Confessions of a Bloated Bikini Girl: PART 1

There I was standing next to some of the greatest physiques from across the world, receiving my 1stplace medal. Me?!The girl that was picked on for being too chubby.  Me?! The girl that was picked on in college for having stretch marks.  Me?! The girl that would never be caught dead wearing a bikini at a pool party. YASSSSS QUEEN – YOU!!!!  That’s what I kept saying to myself over and over.  

As I stepped off stage, I was overwhelmed with emotions.  I sat down to look at my medals and began to reflect on everything I had endured and overcome.  Holding back the tears of pain, joy, and excitement, I looked up and heard my coach say, “Em, I’m so proud of you. The old Emily is gone, you have to let her go. You’re not that girl anymore.” 

I’m not that girl anymore?! Who am I then?!  

It’s quite apparent I suffer from the imposter syndrome, but I’ll save that topic for another day!

June 8,2019 was the day I became a Nationally Qualified Bikini Competitor and less than two days after my show, I looked like I was in my second trimester.  My bloating was so severe, my doctors were convinced I had bacterial gastroenteritis (a digestive problem caused by bacteria).  Defeated by my lack of progress, I decided to pull out of my last competition.  I was rapidly gaining weight and feeling imprisoned by my own body.  Even after 15 tubes of blood and 2 urea breath exams, my doctors are still trying to figure out what’s going on with me.  

I decided to go back to the drawing board. I was determined to find a holistic solution for this gut issue.  Why? Because I come from a long line of Jibaritos (term used to refer to mountain people, who lived “in-land” in the heart of the island and are the backbone of the Puerto Rican culture).  From a very young age I was introduced to the power of herbal teas, natural detox, fasting, and meditation.  In fact, my family was vegetarian in the 90s!  We started eating meat in the fall of 1998 because we moved to Seoul, Korea and at the time, had limited resources.  Realizing the power of proper food and nutrition, I saw my parents overcome Type II Diabetes by simply changing their lifestyles.  Even though their veganism was short-lived, I’m convinced that clean lifestyle saved them – they never touched insulin.

Against the advice of many professional fitness and health gurus, I made the decision on June 28, 2019 to go vegetarian.  You may be asking yourself, “why didn’t she go vegan?”  BECAUSE I LOVE CHEESE (they didn’t call me ratonsita/little mouse for nothing) and I was still enjoying my veggie egg white omelets.  

My famous almond cloud bread, veggie scramble, and unsweetened almond milk cappuccino!

In the next two posts I plan on sharing how my transition into vegetarianism has gone while also nearly doubling my carb intake in order to reset my metabolism.



Confessions of a Bloated Bikini Girl: Introduction

My teammates and I at Border Klash in Aiken, SC right before hitting the stage!

I’ll be the first to admit my unhealthy body image extends from childhood trauma. As a young Latina, my mother placed emphasis on the importance of always looking perfect. What is perfect anyway? Well apparently being perfect is having your hair done (and don’t you dare have frizz or flyaways), perfectly contoured face with extra mascara, blush, and colorful lipstick, a perfume that lingers even after you’ve left the room and clothes that accentuate your curves (pero cuidado que no te veas muy sexy because men need to know your seductive but also a virgin apparently). I mean what is that sexist stereotypical thinking supposed to do to a young girl, other than severely impact the way she endures the struggles of adolescence?! Don’t even get me started on what would happen if my family thought I was either over or under eating. Let’s just say, to this day, I’m still traumatized from my father taking the extra two slices of bread I was eating from my hands and dipping them into a glass of water to prove to me I was stuffing my body with an item that was expanding in my stomach.

Before you start thinking, here’s another skinny petite girl with her first-world problems, I want to share with you why I even got started with fitness and health. Unfortunately, I let my emotions take over me and began emotionally eating as a pre-teen. I remember living in Seoul, Korea and my parents freaking out about where they were even going to find my church clothes considering I no longer fit what the Post Exchange was selling. At some point I developed asthma – not sure if it was due to the pollution overseas or if it was simply weight induced. In 2006, I personally said, “enough is enough” and asked my dad to help me learn how to run. My father was still in the Army at that time and was a well-known runner throughout his command. Of course, he obliged and we began running the streets of Honolulu, Hawaii. In less than a year, I had taught myself how to control my breathing and said farewell to my albuterol inhaler.

By the time I graduated high school, I had gone from approximately 145 pounds to 115 pounds all through eating less and exercising more. In my circle of friends, fit chicks didn’t exist. ***The hot girls were the itty bitty skinny girls – I can’t believe I once aspired to be a carb hating cardio bunny*** I had always been a nerdy introverted bible thumper and I really did find myself in college, needless to say, I spent the best years of my life at F-L-O-R-I-D-A S-T-A-T-E University. Upon completion of my B.A., I joined the United States Army where I later commissioned as an officer. The rigorous physical activity caused me to begin strength training and that’s where my love with the weight room actually began.

While I threw around weights and jumped on that elliptical machine as though my life depended on it from 2010 to 2015, I didn’t start HEAVY lifting until 2016 when I was introduced to CrossFit. I tried CrossFit for about a year and at first, I really enjoyed it because it took away the anxiety of not knowing how to lift heavier weights in public. I appreciated the smaller classes and the attention to detail from the instructors but after a while, I realized my personal fitness and physique goals didn’t align with the programming so I ventured off into the world of bodybuilding.

I HATE TO ADMIT THIS BUT… my first few coaches were basically starving me by keeping me in a caloric deficit for extended periods of times. I knew I wanted a strong feminine physique and I was devoted to these yet progress was not being made. You’d think someone who studied dietetics would know better but the truth is, I had no idea how to build muscle as I had only been taught how to help others either lose weight or maintain weight. I put my life in the hands of these coaches and found myself going back to CrossFit because at least there I was making “gains.” Yet again, I left CrossFit but this time it was because I was training for some half-marathons and preparing to relocate to Houston, TX. After competing and placing in those races, I was beat and my feet hated me.

2018 Disney Princess Marathon

My 2019 new year resolution was to get comfortable with being uncomfortable which is how I even got involved with NPC Bikini competitions in the first place. I had finally found a coach that applied the foundation of flexible dieting to the art of bodybuilding. I was enjoying eating more and the physical changes that came along with it. I was feeling confident and stronger – I was basically on Cloud 9. For the first time in my life, I was feeling comfortable in my own skin – that’s all I’d ever wanted.

#130 at my first NPC Bikini Competition - Class A Division
#130 NPC Bikini Class A Division at the 2019 Border Klash

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