[CENTER]“5 Inch Heels, Buns of Steel and Pink Leg WarmersI was born a lil muscle head. My parents still brag about my cute pink leg warmers I wore when I first started walking. And according to my mom “I never had stick legs like all the other girls." I always had those round muscular calves even as a kid. My favorite pastime was dancing after dinner and doing Jane Fonda records (this is before VHS videos were popular; those were the days) and then I graduated to “Buns of Steel”, “Cher Fitness” and the “Cindy Crawford” workouts. My cousin Jennifer would come over to hang out with me and the next thing she knows she’s sweating away as Cindy’s famous trainer Radu is barking out orders to “squeeze your glutes." What can I say? I loved to feel the burn!
So, let’s fast forward to 2007. I had just moved from the lush green mountains of Washington State to North Carolina. I was adjusting and working at an all-natural grocery store. I busied myself along the side of my eco-conscious, diverse new work family learning about the importance of organic living. At the same time I worked in this healthy environment I was eager to step up my game, so to speak, and do something incredibly focused. I had always worked out and had a decent amount of muscle and my eating habits were good so I embraced the ultimate challenge: do a figure competition in nine weeks. Figure competitions are a cross between bodybuilding and a beauty pageant. Women are expected to carry some muscle. You glide across the stage in 5-inch clear heels, glistening with a golden painted-on tan and stand before judges who critique your muscle tone, symmetry, conditioning and presentation. A small percentage of the population participates in these shows because it is a 24/7 process. You eat, sleep, and train for that one moment to showcase your physique. But I was determined to do one.
The body is meant to be nourished. It thrives on readily available unprocessed fuel. I thought healthy eating would be enough to drop weight and stay lean. What does eating clean entail? For starters it means no cheating! No chips and salsa with friends at night, no glass of wine on the weekends, much less dessert. Clean eating means consuming a balanced ratio of carbohydrates, protein and fat every three hours to maximize fat burning. Gone were the days of sampling various foods at work and having seconds. Discipline and hours of food prep now consumed my existence as my mouth began to water at the thought of my upcoming meal of tuna and oatmeal.
I became immune to outside influences as I imagined standing on stage in a bikini with lights glaring down at my physique. One bite of fried chicken could add an unflattering blob of fat to my behind. Coworkers laughed at my protein pancakes which I consumed daily in between stocking orders at my retail job. Once your body becomes regulated it processes food consistently and expects it every couple of hours. Going long periods of time forces the body to hold on to fat because it thinks it is starving thus conserving fuel. The most significant change I noticed was the taste of food was stronger and I learned to cook with herbs and spices and not salt. Pure natural food has a flavor that is not normally appreciated in the typical American diet laden with salt, grease and rich fats. Now, don’t get me wrong --- I did crave forbidden foods such as cheesy pizza or other rich dishes. But, the fantasy is much better than the actual act. Once I was allowed these non-diet foods I didn't enjoy the flavor as much as I expected. I craved my protein shakes and roasted broccoli. How ironic? The name of the game is mental and once you program your mind you can really accomplish anything. It is a lot stronger than we give credit.
I competed in my figure show in Charleston, SC as nervous as can be. I worked so hard and when I walked on stage an unbelievable satisfaction made every cardio session and hundreds of egg white omelets worth it. I won 2nd place in my division and along the way met some incredible competitors who have become great friends of mine. These women are amazing, disciplined, and true figure athletes. Since 2007 I’ve competed in a couple of shows but have found my true calling in power-lifting. My new stage is my strength platform that I mount confidently to lift heavy weight. No longer am I wearing 5-inch heels and painting on my tan; instead I lace up my sparkly Converse All-Star sneakers and chalk up my hands. I've experienced two different sports, both as equally regimented and accelerating.
We all have our true passion, an event, a goal, a task that makes us complete. Mine is lifting the iron. What is yours?[/CENTER]

Check out my updated blog for my journey to a USAPL meet in March.