg (give or take a few kilos!), very overweight, unfit, depressed and had just discovered I had polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and insulin resistance. I didn’t know what to do. I had “dieted” for years and had gotten no where with my weight. I felt lost, miserable and like a failure. The choice was now clear – unless I changed my lifestyle, I was going to get type 2 diabetes and put my health in serious jeopardy. End of story.
I knew I needed help. I had enlisted trainers in the past but had never found success. I looked up an old school friend who I knew was a personal trainer, Natalie Carter, and asked her if she would help me find my way out of this rut.
She got me focused on effective training for fat loss – resistance training and high intensity interval training. Gone were the endless sessions of cardio I used to think were the key to weight loss and in their place was weight training! I found a new passion for being strong and I reveled in this type of training.
The major change for me, though, was diet. Gone was the processed, fatty, sugary, preservative-filled crap that I ate far too much of. I replaced it with wholesome, fresh foods that were as close to their natural state as possible. I started to focus on eating appropriate portions sizes, as well as being mindful of getting enough protein, carbs and fats rather than just overall calories.
After losing the majority of my weight, and reversing my health issues, I really wanted a challenge. I wanted to mentally and physically push myself and get myself into the best and most athletic shape I could.
So, in July of 2011, I decided to compete in a bodybuilding competition in the sportsmodel/fitness category. I started training for this goal and it came to fruition in April 2012. I competed in WNBF Best Body Swimsuit and then INBA Fitness Model at Filex, in which I placed fourth.
Originally I competed because I know I thrive when I am working towards a goal. I also wanted to see if I was able to return to the athletic shape I once had as a teenager. It was an awesome achievement and I am immensely proud of myself for doing it, but it was not without sacrifice! Time with family and friends were scarce, my work performance was suffering and I was tired and worn out a lot of the time. I was also letting other areas of my personal life slide in favour to relentlessly pursue my goal.
I had a three month prep that was pretty standard by bodybuilding means – oats, berries, egg whites, chicken, greens, brown rice, rice cakes, tuna and repeat. I remember thinking during this time – why such limited food choices? When I had lost the majority of my weight I ate a wide variety of foods but just in the right portions! I could never understand why that theory did not apply to bodybuilding. But I never questioned it. Why? Because I was getting results. But lord I would have killed for some fruit or yoghurt!
So, the time came for me to have my time on stage. I competed looking great but feeling drained. I remembered a conversation I had with Lindy Olsen when I met her at FitX where she told me she still ate a wide variety of foods when she competed. I thought to myself, if I compete again, that’s what I want to do.
And I did decide to compete again. Looking back, I know now that I didn’t really NEED to go through it all again. I think I should have been happy with the transformation I made and got back to my original goals of being strong, fit and happy. But there were things niggling me when I looked at comp photos – my glutes were a little saggy, my rear delts and back needed work and my legs needed attention. All very minor things that I could have just worked on without having to go through competing again, but nonetheless, I was like a dog with a bone – I felt like I HAD to do it again. I can be very stubborn like that!
The process started again but this time I wanted to do it MY way. I wanted to eat all the same healthy foods I had always enjoyed. I wanted variety and not to be restricted! I wanted to see if I could compete using a more flexible dieting method.
Via facebook, I came across a young, natural bodybuilding coach, Evan Godbee, who was promoting a prep method called Flexible Dieting AKA IIFYM (if it fits your macros). We started chatting and I got to know more about him, his competing history and his philosophy. I liked what he presented to me so I enlisted him as a coach. It was the best choice I could have made.
Gone were the endless meals of chicken, rice and greens and in their place were meals of my choosing, so long as they fit my macro-nutrient and fibre goals. I was eating a wide variety of foods every day – yoghurt, fruit, red meat, cheese, muesli, nuts and sometimes, when the cravings hit, chocolate or icecream! It was fantastic. Such a balanced and healthy way to prep.
Also, gone were the endless hours of steady state cardio and introduced were a couple of high intensity interval sessions a week. I recently read a quote by Layne Norton that said, “Cardio should be like a girls skirt, long enough to cover the subject… short enough to keep it interesting”. I couldn’t agree more and the results proved it correct!
I walked on stage this time looking better than last time – mission complete. That’s all I wanted from the experience. And not only did I look great, I physically felt so much better than previously! However, like last time, I made the same sacrifices and had the same emotional battles and struggles.
The emotional side of competing is probably the biggest hurdle to overcome. All of a sudden you become so obsessed with how you LOOK. Everything else falls by the wayside as you just steamroll towards your goal. I wish I knew how to balance it properly but I just couldn’t. I think that is probably because I didn’t have the amount of self-love and self-appreciation needed prior to competing. I think, in order to be successful on stage, I think you should really be happy within yourself, first and foremost.
There seems to be a false message spreading out to girls that competing will boost your confidence and make you look and feel great. Well, that can be true in some cases but a lot of the time I see girls come out of prep sadder and with less self-worth than they had before because they no longer look like they did on stage. They find it too hard to maintain their stage body. Which is fair enough! It takes a lot of hard work to maintain that kind of leanness day in and day out! But I don’t think anyone’s self-worth should be diminished just because they can’t.
Now I am getting back to what my original goals were when I first set out to lose weight and am leaving bodybuilding behind. My new goals are strength, power, fitness and ultimately balance. I am even aiming to try my hand at powerlifting at the end of the year!
I also want to be able to treat myself when I like with the knowledge that I work hard enough to deserve it. Everyday I’m getting stronger and am loving myself more and more. I have a new found respect and appreciation for myself.
I know now that I don’t have to have a six pack or be “lean” in order to be happy. I’ve been on both sides of the fence and know that neither makes you truly happy! But to love yourself for who you are and what you have achieved – well, now that is true happiness. And that is the happiness that I’m working towards achieving and maintaining all year round and for the rest of my life.