The Common Question

How did you do it?
Yep, that question. A few times a week it pops into my messages or on a post and it’s likely never the answer they want to hear. There isn’t a quick fix, no magic pill, drink or new diet that will suddenly have them dropping weight and building muscle. It takes time, effort and a whole lot of failure and lessons to get there. It all started in 2016, that fluffy chick on the far left...yep, her. That was my highest low point, if you know what I mean. Unhappiness at its physical culmination and eating everything to drown my feelings, it was awful. The end of that year had me finding myself again after 13 years in a lousy, unhealthy relationship ended in divorce. It was freeing and gave me the opportunity to create goals for myself, focus on my health and mental well-being. So, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of the whole process.

First: I decided I was worth it. THIS is probably the hardest but most pivotal point. I had to get in the headspace that I matter, not just as a woman, partner, friend or mom but as a person. I had become so many things and that resulted in leaving myself behind and used food as an excuse.
Second: I had to make a goal. Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea, I didn’t achieve my goal but I did make one. I planned to compete in 2017, but life had other plans that I never saw coming (all for the better). The goal should never be to lose weight, it has to be deeper than that. Health, wealth, inspiration, role model, you pick, but it can’t just be to see a certain number on the scale because that thing is a liar!
Third: Food. Putting that goal to the test starts with the food, all the deliciously non-nutritious, carbs are flavor foods have to go. I’ll be honest, the first few days I felt like a majestic Pegasus trotting around, then the withdrawals hit. These dreadful things, they come with doubt and yearning, they come with sadness and shame, they are the hard part that will likely make you fall in your face but you HAVE to get back up. So many times people assume that I cut out carbs, nope. They assume I starve myself, also nope. I eat 5-6 times per day, I don’t mean snacks, I mean real food like chicken and sweet potatoes, eggs and avocado, oatmeal and peanut butter, veggies and occasionally a refeed (don’t call it a cheat meal, this is a mental game). I eat every 2.5 hours, I buy containers from amazon and have everything ready to go, I set an alarm on my phone that tells me when to eat so I get ahead of any potential weak moments during a fit of hunger.
Fourth: Workout. Here is the part that people start to dread, simply because they are intimidated by going to the gym where the fit bunnies, babes and boys hang out. I was that girl, the one that wasn’t 100% sure about what, how, why in there and that terrifying free weight section along with the insane looking machines with vague at best directions. Ask for help, watch the ones that you want to look like, get a trainer. You will need cardio, you will need weights, you need the gym.
Fifth: Go with the flow. Have I, since the moment I started, been on track? Absolutely not. Have I ever just quit? Absolutely not. Take some time here and there to reasses your goal, make new plans and exceed your own expectations.

A typical day:
6am: Wake up
630: Fasted cardio 45 minutes
730: Breakfast - eggs and avocado
8am: Go to work
10am: 2nd meal - chicken, sweet potato and veggies
1230: 3rd meal - chicken, sweet potato and veggies
3pm: 4th meal - cod, rice and veggies
4pm: snack of almonds
5pm: gym (weights)
630: before bed protein shake with peanut butter
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The Confidence Journey- Recovery

I don’t remember a solid point of waking up, more just bits and pieces of moments in time of coming to reality only to slip away the next. I remember feeling like I had been doing sit-ups forever, my chest being heavy, a dull ache and people in and out. Stephen was there, making sure I was ok and recording tidbits of my medically induced hilarity. My room at the ACPS surgical center was cozy, quiet and I was the most tended to that I’ve ever been in a medical setting. I didn’t have to ask for anything, they were always ahead of my needs. All of my vitals were set on timer, which allowed me much more rest time. The day of surgery, I don’t remember ever being in the recovery room, only my private room. The morning following surgery, the nurses prepared me for release quietly. I was waking up as they removed the blankets and I was scared to look down. I’ve seen several tummy tucks that made me fearful of the results, more just because of the unknown factor. I had faith in Dr. Morales, but even so, anything can happen in the OR and I had hoped it all went according to plan. As the nurses removed the layers hiding my midsection, I chanced a peek toward my abdomen. I smiled. My stomach was flat from rib cage to pelvis, there was swelling but I could tell that the surgery was immensely successful and far exceeded my own expectations. See, I’ve always hated my belly button, it slanted more sideways than up and down, it always made me self-conscious. When I went for my consultation, Dr. Morales said I would be getting a new one and that made me excited and nervous at the same time. As I looked down at my belly button, it looked real and it was up and down. The first time Stephen ever touched my belly button before, I would swat his hand away, I hated it that badly. I’ve seen other recreated belly buttons and I’ve seen some that were just a slit, some that looked like people pushed their finger into a bit of play-doh. This was different and my excitement was palpable. I looked further down to the tummy tuck line spread across the width of my body, from hip to hip, there was a red line of clotted blood under tape, but I could see that the incision was minute. To say I was ecstatic would be an understatement. Stephen arrived shortly after they prepped me for release, I slept the entire way home and the majority of the day. He nursed me the entire day, waking me to take my medications, helping me out of bed to walk to the bathroom and entertaining me on occasion. My friends stopped by to check on me and let Stephen take a break to go to the gym. Day 2 at home I was a little more alert, I was finally realizing the feelings going on within my physical self. I expected the tummy tuck to hurt the most, it didn’t. I was numb, my entire torso felt like I was wrapped in a thick layer of bubble wrap, it was an odd sensation to feel so distant from my own body. My breasts just felt slightly heavier than normal, they were high, so high that if I put my chin to my chest it would rest ever so slightly atop my new bosoms. My back, where the liposuction had been done around my bra line and flanks was the worst. It was a deep bruised feeling and showed as such through the purple swollen spaces around the incisions. The remainder of the week I was increasingly mobile, still unable to stand up straight due to the incredible tightness in my abdomen which caused my upper back to hurt from the hunchback stance I carried around every time I paced around the house in my non-so-attractive, tighter than skin stockings I was sent home in. Stephen had to give me a shower daily and redress me. Dr. Morales’ office sent me home with my recovery bag, the special compression garment for my abdomen, gauze, pads and a zip-front bra. Every day before I showered I had to eat, take my pain medication and properly hydrate, it was an exhausting chore for us both that would take upward of an hour every time from start to finish. I was required to use the restroom before the first appointment, I’m not super regular(TMI), but it was a must. I tried laxatives, I tried a ton of water, I had to try more extreme measurements but that’s a story for a different day. The first post-op appointment was the Friday after surgery, Dr. Morales was pleased with the progress as well as I. That next week was much better, I was much more mobile and able to stand up 90% erect which resulted in the pain moving to the middle of my back. Showering became faster and easier, I was able to eat a bit more and I slowly gained my personality back. Over the course of the week I felt less insulated, the swelling decreased and the bruising diminished. My second post-op appointment the following Friday went amazingly well, Dr. Morales bumped me up to the second stage compression garment a week earlier than anticipated, it is reminiscent of a roller derby jumpsuit...but the crotch is missing. Talk about awkward. It took Stephen and I a full 5 minutes to get the shrink wrapped suit over my still swelled hips to connect the suspender straps, yes, suspender straps just below my breasts all the while laughing uncontrollably at the contraption. Dr. Morales let me know that the following week would have me back in the gym and my excitement went through the roof, I missed it!
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The Confidence Journey - Surgery

I won’t tell you I was excited the whole time, there were a lot of things going on that prevented that. I won’t tell you I felt ready, I won’t even tell you that I never had a tinge of fear and regret through the whole thing...like if I just backed out it would be a better choice. Let me break it down for you. Stephen has a past, like me, filled with tumultuous relationships that obviously didn’t work out. Those are his stories to tell, should he ever feel like he wants to, just know, dear outsider, that the scars left are ever present. Once I got the call that I was one of the chosen athletes, my mind was on hyperdrive, fear began running rampant. Fear of failure as much as fear of success, fear of unworthiness as much as fear of if I could actually do it. I’m a dreamer, a lover of grand ideas. Yes, I’ve seen some of them to fruition, but I’ve also let many fall through the cracks, this was one, that if given the opportunity, the moments that came with it could change the entire course of our  life in a very small amount of time and that alone made me pause to contemplate if I was actually prepared for that. Stephen and I talked nearly everyday about it, if our relationship could withstand all that would occur, if the choices we would make as a unit would be fruitful and worth every painful step coming. Everything moved so fast, I was glad that we had taken the opportunity seriously and had discussed and planned for if I ended up being one of the two. It was 9 days, from the call until I went in for surgery, 9 days. That very short amount of time made me so thankful that Stephen is the amazing man that he is, that my job is flexible, that everyone at Dr. Morales’ office was more prepared than I could’ve ever imagined. At my pre-op consultation, I was presented with a bag full of gauze, wraps, binding, pads, bra and homeopathic medication to start straight away to help the recovery process. I only had to visit the pharmacy to fill my prescriptions, no guessing as to what I may or may not need. The paperwork gave a timeline and how to best prepare for surgery as well as recover once I was home. The morning of the surgery was an anxiety ridden piece of time that I will be happy to never relive. The drive was just over an hour, we just missed a wreck, Stephen was scared, I was nervous. I had spent the week prior prepping the littles, Amelia (9) and Payton (13) for everything going forward. The surgical center was easy to find in the early hours, it was quiet and serene, very classy and ran incredibly smooth. We waited, once I checked in with the front they asked if anyone was there with me and how to contact them, we waited a bit more. All in all, I suppose it was really only around 15 minutes or so of waiting before they called me back. A sweet nurse, with a kind sense of humor and maternal habits guided me to where I would be for the duration of my stay. She asked questions of my medical history, did a pregnancy test, as well as ask what surgeries I was getting specifically, she wanted to ensure I knew exactly what I was getting done, no surprises. She asked me to disrobe and instructed me where to place specific belongings as she would step out to prepare a few more things and bring Stephen in. Once she came back I was sat into a chair blessed by the hands of angels, it was comfortable and included a personal heater, it was perfect. She prepared my IV as Chase and Lance came in to speak with me, they told me how Sarah’s surgery went and we’re really excited with how smoothly everything was going thus far. The anesthesiologist came in and asked a few questions, prepared me for the next steps, my personal nurse Kelly also came in to touch base. Dr. Morales made his entrance and let me know the next steps, prepared me with the markings that would be a basic guide for him during surgery and answer any questions I may have. It was time to start, Kelly walked me back to the operating room and asked me questions to keep my mind at ease, like a good friend would do. She wiped me down with the antiseptic, had me sit on the table and everything faded to black.
Dr. Morales
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The Confidence Journey - Chosen

When the top 10 was announced from the Dallas auditions, I felt like maybe they just wanted to represent variety. There were older, younger, competition ready, and a lot of work required (me). But every single person that I looked at seemed to be so worthy, I couldn’t imagine being the shoes of the ones making the actual choice. November 12, I expected to hear a top 10 list from Houston. Stephen and I were modeling for a photographer that day and tuned in just as the live announcement was ending, then messages started coming in, messages of congratulations. I was not expecting the top 5, overall, to be announced. The next steps moved so fast. I immediately set up my consultation with Dr. Morales. Fast forward to the day after Thanksgiving. Stephen and I were laying in bed, relaxing when my notifications went off, a friend request from Chase Pool, from Behind The Pump, followed by a message asking for my number and if it was a good time to call. The phone rang, Chase was on the other end. He asked how my Thanksgiving was and light pleasantries were exchanged. The next words changed everything. “I have bad news...for three other girls...” I immediately fell to the bed in tears, shocked and at a loss for words. He wouldn’t tell me who the other girl was, only that  I’d find out during the live announcement Monday and that she was my opposite.
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The Confidence Journey - Auditions

Late September, Stephen sent me a message about something he saw on Instagram for a full bodybuilding sponsorship that included plastic surgery. My sweet husband has gynocomastia and would love to have it removed. We chatted a little about it a few times and I figured I would toss my name in the hat as well, it never hurts to try, but would wait to see if I would actually go through with the audition. I wanted to get a better feel for the whole thing, including the other contestants. We drove from Houston to Dallas October 6, arriving at 180Culture around 9am. Stephen and I were one of the first ones there and as everyone trickled in, we started to meet some wonderful people. Chase and Lance showed up, shortly thereafter Dr. Morales and his team arrived and we were able to get things underway. Stephen auditioned first, as I waited and looked over all the other people there I couldn’t help but feel very out of place. Nearly everyone was in stellar good shape, we’re discussing their last competition or one they had coming up. Here I was, overweight, never competed and a hell of a lot more work would have to be done to me versus every other female there. I suppose I didn’t take it too seriously because it seemed like such a long shot, there were gorgeous girls with experience to choose from. As I sat down with Lance he looked over my before and after pictures, having started at 224lbs and worked hard to get down to a more manageable weight, it’s hard to feel like I’ve made progress. In my mind I am definitely still that fat chick. He asked questions about past training and what I looked like at my leanest. Sadly, I had recently gained almost 20lbs when Stephen and I took a break from the healthy lifestyle. After the time with Lance had finished, I met with Dr. Morales and Linda. He was so cool, calm, collected and personable. He looked over my paperwork, which held a little bit about me. It touched on my past marriage, my weight gain and loss, it went over my girl group - the crown fixers, and how I enjoy networking and lifting up others. I left feeling welcomed, but never thought I stood a chance against the others there. Once Stephen and I began our drive home, we compared notes and I figured it would just be a good experience that we had together, just another adventure.





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