Over the past 6 months, I have retained the services of 3 like-minded individuals to help me LEVEL UP! I invested not only in my personal fitness goals, but also in my brand.
I have a fantastic Weightlifting Coach who meets with me in person periodically and also writes my program for the days we are not working out together. I have progressed exponentially since we started our specific program and I am creating wins weekly.
In addition, I enrolled in a group coaching program with a Fitness Business Coach who is teaching us the important details and all of the facets involved in marketing my brand. She is brilliant and has walked the walk in taking the business to either a completely online format or a hybrid format where I mix some in person coaching with online coaching.
And lastly, I hired a powerhouse Business Coach to dial in not only on my mindset and sales (something I have very little experience in), but also marketing and content creation. Our one-on-one sessions are absolutely incredible and his mentorship is unparalleled.
Yes…. I’m investing…
Sure, I probably could have figured some of these things out on my own, but guess what…? I already tried that. In fact, I tried that for the last 8 years and yet I’m still not where I want to be.
There comes a point in everyone’s journey where you have to say, “Maybe if I hired someone to help me, I could accomplish a lot more” or “I could get there faster!”
This parallels having a fitness goal and you finding your way. You could look up information online. You could follow your favorite Instagram model/trainer/guru. You could jump on the latest trending diet…which one are we on now? is it keto or south beach? it’s so hard to keep track of for me because it’s all so convoluted.
If you want to get somewhere, you want to take the most direct route to get there…
I finally nailed down my two siblings to grab a bite to eat last week. Kahlil picked me up and we met Nicholas in front a strip of restaurants and bars close to my apartment. We had reservations elsewhere, but that place lost power so we needed to come up with an alternative. We tried one spot that is known for having great oysters and small plates, but they had no tables available. We went next door and had better luck there. As we sat down to eat, I announced to the table, “So, I’m on a diet, but…” and the collective groans, eye rolls and a fist slamming into the table ensued. LOL You see, my brothers have watched me voluntarily torture myself with Bodybuilding Competition Diets for years… and after my last show, I told them I was done.
Over the course of nearly 15 years, many of our conversations started in this fashion and turned into them asking me things like… “why do you put yourself through this? how do you find this enjoyable? who cares what some stranger thinks about your physique? You already look good, why do you feel you need to change anything?” etc… They love me and I appreciate it. But their love and concerns never stopped me from pursuing the goal I once held tight to my chest of competing for the coveted Miss Figure Olympia Title and gracing magazine covers. Sadly, those dreams would not come to fruition. The Universe had another plan for me. My family is grateful for my departure from the stage, after me experiencing a multitude of physical ailments and minor mental health issues, all of which I have gotten treatment for.
Bringing it back to the fabulous Coronavirus-fueled summer of 2020 that we are all enduring together, but apart: I decided to put myself on a mini-cut… or a short-term bodybuilding style cutting diet, for multiple reasons.
I am taking new photos for my website.
I wanted to see what kind of shape I could get myself in with 7 weeks of time to prepare.
I got soft during the beginning of the shut down and I was not happy about it.
This was an incredible test of my mental toughness. I wanted to see if I still had what it takes… and let me tell you, YES… I… DO!
It’s the night before my shoot… I feel really calm and relaxed… I’m hungry for sure, but I am proud of myself. I went off plan twice in 7 weeks, both occasions were planned and both times I didn’t feel great about cheating. I made a plan and I stuck with it. Is my physique where I had envisioned it at the beginning of this process? Sort of… but I don’t regret putting myself to the test. I cut out so many little extra things here and there, trying to eliminate any excess cause for water retention, bloating, and to work towards burning body fat. I will say, body fat is really stubborn, and there were a few times I got on the scale and wanted to throw it out of the window! (I didn’t don’t worry).
My friend that I spend the most time with has marveled at the fact that I have not gone off the rails or had even a morsel of food that I craved. I would routinely send her food pictures, videos, and IG reels from popular food accounts. Yup, the diet must be working. I normally do not get cravings of any kind.
So tomorrow morning, I’ll be back in front of the camera. I am excited. I am nervous. I hope I remember to smile more, to create pretty shapes with my poses, and to suck in my stomach! I gave this personal challenge everything I had to give. I left no stone unturned. I did everything I possibly could to feel comfortable during this shoot. (I even went on a few dinner dates and didn’t cheat!) Thanks for reading. I’ll be sharing the photos in the near future. Cross your fingers for me!
My number one love in life has always been dancing. As far back as I can recall, my body would sway, bop, bounce, jump, tap, shake, whatever you can imagine… to a rhythm pattern, a sequence, a song playing in a car passing by and even commercial jingles on TV. Movement… it’s always been about movement. Show me once, I can mark it… show me twice, I can perfect it… then please give me space so I can do it full out. For my dancers reading this, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
I had this incredible ballet teacher at one point that would not allow us to practice in the perimeter of the room while other dancers were working in the center. We had to sharpen our minds and be fully engaged in every word, nuance, and breathe. We would even have to listen to how she instructed the accompanist to play, for it would affect the speed of the sequence.
I started ballet at the old girl age of 15… that’s very late in dancer years, but better late than never for me! Prior to starting ballet, I was at a dance school that focused heavily on the end of the school year recital. We would spend most of our time learning and practicing one tap number and one jazz number. After 2 years of this, and a minor bullying incident with a teacher that hated my enthusiasm and love of dance, I asked my mom if I could find another school where I could learn technique. I didn’t understand (at the age of 15) why it would take some students an entire school year to nail a routine… but when you went into the schools in the city (NYC of course) you learned a new routine at the end of each class. (Mind… blown!)
So one Saturday morning, my mom took me to a new school… We felt like we were cheating on my original school, but we knew something needed to change. In the interest of me first trying the school to see if I liked it, we stuck with Jazz. I was in way over my head, the teacher used all sorts of terminology I had never heard before… the class moved at a very fast pace… some students doing quadruple pirourettes (I was lucky to get around once lol).. and I kept my game face the whole time. I sucked… I held in my tears… and I knew that this was where I needed to be. Don’t get me wrong, I really hated it in the moment… but what happened at the end of class, I will never forget. The instructor came over and asked me (and my mom) how much ballet training I had. When I said, “none”… the look on his face was priceless. He said, “So everything I just witnessed was raw talent and no formal training? If that’s the case, you have an incredible gift!” and my mom said, “that is correct and that is why we are here.”
I finished my year at the original school and performed in the recital… even though I started training at the new school. That was the first time my mom realized she needed to listen to me a little more. I knew what I needed to grow and to improve. I’ll never forget that day that I was way out of my league in the studio. I gave it my absolute best. I have always been ALL HEART. My point to you is this, don’t keep ignoring that voice inside of you telling you to try something new, or to pursue a new goal or dream. What do you have to lose?
It would appear that everything I did for enjoyment was actually quite difficult. Was it the activity or was it me?
Throughout my turbulent childhood, I learned so many valuable lessons from my mother. She and my father were wise beyond their years. My mother always encouraged me to reach for the stars and to not settle for mediocrity. “Choose the hardest thing first. If you succeed, imagine how fantastic you will feel. If you fail, at least you tried, which is more than what most can say.” This mentality really stuck with me, all my life… even up to this present moment. Even things that were incredibly hard and scary… like Engineering school, like competing in National Level bodybuilding shows, like singing in front of my new coworkers at a staff meeting (I was dared by the Manager). I still did them!
I have learned over time that strong people typically are not born that way. They become strong through overcoming adversity, beating the odds, having tenacity to keep fighting for something they feel passionate about, and being disciplined enough to say no to the current situation in an effort to hold out for the future situation being developed/manifested.
In college, I cried every single day. I was homesick. I missed my baby brother the most… and I felt incredibly isolated. I had a mental timeline established. Graduate college in 4 years, find a job, find an apartment, start to enjoy my independence, pay back loans, and maybe have some fun. I really suffered through college, but I made a deal with myself that until I received a “D” in a class, I would stick it out. I went from graduating very close to the top of my high school class to having a mediocre average. Most of my college classmates were the cream of the crop when they were in high school also. Competition was fierce and the course material did not come to me easily.
I stuck with my major out of fear of being looked at as a failure. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone, most importantly myself. I had something to prove. Looking back, I wish I had someone tell me it was ok for me to change my mind and that change is not failure. I was so worried about graduating in 4 years, I could feel the pressure pinning me down, pushing from my shoulders down down down into the ground… I was about to buckle.
I am very proud to say that I did graduate on time. 1 out of 4 women in the Mechanical Engineering program in the Binghamton University Class of 2000. That’s right… the year of the infamous Millenium Bug. We had two ceremonies over the course of a weekend. The first event was a smaller recognition ceremony. My name was called and I got to wear a beautiful pink and yellow flowered dress. The second event was a massive extravaganza of hundreds of people in the downtown arena. I wore my cap and gown and took so many silly photos with classmates… some of whom I have not seen since.
I remember leaving campus. I remember feeling scared. I remember feeling proud. I remember thinking, “Now what?”… and I remember hearing my mom’s voice in my ear…
Bodybuilding doesn’t define me, but it most certainly is a very big part of who I am as a woman, an athlete, an entrepreneur, a fighter, a hustler, a survivor. The path I have walked my entire life is one that is paved with very difficult challenges which I had to work hard to conquer… From Karate to Ballet to a Mechanical Engineering degree to Bodybuilding to taking up CrossFit… each of these things involve putting in a lot of work… countless hours upon hours of focused, detail oriented work.
My first karate class, I learned how to do a front kick… just a front kick which in Japanese is mae geri keage (snapping front kick). For one hour, I practiced that kick. I was 7 years old and that was my first real taste of life. What an experience. Sometimes in life we have to do one single thing over and over and over until it is perfect and then what happens next? Well, do it on the other leg of course! and after that? do it faster, do it while transitioning from another stance, do it while hitting a still target, do it while hitting a moving target… So, you get my point right? and this is how my life has unfolded before me.
Bodybuilding was very similar for me. I started lifting 20 years ago. I studied magazine articles and stared in awe at the fit women I would see in the gym. I had a long way to go, but I knew it would take a dedicated effort and I couldn’t miss scheduled gym sessions. One summer that I was home from college, I used to walk a few miles to the gym if I missed the bus or couldn’t get a ride. I would be totally drenched in sweat and exhausted by the time I got to the gym, but that didn’t matter to me. I wanted to look like Monica Brant and would stop at nothing to get there. For those of you who may not know who Monica Brant is, she is the most photographed woman in fitness. She has been featured on more magazine covers and in more advertisements than any other woman in the world of bodybuilding and fitness. Please, allow me to share THE PHOTO that kicked my butt into high gear…
So, I ripped this photo out of a magazine and taped it onto my wall. This was my motivation then and I still absolutely adore her physique to this day.
I will never forget my boyfriend at the time saying to me, “You know, you have a really good shot at looking like Monica some day. Your body types are similar. Even though she is taller than you, your structure is almost the same.”…. Are you kidding me? That was all I needed to hear. The bodybuilding addict was born!
For years, I would lift weights 5-6 days per week… I did a little cardio, but not much and if I only had time for weights or cardio, but not both… I always chose the weights. It was a love affair between me and the weights, especially once I started to see results.
Now, I still love my weights, but a few years back I did start to notice that I wasn’t as enthusiastic about my training. I was bored working out alone and I was not enjoying staring at myself in the mirror every which way I looked in the gym. At this time, I started dabbling in other types of training such as Boxing, Powerlifting, Yoga and CrossFit. The latter of this list has really captured my heart recently. I love the constant new challenges and I love working out with a supportive group… but don’t get me wrong, I will always be a bodybuilder at heart. So, while I may not train like the bodybuilder I once was, it is a very big part of who I am. Right now, my fitness goals are different… and that’s ok.
My last time on stage was in 2013. It was a roller coaster of a year for me as I made a huge career change, said goodbye to my favorite car (it died on me after 10 years), and I made my IFBB Pro Figure Debut… What a ride! These pics are some points along the way… April in the top left, November in the bottom right. 22 weeks and 25 lbs difference.
This show was my first show as a Pro and might turn out to be my last. Although one never knows what the future holds, it is safe to say that going through one more competition preparation might do some major damage to my health. In 2010, I earned my pro status at the Team Universe show held in Hackensack, NJ. It was a momentous day and I really put my heart and soul into making my dream come true… What unfolded in the next few weeks post show was a nightmare I thought I would never experience. Extreme water retention, weight gain, cravings, gastrointestinal issues, irregular periods, aching joints, exhaustion… I went into hiding and hated leaving my apartment for anything. I had done major damage to myself by overtraining, undereating, and doing way too much cardiovascular exercise… 3 hours per day, 7 days per week for 9 weeks straight… No complex carbohydrates, too much protein, very low-fat… DISASTER!
I worked with several doctors and hired a coach based out of Canada to help get me on track. We had success and after 6 months of working together, I thought I could try things on my own for a while, which I did successfully. By fall 2012, when I made the decision to change careers and put an action plan together, I had gotten my body to a place where I wasn’t hating myself anymore, but I was trying very hard to continue working towards the body, the image, the shape that I recognize… the one I feel comfortable in.
Fast forward about 8 months… Now I’m a Personal Trainer working at a gym, running my online business Fit by Tiana, and coaching athletes with their stage presentations at local competitions. It felt like maybe I could saddle up and compete one more time. Maybe documenting my experience on social media would help build my following and also show clients, friends and supporters how transparent I am… which would ultimately help my business long-term.
So, I jumped into another show prep with the help of a different coach. We took things slow at first, not a ton of cardio, eating a lot of food, training very heavy weights… A recipe for success, if you will. I knew this could be dangerous… being as I had already experienced countless doctor visits, MRIs, lab tests, detoxes, etc… I made a deal with myself….
“If I start to feel shitty at any point during this process, I will drop out of the show”
What do you think happened??? 🙂 Yup… I felt fine…. all the way until I was about 3 weeks out. Can you imagine preparing for 19 weeks and suddenly
… you look 5 months pregnant after every meal?
… most meals make you nauseous?
… you break out in hives or have severely dry skin?
… your energy plummets (like way more than you’ve ever felt before) you can barely lift your arms or keep your eyes open?
… you want to drop out of the show?….. but…… you don’t….
I went through with the competition… not feeling well… not looking my best… not confident… and ashamed of myself… for something completely out of my control. My body was not happy with me… and here I was having flashbacks and reliving similar bad experiences from 2010.
Was there glory in finishing the process? yes… absolutely! Did my business pick up after the show? yes… it did. Did I secretly hate myself again for being foolish? YES!
Those few minutes on the stage were glorious in some ways… but the price I paid was not. So, while I am very proud of what I have accomplished, and I miss the stage very much… I know my purpose is not to compete.. but rather to help other people who want to compete and to aid them in not making the same mistakes I made. I recently was told by an old acquaintance that she felt competing was “completely self-serving” and “nothing good comes out of it”. I would have to disagree wholeheartedly. I learned so much about myself through every single show I competed in from 2000 to 2013… and I would not trade that knowledge for the world. My clients are better served because of my personal experiences, good and not so good. The simple fact is no one forces anyone to do anything… we all make choices in life and we need to own them.
One of my former bosses used to always say to people he had not seen in a while, “you are conspicuous by your absence”
And, no… I have not published a blog entry in a few months… partly because I am working on restructuring the format, reworking the content I present, and also I’ve been doing a lot of writing/saving entries… just have not felt the push to post anything.
I also have been thinking about my own image/portrayal… How do I want to be received? How do I want to be remembered? I have a lot of experiences to share, views on things related to life and fitness more specifically… yet, I do not feel this drive to shove my views down the throats of my social media followers and blog subscribers.
I have been posting less, sharing less, taking less photos, talking less… spending more time reading, reflecting, learning, and of course, exercising. You see, while I know I am completely transparent, honest, and express myself freely… I also realize that not every thought needs to be expressed exactly at the moment in which I think it. Maybe I’m analyzing too much… but the more nonsense I see being put out into the world, particularly on social media… the more inclined I am to remain quiet and focused on the things that truly bring me joy, happiness, a sense of fulfillment.
So have no fear… I have not disappeared… I have not gone anywhere, except the Jersey Shore for 2 days at the very end of the summer (that was the first and only time I felt sand in between my toes in 2015)… Just rethinking EVERYTHING!
As a miniature person, standing tiny at the height of 5’1″… it has been a never ending battle with my weight as far back as I can remember… From the early days of being in ballet class and getting my booty swatted because my instructor thought I was tilting it back and arching my back (meanwhile, it was tucked under as much as I could possibly tuck it) to the later days of Competition Prep after Prep where my coaches would tell me that the back of my legs are a “Problem” area and need to “COME DOWN” or I’m not going to place well. Yes, it’s safe to say having a naturally muscular build with freakishly developed legs has been a battle, particularly when you are genetically predisposed to hold a little more bodyfat on top of that muscle.
When a person is as shrimpy as I am, even a gain of 5 pounds can look like a lot… I mean, come on… I am short, so where is that weight supposed to go? I recall being a Junior in Highschool and weighing close to 140 lbs (this was before I ever picked up a dumbbell) and my mother saying to me, “Oh Tiana, you have such a beautiful face, it’s too bad…”….. excuse me? TOO BAD WHAT? Oh, that’s right… It’s “too bad” I’m overweight, right? Imagine being 16 years old and your mother telling you this… or even better, the time I came home from a football game my Senior year wearing my boyfriend’s hooded sweatshirt and my mother asking me if I was pregnant…. No… I am not kidding.
The messed up part of all of this is no matter what I weigh, how tight my pants fit, or how many positive (or negative) comments I get from clients, friends, members of the gym… My feelings about myself are not going to change much… what makes it even worse is when someone points it out.
“Damn, you have huge legs!”…. No shit dude…. tell me something I didn’t know and don’t already stress about all day everyday from the moment I wake up, to the minute I need to squeeze into a pair of pants, to the constant tugging, pulling, stretching I do all day at work, to the moment I am going to sleep… no, not once at all did I think to myself, “wow, I need to lose some weight”…. (INSERT SARCASM).
Can’t wear baggy clothes, because that makes me look fat… but I can’t wear tight clothes without people giving their unsolicited opinions… some of it is jealousy and some if it is just stupidity, because pointing out the obvious is the only thing some people know to do.
I wish more people knew how to be kind… how to bite their tongue and show respect… Everyone is fighting private battles, so try to be nicer the next time you want to remind someone of the obvious.