Lifestyle Prior To Change
What was your lifestyle prior to your transformation?
Prior to my transformation, my lifestyle was shameful, and a reflection of how I felt about myself. I was stuck in a cycle of emotional eating; stuffing my face, feeling guilty about it, and stuffing it some more to quiet the guilt, feeling guilty about that, and just giving up. I didn't take care of my appearance not only by weight, but by clothing and style choices, too. I did absolutely nothing with my free time - I would (sometimes) go to school for the day, then head straight home and open the fridge, the beginning of an entire evening routine of bingeing and watching television.
I would literally go through a 10-pack of pudding cups in one sitting, and it was no big deal for me to eat an entire box of Kraft Dinner by myself. These foods did not make me feel well, and I would just reach for more. I snacked on food for hours at a time, and watched T.V. from 3 or 4 in the afternoon until midnight! That's 9 straight hours of television a DAY! I would even watch re-runs, it didn't matter if I'd seen it before, it was just a way for me to turn off my emotions and zone out.
I had no concept of fitness or nutrition, and I was never taught these things. Everyone in my family weighs over 300 pounds, and when I would cry about my weight, they would comfort me with, "it's not your fault- it's just genetics.", and often hand me money to go to the corner store and buy myself some candy to soothe me. Now I know why we were all fat! It had nothing to do with genetics, it was just poor eating habits and emotional eating passed down through generations.
What was your low point or turning point?
My low point was my senior year of high school, when my hormones kicked in and I started noticing boys. But they weren't noticing me, unless they were asking for help getting with my skinny, blonde friends. With cruel comments like "she's got more rolls than a bakery", and watching how happy and giggly the "cool" girls were, running around in their short kilts, being tickled and flirted with by the guys, I started to realize what I really looked like. Those girls skirts would never fit me. They moved around so easily, and were so happy. I was also having some scary health problems - apart from being dizzy and out of breath at the top of the stairs, my heart would pound loudly when I was lying down - at 16 years old! My stomach was always upset, I had headaches, and was feeling pretty old for a teenager.
I still had no motivation for change; I thought this was the life I was given, and it was pretty miserable, so the TV-and-trough-marathons continued. I started watching talk shows, and was enthralled by the "From Geek to Chic" episodes; transformations of once geeky or overweight kids, rubbing their new, hot bodies in the faces of their childhood bullies. I started crying - I wanted this so badly! I wanted to be attractive, accepted, beautiful...I wanted to have a social life, I wanted to have a body that was light and easy to move, so I could dance, and play, and be graceful!
I started to get angry...why was I handed this stupid, fat, unhappy, unhealthy life when I had so much ambition and life bursting to get out? How could I live the rest of my life - broken down, how could I live like this - nine hours of TV and food every day for the next 70 + YEARS? I got mad enough to arrive at the decision that it was MY life, and only I could direct how it went! Only I decide how I will live the next 70 years, and I decided I wanted to live the life that I wanted. That was my turning point. Seeing results only perpetuated this motivation, and it took off from there.
What Was Your Exercise Plan?
I had no idea what exercise and dieting were about - I came from a family that just did not participate in exercise, and all I had to go on was what I saw other people doing outside, on TV, in the magazines, etc. I started doing sit ups and walking, and that's all I did for awhile. I bought a few fad-items - Tony Little's Gazelle, Windsor Pilates, an ab roller...nothing that produced major results, but it started the ball rolling.
Twenty-five pounds melted off almost immediately simply from cutting out Wendy's fast food and potato chips. The more results I saw, the hungrier I was for more results. I started researching more on the Internet and magazines, immersing myself in any material that would help me get the body (and in my mind, thereby the life) that I wanted.
It was an evolution of 20 minutes a day of situps and a walk around the block, morphing into 30 minutes on a treadmill, then running, then picking up weights, until 3 years later I found myself a walking encyclopedia of information, running 9k a day, lifting weights 6 days a week, and seeing a six pack...in a magazine...and it was mine. The kid who once teased me for "having more rolls than a bakery" asked for my phone number at a party because he didn't recognize me and had no idea who I was! I never dreamed that I would go from being fat and on the couch to modeling in big cities and standing in a bikini in front of hundreds of people in Figure shows! It felt so great!
What Was Your Diet Plan?
Since I had no idea what I should be eating, I decided to start with what I SHOULDN'T be eating. (That isn't hard, as long as you're honest with yourself!) To this day, I hate baby steps - I'm an all-out-lets-get-results-now type of gal. But since I didn't know what I was doing, I did it all in baby steps, learning as I went along, so I guess I have to recommend that approach to others! I told myself I would cut out ONE naughty food item per week, so I didn't go crazy and throw in the towel. The first (two) weeks I cut out Wendy's foods, then went the pudding cups. The week after that, the fish sticks did not touch my plate, and one month later, after caving to a craving for Wendy's, I discovered that it didn't taste the same anymore...in fact, it tasted rather awful and I was kinda craving lettuce instead!
From there it got a lot easier, and I focused on learning about what I should be replacing those foods with. I bought a book called Fat Wars by Brad King - I didn't follow the diet plan in the back of that book, but it changed my life in the fact that the book described in great detail exactly what a carbohydrate/protein/fat was, how my body processed it, and why I needed it. I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't know exactly what a "protein" was before reading Fat Wars; I knew that it referred to meat and dairy, and I knew a "carb" was bread, but that was the extent of my nutritional understanding. (A classic example of why it is essential that parents teach their kids early on about fitness and nutrition!)
As soon as I knew what I should be putting in my body and why, the pounds just flew off! When I started bodybuilding, I used a few diet plans that coincided with the knowledge I'd picked up from Fat Wars, and that's how my first contest preparation happened!
What Supplements Did You Use?
During my transformation, the only supplements I used were whey protein powder and a multivitamin. After I was a seasoned athlete, I experimented a little bit with a couple fat burners (the side effects scared me), some fiber supplements (made me fart), and sesamin (no noticeable benefit).
In the end, I decided to save my money and keep it simple, and to this day I rely only on whey, vitamins, and good old fashioned exercise and diet.
What Is Your Life Like Now?
Currently - I am actually going through another transformation right now! A couple of years ago, I injured both my legs while training, and after an entire year of being literally off my feet (and eating chocolate every day because I was sad that my fitness modeling career was "over"), I piled on forty pounds!
I have since taken that off, and am now tackling the last ten pounds that will get me back to my stage weight!
I'm kinda glad it happened. My biggest fear was that I would relapse and gain all the weight back, and now that it happened, I understand it, I learned from it, and I now know how to prevent it from ever happening again!
It's been yet another learning experience, as I can no longer jog or do any sort of plyometrics for cardio, but those who can't do, teach, and I am not only documenting my progress on my website, but I am helping others who want to change their lives and bodies.
(Readers can follow me at http://totalbabe.wordpress.com/)
Advice For Others
Immerse yourself in it. Live, eat and sleep it. Never take your mind of the image of your ideal life and what you will look like, how you will feel. Learn everything you can - start reading! It can be difficult, because on the Internet, anyone can post information and it might not be true, or is biased. My two guidelines for this are:
- Fitness is free. You should never have to pay for it (unless you want to, i.e. dumbbells, a book, a personal trainer, or a treadmill, but even these are not necessary. Strength training can be done with bodyweight exercises and cardio can be done outdoors!)
- The more you read, the more you will find that the same principles will repeat themselves in every article you read. These are things to believe.
More From Stephanie Althea
Your life right now - are you happy? Can you stand to live exactly as you are, with no change to your day-to-day life for the next 40, 50, or 60 years? It's your life, and you are the only person who can change it. I am living proof that it is possible, "genetics" is not a valid excuse, and that you can make it into the dream life that you wish you had! Your mom was right when she said you can grow up to be anything you want! Don't get depressed and give up! Get mad and fight for it!