In 2011, I met the person that started me on my fitness journey. Kevin is the owner and a personal trainer at Next Level Fitness (located in Gahanna & Westerville). After I dropped my first 25 lbs following his meal plan and workout routine, he then challenged me to compete in my first NPC bikini competition. He completely re-crafted my body through helping me add more muscle mass while losing the final 25 lbs for competition. As a former champion body builder, he retired from the stage to focus on expanding his business. However, Kevin and his girlfriend decided to compete again to support me on my first bikini competition. We competed together at the 2014 NPC Ohio State Competition, and all three took home trophies. Kevin is not only my coach, but also a member of my family and is willing to do anything for me (hence the picture). If you’re looking for a great family owned gym, check out Next Level Fitness!
Just having a perfect body is not enough to win a competition. Posing, confidence and personality also play a big part in judging. Thus, I knew I needed a posing coach. Linda and I connected through recommendations by many people. Similar to me, Linda also struggled with her weight earlier in life. She was able to completely transform her body to become an IFBB Pro Figure competitor and coach. My first posing class was very uncomfortable because I’m naturally awkward and this was way out of my comfort zone. However, Linda was very encouraging and the more I practiced with her the more confident I became. She even allowed my husband to come videotape our practice sessions. Linda truly has transformed me on-stage and through this experience, she has become a life-long friend to me and my husband. If you’re looking for an amazing posing coach, contact Linda Andrew!
Every bikini competitor idolizes Ashley Kaltwaaser, the 3 times Olympia Bikini Winner. What most people don’t know is that she’s from Akron, Ohio and her competition journey started with the help of Summer Montabone. I started following Summer’s blog and eventually signed up to be a member of Bikini Body University (BBU). BBU is a private Facebook group that helps women achieve their goals through weekly meal plans,
workout routine and an online support group. Summer, a former teacher, loves teaching nutrition and lifestyle commitment and often motivates the team through different challenges and competitions to win great prizes such as Swarovski bracelets and designer wallets. Summer is not any ordinary coach; she’s your life-coach. If you like to jumpstart your new year with a team without leaving the comfort of your own home, come join BBU!
Besides McDonald’s, my grandfather and I also shared a love for pageants. I never had cable growing up so it was such a treat when big events such as pageants were aired on prime time. My grandfather and I were always excited to watch it together and took bets on who we think would win. I never competed in pageants when I was younger because I was too heavy and our family couldn’t afford it. Who would have thought that over 30 years later I would compete in my first pageant? I was at Embassy Suites one day to sign a contract for work. My contact at Embassy Suites was excited to share with me that the Mrs. Ohio Pageant was conducting their interviews there that day and convinced me that I should sign up for it. I was hesitant at first, but curious about the idea so I Googled it that night and contacted the Pageant Director. Three weeks later, I got a call from her and my pageant journey began from there. Completely new to the pageant world, I had no clue what I was doing or getting myself into. Six weeks before the pageant, a pageant coach reached out to me because she wanted to coach me. She was truly a fairy godmother sent down from heaven to transform me into a pageant queen. She helped me pick out my gown, practice my interview, and taught me how to walk in 6-inch heels. I competed in my first pageant on May 30, 2015, took 2nd runner-up and won the “Best in Fitness” award.
My pageant journey didn’t end there. A couple months later, I decided to compete in another pageant. This was the Captivating Pageant and it had a fashion show portion that really intrigued me. My husband and I designed, engineered, and made my outfit together. Being able to share this experience with him was truly special to me. I competed in my second pageant on August 16, 2015, took 1st runner-up and won the “Most Photogenic” award. It has been a great learning experience and I met some of the most amazing women I would have otherwise never met. I’m still undecided on whether I will continue with this pageant journey or venture into something else. However, I think if my grandfather is alive today, he would be so surprised but also very proud that his chubbiest granddaughter (out of 10) is the one competing in pageants.
Special thanks to Christian Valentine for creating this video highlight.
Who wears a bikini and 5’’ heels to a gym? I thought these girls were losing their minds until I learned that they were preparing for an NPC bikini show. As I watched like a creepy stalker while they were practicing their poses, I secretly wished I could be one of them. I envied their lean bodies and their confidence to do something like this. I joked with my trainer who was a former body builder about getting me in shape for a show. He looked at me sternly and asked “what makes you think you can’t do it?” As a girl who grew up heavy and hid behind layer of clothes, this was something way out of my comfort zone. I hated being judged by my own family so why would I want to be judged on stage by a bunch of strangers.
As I was lying in bed that night, I couldn’t stop thinking about the question that my trainer asked. It kept playing in my mind over and over like a broken record. I finally told my husband who proceeded to remind me that I recently lost 25 lbs through discipline and will-power and that this challenge shouldn’t be any different. The more I thought about it; the more I wanted to do it and finally decided to push myself to the next level. This new goal was far more challenging than my first goal of losing 25 lbs. I had to learn about macros (the balance of protein, carbs and fat), muscle development and posing techniques. Meal prepping became one of my favorite hobbies and I became so efficient that I could meal prep a whole week’s meal in 3 hours. I worked with multiple coaches, attended seminars and watched body building shows to fully understand what I was getting myself into. My biggest fear (and I had many nightmares about it) was being the biggest girl standing on stage while people were pointing and laughing at me. It took almost two years for me to build the confidence and the body that I thought was competition ready.
Finally, it was my time to step on stage and rock out my new body in front of family and friends. I was dolled up in makeup, hair, spray tan, a pink sparkly bikini and big accessories. The long backstage wait was painful for my self-esteem as I watched other bikini girls practicing their poses and pumping up their muscles with bands/free weights. I had to constantly stop myself from comparing my body to theirs. Right before I walked on stage, I gave myself a mini self-talk about how far I have come and n
ow it’s time to show off all of my hard work. The moment I walked on stage everything became a blur. I vaguely remember walking out, hitting all my poses, and making it to the first call-out. What I do vividly remember is the incredible support coming from my huge entourage cheering loudly from the audience. To my surprised, I place 4th in my class of over 20 girls. This was an extremely difficult challenge but I committed and delivered.
After I got married in 2010, I started packing on more weight. I was at my heaviest, weighing in at 170 lbs and went up to a size 14. I didn’t realize how much weight I had gained until I looked at pictures of myself at a friend’s wedding. Finally, one morning as I was getting ready for work, I looked in the mirror and felt depressed when I saw someone I didn’t recognize. At that point, I decided to take control of my life. I knew the issues with my weight weren’t going to get any better, especially as I get older. I knew I needed to find a way to control my food obsession. Thus, I made it my goal to get fit for my 30th birthday. I was nervous to work out in public because I feared judgement from others. I found a small family-owned gym close to my work and I signed up with a personal trainer who promised I would drop 2 pants sizes in 4 weeks. If I don’t, he would refund my money. I did not believe him but I was ready to give it a try. That first day was tough because my body wasn’t used to any of it. I was sore for an entire week and simple tasks such as sitting or going to the bathroom were painful. I wanted to give up, but I pushed forward because I knew at least I’d get my money back in 4 weeks if it didn’t work. Each week, I became stronger and started to enjoy my workouts. I felt like I was finally starting to take control of my life. My trainer’s promise came true at the end of that month. After 6 months, I lost 25 lbs and went down to a size 4. I was super excited to celebrate my 30th birthday in my new body.
My parents came over in 1975 from Vietnam with nothing but the determination to work hard to provide for our family. Because they worked long hours, I spent a lot of time with my grandfather. Money was always tight so fast food was the only option for eating out. My grandfather and I shared a love for McDonald’s. Being
one of his favorite grandchildren, he took me there pretty often. At the age of 5, I could eat two Big Macs. Thus, you could imagine how chubby I was growing up. Even though I am an only child, I grew up around a lot of female cousins that fit your typical stereotype…petite, skinny Asian girls. It was hard for me to understand why I would eat the same thing or even less but seem to gain a pound for every bite I put into my mouth. It wasn’t until I turned 30 that I learned about “metabolism” (which I will discuss in a later blog). Growing up, my cousins in their size 4 jeans were constantly praised by the family for their beauty while I felt like an outcast in my size 10. Though a size 10 is average according to American standards, it is overweight by Asian standards. My family can be my toughest critics and I became the star of all family fat jokes as talking about someone’s weight is common in Asian cultures. The intention is meant to be helpful not hurtful, however it’s not the easiest to hear on the receiving end. Eventually, I learned to accept that it was my destiny to be overweight.