My career in fitness
Thirty years ago, in 1989, I began training for my first fitness show. Twenty years ago, in 1999, I competed in my last. Over the ten years in between I trained and traveled a lot. I competed in Ms. Fitness USA Nationals, ESPN Fitness America series, the first Miss Galaxy (at Disney World) and many others – I won some and I lost some. I had pictures published in fitness magazines, modeled for Reebok catalogs and was a fitness instructor and personal trainer at many of Boston’s top gyms. I was training private clients from Boston’s wealthiest neighborhoods as well as members of the Saudi Royal family.
Why I quit the fitness industry to become a chef
My decision to leave the fitness industry started with realizing that competition was not a healthy or sustainable lifestyle. At the time that I chose to leave competitive fitness (the majority of) women competing (including me) followed ridiculously restrictive diets and workout regimens and there were not many, if any, voices promoting any alternative. After training for a show, some girls would gain back all of what they had lost and have their “off season” body until they started to train for another competition. Other girls would try to maintain the competition look with a level of restriction, supplements, drugs, and/or overtraining that was not healthy at all. We all looked much healthier than we actually were. As a professional working in the fitness industry I always felt immense pressure (mostly self-imposed) to look competition ready all of the time – I was never really happy with how I looked which in hindsight is ridiculous.
In 2001 when I became pregnant with my son, I chose to leave the fitness industry and pursue a seemingly opposite career as a chef. I had worked in restaurants in high school and I have been in love with good food and natural ingredients since I was a child.
During my pregnancy I was so worried about the health of my baby that my nutrition choices and activity levels were all based on what was recommended for his health. I ate a healthy balanced diet with little processed food, no caffeine (the hardest part for me by far), no alcohol. I still ate the things I love in moderation like dark chocolate, cheese, bread and Smarties which were my only real craving besides watermelon. I gained 30 pounds and felt like my body was not my own, while 30 pounds is not a huge amount it seemed like it to me having been living a fitness competitors life for the previous ten years.
After Gianni was born I, like most new moms, wanted to lose the weight as soon as I could. I was determined to breast feed, so I still had to maintain a healthy balanced diet. Much to my surprise I lost the weight and was back to my pre pregnancy weight within 3 months without crazy restrictive diets or over exercising.
Despite owning a bakery and a restaurant and having Hashimotos’ Thyroiditis, over the last 17 years I have been able to maintain a healthy weight and still wear the same size clothing that I did before I had my son.
With the rise in popularity of fitness competitions over the last decade, I have often thought that I would like to train for competition again and show people that it is possible to train and compete in a healthy way that is a sustainable lifestyle.
What has kept me from taking the plunge
Having been out of the industry for nearly 20 years I know that the smartest thing to do would be to work with a coach, but could I find one that would be flexible and would not tell me the only way was strict, bland diets and ridiculous amounts of cardio?
I have watched friends and co-workers over the last few years train and compete with coaches that had them on the same unhealthy diets and training schedules that I remember far too well.
Enter Jen DiCandia
Recently, when I began working on growing my social media accounts and began paying more attention to what people were posting about. I started noticing that everything my friend, rockstar trainer Jen Dicandia, was posting about fitness competition training, nutrition and being a mom was totally on point with my beliefs. I’m not sure what took so long or why it happened when it did but suddenly, one day last week, I had a lightbulb moment and realized that, with Jen as my coach, this whole idea of competing again after 20 years needed to happen. So here we are! With Jen as my coach I will be training to compete in my first show in 20 years, this September in RI.
Follow my journey
Beginning this Monday 3/25/2019 I will be writing weekly blog updates about my training, diet and lifestyle as I go through this journey. I will share the highs and the lows, discuss my thyroid issues, share my favorite recipes and tips for healthy eating. I will also be sharing bits and pieces of my journey daily on my Instagram Stories (@chefalinae).
I am hoping that through sharing this journey I can encourage and motivate others. It is my goal show both young women as well as women my age (48) and older that it is possible not only to get fit and healthy at any age but to enjoy the process and the lifestyle. You can live a fit, healthy lifestyle and still enjoy the things you love, eat delicious healthy food and on occasion indulge responsibly.