I’ve been struggling with my weight since I was a child. I had always been teased and picked on as a kid for being heavier. I weighed 200lb before I was even in high school. Even at a young age, I knew that I needed to do something about my weight issues. I not only disliked my appearance, but it really affected my social life growing up.
Growing up in a Portuguese household, my parents and grandparents had been less aware of healthy eating. I was surrounded by a culture where family gatherings revolved around food, and any form of self-moderation brought on questions of “What’s the matter with you? Why aren’t you eating?” My grandparents often made traditional desserts and pastries, and fed fried, fatty (and delicious) foods regularly. Living in a busy household meant that quick, easy, processed food was a staple in the fridge and freezer.
At that age, I hardly knew any better; I ate what my parents fed me. I stayed home often, not wanting to go out and play with the other kids because of my weight, afraid I’d get picked on. It wasn’t until my teenage years that I decided to learn more about healthy eating. I had had enough of schoolmates bullying me about my weight. I researched information online, read health books, and spoke to nutritionists and trainers to educate myself about proper nutrition.
Armed with the little nutrition information at my disposal, I cut out sugars and fried foods, and swapped them for whole grains, fruits and vegetables. By the time I was 17-years-old, a trainer had given me a diet program to follow. In high school, I lost about 35lb and was weighing about 165lb. But standing at 5’6”, I was still quite overweight. I knew I had to keep going – the results I had seen so far were enough to push me and motivate me to continue my journey.
I continued my healthy eating regimen and intensive training, and by the time I had graduated from high school I weighed an incredible 120lb. I was finally satisfied with my weight, and I was so proud of myself. I thought I no longer had to watch my food intake as carefully. After all, I was done losing weight, so that meant I was done watching what I ate, right? Wrong. This naïve thinking had led me to gain back the 80lb I had previously worked so hard to lose.
On my 20th birthday, I weighed 200lb and was wearing a size 14 dress. I always thought that was ironic. That was the moment I realized that “I am my own motivation.” I kick-started my diet and workout routine once again, and within one year I weighed 150lb.
But my journey wasn’t over just yet. At the beginning of 2013, I began a bootcamp session with my trainer. My newfound passion for fitness led me to compete in fitness competitions on stage. My first competition came in May 2013. I weighed in at 120lb for the competition, and I felt amazing. I had never seen my body this way before. Standing backstage, with all these other fit and toned women who radiated such poise and confidence was an experience of a lifetime. I was extremely excited and felt such a surge of confidence. All I could think of moments before stepping out from the curtain was was, “Oh my Gosh! I’m actually going to be on stage!”
It wasn’t easy getting to this point. Some days were grueling, balancing 10-hour shifts at the dentist’s office and training for fitness competitions before and after work. There were days that I had become so exhausted that I would cancel dinner plans with friends to just stay at home and rest. But, going from a size 14 to a size 6? That has made every single difficult moment worth it, without a doubt.
I am now training for my next fitness competition coming up this October. Once again, I’m beginning the crazy schedule: my days start at 5am with a training session, then long hours at work, followed by another training session after work. It may be difficult at times, but it’s totally worth it.
During my off-season (when I’m not training for a competition), I maintain a good exercise regime: 6 days a week of exercise, which consist of 40 minutes of cardio and 45 minutes of weight training, followed by one day off. When preparation time comes around, I have to up-the-ante by adding an extra hour or two of workout time each day.
My cardio workouts usually consist of the treadmill and the Stairmaster – and I’ve recently grown to like sprinting outdoors as well. My workout routine during my training focuses on muscle groups including legs, back, arms, shoulders, and core. My favorite workout day is “back day”. Often, my workouts include sets of lunges, squats, bicep curls, and seated rows.
I am so proud to be a Bel Marra sponsored athlete. Their amazing products have greatly enhanced my training and my health in a ton of ways. My all-time favorite go-to supplement is Ageless Complex and Immune Support, which I make sure to take every day.
Throughout this journey, I’ve realized that I don’t just have a passion for fitness; I realized that fitness and good nutrition should be part of every person’s lifestyle. You don’t need to make it your whole life, but it should definitely play a key role in how you live your life. I’ve learned that our health is too valuable to neglect, and that it’s easier than we think to take control. My outlook on life has changed dramatically from my childhood, from being the “fat girl” that everyone teased in school to being a confident, fit woman who likes to go out and meet and inspire new people.
From my personal struggles and experience, the three main things I’ve learned that I would pass onto others is to educate yourself, practice what you preach, and take initiative.
I’m even amazed and feel so humbled to know that people have reached out to me to tell me that I’ve inspired them. I hope that my story can inspire many more people in achieving their goals and living a healthy lifestyle. Although there will always be excuses, don’t let them sabotage your hard work and effort. Living a healthy lifestyle is for you, and those you care dearly for. I guarantee that the moment you decide to take control of your life, you won’t look back.