Dear Body, Let’s Talk: #dearbody

Dear body. A letter to myself.

Dear body. A letter to myself.

Hey Everyone,

Today is Friday, but not any Friday. Today is the day that I am going to share some very personal things about my body, where it has been, and where I want it to go. I should say that I am likely not alone in anything that I will write here. I should also say that I am writing this letter to myself, to my body to be specific, but I am sharing it because I know that this will be helpful for others, as it has been a very eye opening experience for me. So, here we go. Here is the letter that I wrote to my body a week ago, and the decision that writing this letter caused me to finally make today.

Dear Body,

What up! 🙂 It feels kind of weird writing to you, while being inside of you at the same time. Oh well, details I guess. Jesus, where to begin? Let’s start at the beginning. Remember when we spent hours a day on a tennis court together, you know, basically the entire time that we were growing up. I trained you insanely hard to play competitively. I remember what it felt like to want to play pro so badly that it’s all that I could think about. We were so fit, so happy, so hungry, but not for food.

Then the years went on and I started to want it less, life got in the way, and then remember when that as*hole shot you in the arm on Christmas night? Yup, I remember that too. That was some scary sh*t. We survived, but we were forever changed. We were a little weaker on the left side, but a lot stronger on the inside. Remember how you spent almost a year with your arm in a sling, and we had to do everything with one arm? What a year that was. Remember when we could barely lift a bottle of isopropyl rubbing alcohol 5 times during physical therapy? We cried and cried, but we didn’t quit. We just worked it out, slowly, but we worked it out. Thanks for hanging in there with me.

Ah yes, then there was college. Were we training for anything then? Nope. And what happened during college? Let’s see; we started going to dance clubs (country bars) and dancing, and that was fun because we were so good at it. It was good exercise too.  We were so young, our body was perfect in basically every way, and we didn’t really have to work for it. We could just eat whatever we wanted, sleep or not, drink, and it really didn’t show. Those were the good old days.

Competed in some pageants for fun. Why not?

Competed in some pageants for fun. Why not?

Then remember how I thought it was a good idea to smoke socially, and start drinking socially. Wow those were two of my best decisions, NOT! I so wish that I had never begun either of those things. Why, you ask? Simple, because they are disjointed from who I want us to be. Then you got bigger, had cellulite, and just generally started to look less than wonderful.

I was so mad at you for betraying me and not giving me the beautiful body that I once had. You were likely very irritated with me for not taking care of you. We were stuck together, like it or not. Then one day I decided that I would fix you once and for all and I decided that I would just stop eating and I would work out like a crazy person.  Just for fun I thought that I would up the anti and take copious amounts of fat burners, energy pills, and drink tons of caffeine.

New Years Eve. I just didn't think I was thin enough.

New Years Eve. I just didn’t think I was thin enough.

Oh yeah, you got skinny alright. Skinny like someone who was sick, becuase I was sick. My mind was just crazy. It took me years to admit it, because for a while everyone said how great we were looking. I couldn’t stop and you were just along for the ride. I was anorexic, like seriously  anorexic for so many years. I don’t think that I have ever apologized to you you for that, so I am sorry. That was wrong. I hurt you.

I was anorexic. It took me four years to admit.

I was anorexic. It took me four years to admit. I weighed only 94 pounds here at the age of 25.

I was lucky to have some very good friends around me that finally said that I needed to deal with my problem, and I did. I was one of the lucky ones. Together we beat anorexia and we got healthy again. We gained a little weight, and life was normal for a few years. Then what happened to us? Come on, you know. Shorts became replaced by pants. Tank tops were now covered up by cardigans. Don’t you even think about forgetting that sarong thing that covers our butt at the pool every year. I know, I know, I can try to lie to both of us and say that I have been so busy and stressed out trying to build my company, follow my military husband around the country, raise our children, etc that I ‘just don’t have time to be that thin anymore’. I could say that, but it’s a lie. It’s a lie that I have been telling you, well, me, for years. You never bit off on any of that. You never stopped wanting to be better, but what could you do, you were stuck with me. I was stuck with you. We were so unhappy. We went on like that for almost 10 years.

This is not a happy girl even though I am smiling.

This is not a happy girl even though I am smiling.

Then one day, a friend told me that she was getting into bikini bodybuilding. I didn’t know what that was, so I looked it up and for some reason, on that day in 2013, I was hooked. I knew that was my path. I knew that is where you and I belonged. I signed with a team, and we trained, and we trained. We were starting to change. We were starting to look really good. I felt great.

My fitness team: Team Bombshell

My former fitness team. Team Bombshell.

Then, that fateful day (detailed in another blog post titled My Year in Review) you just stopped working. You started falling down stairs, I couldn’t speak correctly, you trembled all the time. We spent months at the Mayo clinic until it was all sorted out.  I knew deep down that you were broken, broken from all of the abuse in the past, broken from a decade of bad decisions, and when I tried to push you that hard without giving you what you needed, you finally quit. I was so emotionally broken. I felt like you took that from me. I gave you time to heal. I found a new way to make you work again. We were sick and we were hurting, but we found a way through it, together. 

Yes, I know that I continued to train you for the last year and half, but not in the way that we are now capable of, because I have learned to embrace the fact that I am not a ‘skinny’ girl. We have curves, which until I learned about bikini bodybuilding, I did everything in my power to hide that fact. You have broad shoulders, a tiny waist, and more junk in your trunk than we know what to do with, but we are strong. We are muscular, and if we work together, we can do great things. For all of those years, I was a ship lost at sea, and you were my unwilling passenger. I knew that we were going the wrong way, but I just coudn’t see land. I didn’t know where we belonged. It was like I was living someone else’s life. I always had this voice inside of me that screamed that this was not all there was for us. It was you. I didn’t realize that, but you were waiting, you were stoking the fire, you were waiting for me to see you for what you are. You were waiting for me to learn to love you for what you are, flaws and all. Thank God you were so patient and that you are still here and now healthy.

There are many people in our life that do not want us to train, that do not want us to compete, and that are perfectly happy watching us live a life that is short of the one that we can live.  They feel that way for two reasons. One, if we train, they will be forced to look at their own behavior and question if they should and could do better for themselves. Two, it is inconvenient for them. They think that we will change, and we will. They don’t see how much happier you and I will be, in all aspects of our life, if we can work together to get to that really healthy place, so we have to have enough faith for all of them.

I believe in you. I know that you are an athlete. You always have been. No matter what I have done to you, or what you have done to me, we have one thing in common, we both want better. I want to make you better. I have dreams. I have goals. I will no longer live this life, where I know that I am leaving things on the table that I don’t want to leave there.

It has taken me 40 years to realize that you and I need to work together to achieve our goals. It’s silly really if you think about it, because we want the same things; goals, accomplishment, rest, training, clean food for fuel, and plenty of water. I get it now. I am so sorry that it took me so long to figure out that I couldn’t short change you, that I couldn’t manipulate you, trick you, or in some other way make you deliver the results that I wanted without the work. I am sorry that you were trapped with me while it took me way too long to grow up. I am asking for your forgiveness. I want a clean slate. Can you forgive me?

I want to move forward with you, in a healthy relationship where we give each other what we need, and where we both benefit from that process. I want you to know that I have always been an athlete too. I think that is why I engaged in so many of the self destructive behaviors that I did. I was fighting you, and not for any good reason, other than self doubt. I want you to know that I don’t doubt you any more. I don’t doubt what you are capable of. I don’t doubt that you can deliver the results if I give you what you need.

I want to compete in bikini bodybuilding. I don’t want to do it for bragging rights, I want to do it for us. I want to do it so that my daughter looks at me and thinks that she can do anything. I want to do it so that my daughter grows up with a healthy body image. God, I don’t want her to go through what I put you through. I want to do it so that I can play in the pool with my kids on a summer day without stressing about my body. I want to do it so that I can go on a date with my husband without wondering if ‘I look fat’. I want to do it for me, because I still have the spirit of a fighter, of an athlete. That fire still burns inside of me, and I need you to help me make it a reality.

Will you go on this adventure with me? I want us to compete at a show in August, in Louisiana. Its far enough that we can train safely, consistently, and arrive stage ready. Will we win? I don’t know. I don’t know if we will win the trophy on this first time out, but I know that you and I will be winners if we work together to achieve that body. We can tweak everthing else after the first show, but we have to get ready, together. Are you with me? After that, we can do anything we want, but its’ going to be an adventure 40 years in the making. I am ready. Will you join me? We have 106 days, 15 weeks! I’ll meet you at the gym, near the weights. 🙂

XO,

Raphaela

How To Take The Perfect Selfie.

Good Morning Everyone,

I was shooting images the other day, and it occurred to me how silly it is that we all shoot selfies. Don’t get me wrong and think that I am going to stop doing them,  I am not :-). I am just saying that we always look so different, or at least we try to only present the most perfect part of ourselves in these images. It’s all an illusion, and the perfection is really in the flaws, so I decided to celebrate mine.

I made a short video about ‘The Making of a Selfie’ and I stopped once per minute (on a timer, so it’s legit) and took a photo of the process, both hair and make up. I also added my thoughts about each step, and it is really cute. I hope you enjoy it, and it brightens your morning.

Now, Go Selfie!

Gratefully,

Raphaela

Getting Started with Female Bikini Bodybuilding.

WITWIBB? What is the world is bikini bodybuilding?

One day about three weeks ago during Superbowl Sunday, a friend of mine mentioned that she was going to start bodybuilding. I looked at her like she was crazy. She is very tiny, and exceptionally fit (she is an officer in the US Marine Corps), and I didn’t see how someone with her body type would ever be a bodybuilder as I understood it. I started looking into bodybuilding, and suddenly realized that this sport is the perfect marriage of all of the items that matter to me in my life; fitness, beauty (inside and out), challenging yourself, competition, healthy living, and a splash of glamour.

With that said, I set out to try to understand if someone my age (37), at my fitness level (about a 6 on the 1-10: 10 high scale) could ever get into something like this, and how. The following is a list of the things that I did last week while I was doing research. It’s by no means comprehensive. It’s just what I did, and if you find that valuable, then it is here for you to use as well. If you want to add something, please contribute below:

-Read Wikipedia to understand the industry as a whole; history, stars, icons, and future.

-Learn about the different types of bodybuilding/modeling (bikini, figure, physique, fitness) and understand the differences.

-Decide which body type/class that you are going to work towards as a goal.

-Understand the various parts of this industry: nutrition, supplements, training, and finances, and compensation (these will be the subjects of some of my future posts).

-Make a commitment to yourself that you are done making excuses, and that no one is responsible for your body but you!

-Make an appointment with your general doctor and get the all clear before embarking on this journey. Ask your doctor for a referral to a nutritionist if weight loss is a part of your journey, or visit the National Association of Fitness Professionals to find someone local.

-Find a model(s) that motivates you. This will usually be people who are like you; moms, military wives, etc.

-Order the correct supplements and print out their nutrition guide (usually this comes right from the models page on bodybuilding.com).

-Find a local networking/trade event to attend to ‘see the industry’. You may locate this by visiting the websites of the various organizations in this industry, for example NPC.

-Pick one date to go and observe,and then another date to compete. Write it down/stick to it (you know, add it to your calendar)

-Discuss your new decision with the people who you spend the most time around (family, friends, etc) as they will have a heavy influence on you and your success.

-Set up a profile page on bodyspace.bodybuilding.com to be both visible and accountable.

-Start networking right then and there to develop relationships, motivate, and be motivated. Facebook and Twitter are fantastic for following your idols and seeing what they are doing.

-Order at least two industry magazines to help you on your journey (Oxygen and Eating Well are fantastic).

-Dust off your workout clothes, or go buy some new ones.

-Reach out to Shannon Dey at Team Bombshell Fitness for training boot camps, posing coaching, etc. If you are serious and you mean to win, then you work with the best. Period.

Get Focused and Get Ready!

Running To The Bikini,

Raphaela