On the eve of competition week, I reflect on the 7 month journey and it really has been a journey.  When I started in November, I needed some help and guidance to get my nutrition and training in check.  My nutrition was not producing the results I was looking for and thankfully, the time I spent in the gym helped me to combat what I was eating which included meals that were more carb focused than balanced.

I was searching for the right formula to help me lose weight.  I got caught up in diets and products touting shedding pounds when I experienced just the opposite. I was putting in time at the gym, lifting weights and doing cardio.  I thought the scale going up was muscle weight.  Afterall, muscle does weigh more.  However, my clothes were tight and my waist was non-existent.

I was eager to transform myself and learn.  In working with Ray I did just that.  Ray’s expertise as a former competitor and show promoter has been invaluable.  Additionally, his personal experience with weight loss and keeping weight off has helped me transform my relationship with food.

After seven long, hard months of dedication and countless hours in the gym, learning about and seeing first hand how macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat, and protein) impact the body’s ability to develop lean muscle.  Through the meal plans that Ray’s created for me, I have learned which foods to eat and how my body responds to those foods.

As I’ve said from the beginning of this journey, success is getting to the stage.  I am one week out from the stage and I feel good. I am proud of my accomplishments and dedication.

Ray and his staff’s communication help competitors to feel prepared going into the show.  Information was shared including timing of event, pre-tanning preparation, and a list of competitors.   Unlike last year, a list of competitors in each division was not sent out.  Like other competitors, I do like seeing the field of competition.   Instead, Ray sent out an email that read “Your biggest competition is you.”   This could not be more true and is a great motto to live by for the show and in life.  Be your best and show your best self.




After my second show, I enjoyed life and all its wonderful flavors.  In May, John and I went on our long awaited trip to Italy where I indulged in cappuccinos, prosciutto, olive oil, wine, bread and occasionally pasta.  I thought of Italy as a reward for all the hard work, dedication, and restrictive eating I did while I was training for the shows, and I thought that once I got back home I would go back to a healthier way of eating.

However, the Italy indulgences continued when I got home where dinner lots of times became nothing more than grazing “Italian” style.  We would go to the store for prosciutto, Parmesan cheese, and bread.  Once home, we’d serve “dinner” with olive oil and a bottle of wine. This way of eating became routine.

I knew that I needed to do something to get me back on track. I heard a lot about the Keto diet, how eating that way trained one’s body to burn fat instead of carbs and how people have shed weight eating that way.  I decided to immerse myself in that way of eating hoping to lose weight and make a sustainable lifestyle change.  I bought books, read articles, and joined private groups on Facebook where I found the support and help from others who made Keto a lifestyle and found great success.  I enlisted the help of this Keto community to make sure that my macros (carbohydrates, fat, protein) were accurate for my goals. I joined the premium version of My Fitness Pal so that I could use grams to track my macros and I meticulously tracked everything I ate.

During my Keto phase, I was also trying to build muscle mass. I started working with a personal trainer, who embraces the Keto diet and even intermittent fasting.  During our training sessions, I always weaved in questions that I had about Keto.  During working with him, he shared that from his perspective it is very difficult to build muscle with Keto due to the way that the body needs glycogen to build muscle.

I was still determined to make Keto work.  For months, I meticulously tracked my food and made Keto inspired recipes however, the pounds were not falling off.  In fact, the scale was going the other direction (slowly). I thought to myself, “Don’t worry muscle weighs more than fat.”   However, that wasn’t the case.  I wasn’t putting on muscle as much as I was putting on weight.  I did not like how my clothes were starting to fit.  I knew that I needed to do a major reset.

During Thanksgiving, I got a black Friday email from Fitworkz, the promoter of the OCB show I competed with last April, offering half price registration for the April 14, 2018 show.  This was the push that I needed to reset myself, my eating and get me back on track. And so I registered for the show and the journey to the stage began.

The week between shows started a little rocky.   My stomach was a mess, and I didn’t have much of an appetite.  I did my best to eat on plan, but really eating made my stomach hurt .

I am back to my pre-show week meal plan and workouts listed below.   I got to the gym although I didn’t start the week with the same intensity that I finished the week.  In addition to not feeling well, this week was also challenging due to lots of extracurricular activities Monday night, Wednesday morning, and Thursday night.  Luckily, I was able to work from home as opposed to taking the train downtown, getting home late and still having to get to the gym.

While I was able to carve out time for the gym,  the time I spent there during the week was limited.  Instead of doing cardio and weights each time I was in the gym as I normally would, I dedicated Monday and Thursday for cardio and Tuesday and Wednesday for weights with a focus on lifting heavier and pushing myself to the point of failure.

Friday and Saturday not only was I feeling much better, but I had time to spend on both cardio and weights.


My journey to get stage ready and compete in a figure competition this spring has officially started.  I am targeting mid-April for the competition based on past schedules that I have seen for 2016 and in talking with my coach, Emily Neis.

During the past three weeks, the most challenging aspects were adjusting my body/system to this new way of eating- small meals every 3-4 hours.  I eat six small meals and drink at least one gallon of water daily plus take a Glutamine supplement with meal 2.  Just to topline what Glutamine is, it is a supplement that prevents catabolism which means losing mass, density, strength and definition. Therefore Glutamine promotes muscle growth.

The nutrition plan is precisely and scientifically crafted by Emily and will change every three weeks. Below is the total daily calories and macros (carbs, protein, fats) from the first three weeks.

Calories: 1439
Protein: 168g 46%
Carbs: 84g 23%
Fats: 51g 31%

My protein has come from eating a lot of egg whites, tuna, and a little chicken (2 oz), fats have come primarily from avocado and almonds, and carbs primarily from red potato and a little roasted red pepper. I only had one protein shake daily just before bed.

Another big adjustment is increased cardio and weights.  While I teach group fitness classes (in addition to my full time job in marketing) ranging from Spinning, weight/cardio/core, and Tabata interval formats, I am definitely raising the bar on my fitness.  The past three weeks, my cardio workouts varied from treadmill, bike and stair mill.  The cardio workouts, especially the stair mill have pushed me and my endurance is being tested. Currently, I struggle with the stair mill, but as my endurance improves I’ll be able to achieve the levels my coach is requesting.  During my weight workouts, I push myself to lift heavier each set and definitely week to week because I think (and know) that somewhere someone is lifting heavier than me.

As I journey to the stage, every 3 weeks I will take pictures tracking my progress.  Below are pictures 27 weeks out (or 3 weeks into the nutrition/workout plan).

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3 week progress
3 week progress


I don’t think there has been a bigger cheerleader in my fitness transformation journey than my fiancee, John.  The past 7 months I have seen great progress, transformation in my body and most importantly learned so much.  Without John’s support, encouragement, and love my previous journey would not have been so magical and impactful.

On or around September 15, John asked me, “Why don’t you get on stage?  You can compete.”  I didn’t know anything about getting on stage and competing, but I was and am willing to raise the bar on my fitness.

Together we did a little research, and I learned that there are different types of competitions such as body building, bikini, fitness, and figure.  To provide context behind what distinguishes the different competitions, I am providing information below from what I learned.

The expectations for a body building competition are having the most extreme tight and defined muscular look with a focus on V taper (wide shoulder, defined deltoid caps, tiny waist, lean legs and round glutes (booty).  In addition, the focus is on the most extreme muscle development with as much muscular striations as possible. Contestants in this division will perform a posing routine. Whereas in a bikini competition, the competitor will possess an overall toned, defined, athletic look with a focus on great glutes, legs and abs.  In a bikini competition, there is a modest amount of muscle with no striations.  Competitors in a bikini competition will display very outgoing, even sexy posing that shows personality.   A fitness competition is similar to the physique requirements as a figure competition (see below) but a fitness competition includes a 2 minute routine that incorporates cardiovascular endurance, strength and flexibility.

I will be competing in a figure competition which is defined as having a tight, defined look with a focus on V taper with wide shoulder, defined deltoid caps, tiny waist, lean legs and round glutes.  In a figure competition, there is a moderate amount of muscle with a small amount of striations.  Posing in a figure competition involves mandatory poses to show the V taper.

I also learned that there are non-natural (performance enhancers including steroids and human growth) and natural (no performance enhancers including steroids and human growth) shows/competitions. In natural competitions, the organizers will be performing random drug tests and polygraphs to help insure the competitors are competing on an even playing field.

I am targeting a natural figure competition in April 2017.   The schedules will be released in December.

Through networking, I found a coach, Emily Neis, who has competed internationally across multiple women’s divisions — Fitness, Figure and Bikini. Emily started competing in Figure and Fitness in 2005 and turned IFBB Pro in 2009.  Working with Emily, I will receive nutrition plans, workouts, help with posing and more.  I know that Emily’s personal experience in competing and professional expertise as a coach will be invaluable to me.

The road to the stage is a journey of epic proportions – 7 months of dedication and commitment.  Rigid eating, no alcohol, and intense workouts.  I will admit I am nervous as this is completely new frontier. I am unsure of what the end result will be, but I can say with confidence that I will get on stage, learn a lot along the way, and I know that I have the support system to be successful.

Stay tuned as I hope you join me on this journey.


So, the past month I experimented with my nutrition and even my workouts.  I wondered what would happen if I tweaked my nutrition and workouts.  By increasing my protein (up 36g), consumed no alcohol, and increased my cardio from 20-25 minutes 3-4 days per week to 20-25 minutes 2 days per week and 30 minutes of cardio 1x/week and 45 minutes of cardio 1x/week what type of results and learnings would I have?

I found it extremely difficult if not next to impossible to consume 168g of protein per day and keep my calories at 1300.  When my protein was from food sources alone, my protein intake was below 100g (ranging between 85-97g) and when I did get over 100g by consuming 2 protein drinks daily, my calorie intake was over 1300.

My water intake also decreased.  On most days I was struggling to take in 9 – 8oz glasses.

From a fitness perspective, I think that increasing my cardio was the right decision because my body was plateauing.  My body was getting used to the interval training on the treadmill at 20 minutes and by increasing the amount of time I was spending on the treadmill, I was able to challenge myself and hopefully, break out of the plateau.

While my measurements were pretty consistent overall from the previous month (see below), I did notice some gains in weight, waist and hips.  All other measurements were consistent with the previous month.  Measurements aside the biggest things I noticed was how I felt. My clothes didn’t fit as well especially my jeans.  I also noticed an increase on the scale which can be attributed to the lack of water I consumed from what I was used to consuming, but I think it has more to do with not straying from the nutrition plan.

Weight: 118.5 (increase of 1.5lb)

Right Bicep: 10 1/4″ Unflexed (decrease of 3/8″); 10 3/4″ Flexed 10 3/4″ (decrease of 1/2″)

Left Bicep: 10 1/4″ Unflexed (decrease of 3/8); 11″ Flexed

Waist: 27 3/8″ (decrease of 7/8″)

Hips: 33 3/4″ (decrease of 2 3/8″)

Bust: 32″ (decrease of 5/8″)

Right Thigh: 19 1/2″ (decrease of 1 5/8″ )

Left Thigh: 19 1/2″ (decrease of 1 5/8″)

Neck: 12″ (decrease of 1/4″)

Left Calf: 14″ (decrease of 1/8″)

Right Calf: 14″ (decrease of 1/8″)

I didn’t have time this month to more pictures because I was getting my now 70 pound (each) puppies ready for vacation care.

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I don’t like feeling the way I did.  I am going to get back on track and be committed to the next level of fitness.  I am going to stay true to the things that are working.  I am not going to seek out other o

I have always seen people at the gym working with a trainer, but until now I have never truly understood the benefit of working with one.

I  am comfortable in a weight room, and I understand what weight machines work the different parts of the body.  Being certified in various group fitness exercise programs (Spinning, Tabata, TRX, and Yoga), I understand the fundamentals of  crafting a workout.

My 41st birthday exposed me to the value that I have seen in working with a trainer.  Before I share those benefits, I want to preface by saying that not all trainers are equal.  I feel that to truly have success and enjoy a transformational journey, you need to have a connection with your trainer and your trainer needs to understand your fitness goals.

I am so fortunate to have Megan Vaccaro as my fitness coach/trainer.  From my first consultation with Megan, I was confident that she understood my goals and she was as committed as I was to my success.    I never imagined that my relationship with Megan would blossom into a friendship.

Megan is accountable to the results that I have seen and she understands that this is a journey.  Not only does she log into my My Fitness Pal account to make sure that I am logging in daily, but she encourages me for doing so. Additionally, Megan has understood my frustrations from not seeing enough movement on the scale or even slight weight gains on this journey and she is there with words of encouragement and motivation. She reminds me that this is a process and that nothing good is easy and nothing easy is good.

From a workout perspective, Megan understands the time constraint that I have not wanting to be in the gym for hours after working a full day.  The workouts she has crafted have been designed to be effective, impactful and efficient.

Megan builds a different set of workouts weekly and to date I have seen no duplication. There are three days that I workout in addition to the one day that I teach Tabata.  One of the three days is a workout with Megan. I look forward to that workout and the time flies.

Thank you, Megan, for being supportive and motivating.


Last week, I lost 1.6 pounds. I felt really good about that progress. This past week, I even increased my water consumption for two of the seven days going from 120 oz to 150 oz. I was excited to get on the scale today thinking that I would have lost weight. I hopped on the scale only to find that I gained .8 pounds. Frustrating! I’m still down versus when I started. I reached out to my fitness coach, Megan, and said, “I feel like a contestant on the Biggest Loser with fluctuations in my weight.” Her response was, “Give it a few days and see what happens.” She is also having me increase my cardio from 15 minutes of warm up to 30.

Initially, I was only doing 15 minutes of cardio warm up because I’m getting cardio with my walk to and from the train. However, it seems that I need more cardio to achieve weight loss.

While I’m discouraged by the number on the scale, I know that the number on the scale does not tell the whole story. I know that my clothes are fitting better- I’m getting into jeans I haven’t worn in a long time. I know I’m getting stronger – lifting heavier weights. I am not going to let the number on the scale discourage or derail me. I am realistic as I know that there will be bumps in the road and maybe even set backs. I am committed to this journey and my goals. This is a new day of a new week – day 1 of week 3.

I am happy to report that I did more than survive today. I am sore in a good way, and I feel great. I am almost done with my last 30 oz bottle of water (total of 120 oz). I went to the gym and worked out after work which in and of itself is a big accomplishment. Working full time, I often come home from work exhausted, hungry and not wanting to go to the gym.

It helped so much to have the support of John who joined me at the gym. He’s so excited about my journey and he’s so supportive of the lifestyle change in terms of getting into the gym more and eating on a certain meal plan.

Food used to be very important to me, but now I see food as a means for getting strong and fueling my body for my workouts. It feels good knowing that I am eating in a way that I am going to make a difference and hopefully start seeing results. This will truly be a lifestyle change in my diet.

Based on the meal plan (see nutrition tab) that I’m eating, I’m not missing anything or having cravings for sweets and junk food. When I get home from work, I enjoy having a relish tray and I am still able to do that. However, the relish tray has choices more on plan such as string cheese, baby dill pickles, 10 black olives, and 6 rice crackers as opposed to higher fat cheeses and a rotation of veggies from pickled beets to marinated artichokes.  I don’t think that the veggies I was eating on the relish tray before were off-plan, but it was the quantity consumed.  I’m learning portions and the importance of measuring things.

At the gym, I did 10 minutes of cardio to warm up then hit the weights. I pushed myself to fatigue and even when I thought I can’t do another rep I thought about John who has sent me on this journey and is supporting me every step of the way and I pushed myself to finish. I am sore, but I feel strong.

For dinner I had 4.5 ounces of chicken with bbq seasoning salt and 2 cups of broccoli. I’m going to finish my water and sign off.

For my 41st birthday, my boyfriend, John, got me the best gift because it was unexpected and something that I would never get for myself. He surprised me with a fitness consultation with trainer/nutrition coach Megan Vaccaro.

During my hour consultation with Megan, we discussed my daily calorie intake (approx. 1200) and my goals. I shared my struggle to see the benefits of my working out like getting stronger and losing weight. Based on the information that I provided,  Megan’s assessment was that I wasn’t taking in enough calories and that my metabolism needed to be challenged.   She asked me an interesting question, “Would you be okay if you didn’t get to your weight goal, but were leaner and saw more muscle definition as muscle weighs more than fat?   This was a rather challenging question to answer because part of me thinks the scale matters and I personally have a goal in mind from a number perspective.  However, I trusted the process of getting lean and seeing what results that would hold.

After meeting with Megan, I shared with John the goals that I discussed with Megan and he brought up a good point, wouldn’t you like to know what it would be like if you were to train as if you were going to compete in a fitness competition?  He reminded me that I am in awe of women I see at the gym who have that leanness and definition or the women that I see in fitness magazines (Photoshopping aside) who have defined muscles.  I am interested in seeing the transformation from that perspective. I immediately texted Megan and shared with her my goal.  She was so excited. By identifying a true goal she is able to craft the right meal plan and workouts.

On this journey,  I will track my measurements.  Weight will be tracked weekly and body measurements will be tracked monthly.  Below are my starting measurements.

  • Weight: 126 pounds
  • Right Bicep: 10 5/8″ n0n-flexed & 11 1/4″ flexed
  • Left Bicep: 10 5/8″ non-flexed & 11″ flexed
  • Waist: 28 1/4″
  • Hips:  36 1/8″
  • Bust: 32 5/8″
  • Right Thigh: 21 1/8″
  • Left Thigh:  21  1/8″
  • Neck: 12 1/4″
  • Left Calf: 14 1/8″
  • Right Calf: 14 1/8″


I am hoping to learn from this journey, to transform my physique, and to take my fitness to the next level. I am dedicated to the journey and will record this journey to share with you.