Strike a pose at Red Rock Canyon

Once I plugged in the words, photo shoot, photographer, Las Vegas, in Google, it was the beginning of the something that I knew I wanted to do so badly.  Besides, for the longest time, I had wanted to meet Fitness Model/Writer, Jamie Eason as well as a few other influential people that have guided me on this journey of getting in shape and providing me the opportunity to grasp onto a newly found confidence. My husband and I have been saying for years, that instead of going to Las Vegas in July/August like we normally do,  we should attend the Olympia Fitness Expo that is usually in late September. However, things happen that take precedence over going to Las Vegas to a fitness expo, and we just kept putting it off. Not only did I enjoy going to Vegas in July/August, the kids had off from school, and well, it just worked better that way. But this was 2012!  It was the year to get shit done, so we made the decision to just go for it. Besides, I had just competed in my first ever figure competition, and I thought why not? Why not now? It was on my “anxiety” bucket list, so I felt that I had to definitely check that off my list.

I do not really know what made me start looking for photographers in Las Vegas, but I did, and came across Natalie Minh, a well-known photographer, who was from California, but was going to be in Vegas for the Olympia and had set up a location for photo shoots. I don’t remember sending her the email; I think my body and mind went numb in a “what are you thinking” kind of way, and even when I received the response to let me know that there was one day open for a shoot left and that I could take it, I was ready to bite not just my nails, but my fingers off too! But I was also super psyched! I submitted my photos as requested, and followed my competition diet with a few tweaks here and there; I didn’t want to get as low in body fat as I did for the figure competition I did 2 ½ months earlier.  I had 2 months to prep for it, and during that time, I tracked my calories, weighed and measured my food using measuring cups and a food scale, and worked hard in the gym. For some reason, prepping for the photo shoot was much less stressful than prepping for a competition.  Maybe, it was because I was just so excited about finally being able to attend the Olympia fitness expo, and being in Vegas always makes me happy! I guess stepping in front of a photographer whom I have never met before, wasn’t quite resonating with me at that time! Also, I was so excited about the trip and being in a place where everyone carries food around in little plastic baggies and Tupperware containers, that I kind of let the nerves fall by the wayside.

September 26, 2012….Vegas time!!!! We had arranged for my mother in law to come up from NYC to stay with the kids so that we wouldn’t have to take them out of school. It literally took my husband and me 2 whole days to prep all of my food and supplements; he did the cooking and I did the packing. I didn’t want to have to add another carry on bag to our load because I knew that if I did, the airline would charge me more moolah, so I did away with the Tupperware, and found another way to pack my food! I came across Eco-Zip bags while at the grocery store one day, and turns out that they were actually quite convenient and practical! I was able to separate my meals, attach labels to indicate which meal they were for and what day, and they didn’t take a lot of space!

Eco-Zip bags

Eco-Zip bags

24 meals packed and placed into my small blue cooler, which I was able to carry onto the plane with no problems.

My awesome cooler!

My awesome cooler!

Once I arrived at the hotel, I placed all of my food into the refrigerator I had requested weeks earlier.  Carrying my food around in a bag was a lot easier than carrying around a few Tupperware coolers or even the entire cooler. I could just take how many meals I would need and on the go I went!

We have arrived!

We have arrived!

The first two days were the Expo, I stood in line for 3 hours to meet Jamie Eason and I was so happy! She really is the most genuine, sincere person I have ever met! She took the time to chat with me and take a photo

Jamie Eason

Jamie Eason

We also got to meet some other fitness models, high-level pro competitors that have been featured on many of my countless fitness magazines.

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Nicole Wilkins

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My husband with MMA fighter, Forrest Griffin

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Adela Garcia

Adela Garcia

Amanda Latona

Amanda Latona

We also collected free supplements and samples “trick or treat” style. It was awesome! I also got a chance to attend a seminar, which was basically a Q&A with another awesome knowledgeable person in the fitness industry, Jim Stoppani.  As you can see, apparently I have a clothing mishap everywhere I go, my boobs must have a mind of there own. It’s just that the first day I went to the expo, I kind of felt overdressed. A Lot of the people there were walking around in sports bras, tight booty shorts, muscles showing, so the next day, I wanted to fit in just a tad. First of all, I was so anxious to get back to the expo, that I left wearing sandals not sneakers like I originally had planned. I felt like an idiot among all those fitness pros! Plus, I’m not even going to go there with how my crotch looks with the waist of my pants rolled down! hehe whaddya gonna do now?

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My husband striking a pose with all our goodies and my little lunch tote! He’s such a good husband!

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I still shamelessly struck a pose in front of the Muscle&Fitness Hers sign!

It’s actually quite funny that I was so worried about what I should wear! If you ever get a chance to go, you will find the most down to earth, dedicated, nonjudgmental people I’ve had the pleasure of being around!

Unfortunately, we had to cut the second day of the Expo short because I had to hurry back for my spray tanning appointment. Yep, another one of those! (If you haven’t yet, to find out how my previous spray tanning experience went, read the my previous blog post about my journey to my first figure competition) This time, however, I didn’t have to stand naked to dry off for any length of time, only when the tan was applied! Not to mention, I didn’t have to get as dark for the photo shoot as I did for the competition.  After that was over, we had to head over to Walgreens on the strip because my husband developed a severe sinus infection and my right ear was beginning to hurt really badly.

Beast Mode and pink piggy neck rest

Beast Mode and pink piggy neck rest

In hindsight, I think it was from all the gum chewing I was doing to curb cravings! hehe.. “Hi, my name is Megan, and I’m a hypochondriac!”  Unfortunately, no one was there to help and we were advised to come back the next day.  We were both exhausted and ready for bed at that point, so we headed back to the hotel to call it an early night.  Besides, I was meeting the photographer at 9 am, and  I needed to make sure that I gave myself enough time to get to the eat and get to the location on time. I had already tried on a couple of things to wear for the photo shoot so I was ready to go!

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One of the choices that I was taking to the photo shoot! (And wore)

Awwww shit! We were late. It turns out that not all cab drivers in Las Vegas know where to go. Thankfully, we were only late by a couple minutes, but I still felt horrible. But my nerves and regrets of being late were soon squashed when I met Natalie Minh, she was just so nice and made me feel extremely comfortable. And even though I did drink a bottle of red wine to calm my nerves and loosen up, it really did help that I chose an amazing photographer who put me at ease and was really professional.

Four hours, white backdrop, beautiful scenery I’ve never had the chance to see before, hot desert, and hearing someone who was just there to climb Red Rock Canyon, that I must be a fitness model was an amazing feeling and compliment to say the least. I was on an incredible high, well that plus a slight buzz from the bottle of red wine and rockstar energy drink I had a few sips from! And somewhere in the mixture of wine, Rockstar, desert heat, beautiful Red Rock Canyon, and Natalie Minh, I’m pretty sure there was a girl who had a ton of insecurities and little confidence, but that day pure happiness was driving me, and it was one of the greatest days of my life!

Down time! Just for a few minutes though! too much to see and do!

Down time! Just for a few minutes though! too much to see and do!

The rest of the day and time spent in Vegas was just walking around, and enjoying the rest of my time there. I never went to the gym because just walking around the hotels and Vegas strip is enough to wear you out and get a good calorie burn; there are literally stairs everywhere! However, I didn’t do a lot of walking prior to the photo shoot because overuse of your legs could cause water retention, and I certainly didn’t want that to happen. It’s actually quite challenging trying to avoid the unavoidable; walking. Not to mention, I had only a limited amount of water that I could intake; so just being out in the hot blazing sun for any length of time was also a risk. I was however, happy that my husband was finally able to get a prescription for the sinus infection he had. Sinus infection+ cigarette smoke+ desert heat= Not the best time! He did make the most out of it though! I also found out that my ear was just fine. Of course it was…

Sadly, as with any vacation, the day to leave came….

Sadly, it was time to leave

Sadly, it was time to leave

walking up stairs, down stairs, one side of the hotel to another, at the airport,  it was quite the workout! You can seriously find a place to get some exercise in wherever you go! Besides, it doesn’t hurt just to add a tiny challenge along the way. You’ll feel better for it. Trust me.

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stairs in our hotel!

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stairs at the airport! Bye Vegas! I’ll be back someday!

Swarovski Crystals and Stiletto Heels: The Journey to My First Figure Competition

It was my first figure competition, my first time going out on a stage in front of people who were going to judge me based on my overall appearance, symmetry, muscle, etc. I had to attain a much lower body fat than I had ever imagined being. In fact, I’ve never given my body fat a first thought, and merely went based on the size of my clothes.  Not to mention, I was never athletic, never competed in any sport unless you consider jumping over hurdles during track and field in 7th grade. Then, okay fine, I was athletic.  Nope. I was just skinny-bony. Skinny to the point where people used to question whether I ate or not. And I ate a TON. I don’t know where it ever went, but it got me to never be concerned with body fat that’s for sure. People used to warn me when I was younger, that one day all of that crap eating was going to “catch up” to me. Of course, I didn’t believe them. Fast forward to 32 years old, and I had 2 kids, partied hard, attended school full time, worked at a customer call center for 11  years, and turns out,  that shit does really creep up on you out of nowhere.  I guess that’s when I decided that I should probably join a gym.

So there I was, full time student, unemployed, and I was just beginning to discover this newly found passion for fitness and health, when one day, I stumbled upon the idea of competing in a fitness competition! A what? Yea, that’s what I said at first too. But hey, it seemed like a challenge, and I like challenges, so what the hell!? I hired a trainer, and then the days went on pretty much the same; eat, gym, eat, gym. Yep. Minus the tanning and minus the laundry…I picked out the color, ordered my suit, tried it on and sent it back for the finishing touches here is a picture of the first suit pre-bedazzled:

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Unfortunately, I didn’t have much support, felt kind of depleted and started to look like I was that scrawny girl back in middle school. Plus, I was craving serious food. I’m talking fried, sugar, greasy…It. Did. Not. Matter. Ultimately, I threw in the towel, or “the suit” shall I say, and fortunately, I was lucky enough that a girl who went to the same gym, wanted to buy the suit from me right on the spot. Phew!  I dodged that bullet. I wasn’t ready, and I knew it.

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Clearly, the way you feel on the inside really does reflect on the outside. Don’t I look so happy? I might have been hungry here, who knows!? (pale as a ghost too)

Afterwards, I relaxed on my strict eating approach, still eating 6 small meals, but just having a cheat meal once or twice a week. And I ate more. So it went on, and on.  Fast forward a year later, and I felt that I was ready for round 2: Operation Figure Competition.  I didn’t tell anyone. I worked my ass off in the gym, ate and dieted until about 4 weeks out from the show when I hired a different personal trainer than the one I had the first time. It was a 2 hour drive out to meet her, but it was well worth it. She gave me a workout plan and nutrition plan to steer me towards the next couple of weeks leading up to the show as well as the day of the show. AND LET ME TELL YOU, I was hungry, eating the same boring food, irritated, whiny, bitchy, moody, you name it. I felt weak and I dropped to such a low body fat, I didn’t get my period, and that made me feel like I was heading out on the next bus to looneytoon town. Plus, it was summer, I swear I felt like I was a pregnant lady about to pop in the heat. NOT HAPPY.  I took my kids to a zoo and felt so bad because I had very little energy, and all my little boy wanted to do was play on the jungle gym. But I had no energy left in me to sit and wait because there were so many hills at this zoo. I was super hungry and I wanted to cry.

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I’m pretty sure the look on this bear’s face is exactly the way I feel. Coincidence?

Needless to say, I went to Red Lobster and then went to get ice cream. In my mind I was done. But…that was the hormones and crazy talking….

I remember laying out by the pool-not even thinking about it- oh lets get a tan duh!? I sprayed Clarins progressive tanning oil all over me to prevent a sunburn, as it had successfully done for the past 2 years, but nooooo! Not this year! Not this time!  So not only was I low on carbs, eating little calories, my hormones were raging, brain seemed as though it was on a very long pause, it was hotter than Hell,  and 3 weeks prior to the show, I had a major sunburn.  Awesome. I read on the trusty ol’ Internet that Hydrocortisone cream would help speed up the healing process of a sunburn. Nope. Didn’t happen. Instead a rash happened. Yep! My sunburn slowly turned  into a rash.

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My Awesome rash

With the support of my husband, I made it through to the weekend of the show, and we began our 5 hour drive to Newburyport, MA. Stressed and nervous. I had to get the spray tan, go to the hotel, check in, and then go to the HOST hotel to take a Polygraph test. FUN. We were staying at a hotel approximately 15 miles from the Host hotel, but it was not at all what we expected. 15 miles was more like a 45 minute drive with all the traffic. We decided to just go to my spray tan appointment first and then go to the hotel to check in.

I was quite surprised at how fast I was ready to just take my clothes off to get a spray tan; I’m usually quite modest. Seriously.  I had to turn, and bend and turn and bend. It felt like a power washer grazing my backside and that shit was freezing.   After that room, I was led to a different room to stand in front of a tiny floor fan to dry with 2 other girls…Naked. All of us naked in a room; “drying”. And the room was the size of a room in a tanning bed salon. After waiting impatiently for two hours while generating casual yet awkward conversation, I was pretty much unrecognizable having my skin turned into a color I had never seen before! I was ready to leave. I walked outside and I was freezing!  Next was the polygraph test. Since it was getting late, and there was a cutoff time for the polygraph test, we had to head over to the host hotel to get that in. Holy shit! That line was soooooo long. I waited 3 hours to take the test, and by the time I got to the hotel, I was exhausted and tired of eating cold food out of plastic containers and bags. I was ready for bed. I brought brown sheets and a blanket so that I didn’t ruin the hotel sheets. I couldn’t sit on the toilet, but I also had to be careful not to let the water splash. I know, TMI, but there were some pretty strict rules to follow as regards to this spray tan. Even at the host hotel, we weren’t allowed to lean on any of the walls or sit on the toilet there either!

5 a.m. Alarm goes off, and it’s time to eat more cold food, brown rice with some salt and steak. I could only drink a certain amount of water, and only do a light warm up on the treadmill or go for a walk. It was freezing in the hotel’s fitness room, but I sucked it up and hopped on the treadmill. Once that was over, I had to do my hair, and then head over to get my makeup done and my false eyelashes applied, and then it was over to the show venue.

When we arrived at the show venue, I realized that I should have brought a long mirror and I felt that I didn’t do enough to get my hair ready, but hey, I suck at doing hair. Oh well. Once I got into the venue, I had to have an umpteenth coat of spray tan applied. Apparently, my skin is super sensitive around my neck and the spray tan wasn’t going on evenly. No nudity this time though! Hehe. I was lucky that the competition spray tan was dark enough to cover the portion of left over rash or whatever the hell it was. Not only that, the tan lines on the bottom portion lightened up enough and the bottoms of my suit along with the number I was given covered it up anyway. After the spray tanning was finished, there was a photographer there to take pictures of all of the people who were competing. I felt very awkward and nervous posing in front of other people. Plus, once I got my pictures in the mail, I couldn’t help but laugh at how I was revealing a little underboob. Oh well. You win some, you lose some.

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A little underboob never hurt no one! (Suit by Saleyla)

Once all of that was out of the way, I was extremely relieved at how relaxed and comfortable I started to feel; just being around people who were there for the same reason. Not to mention, we were all hungry and probably all just ready to let our stomachs hang out from lots of sodium in the form of carbohydrates or some really yummy sugary dessert. I still was extremely nervous about getting on stage, but it felt incredible just being there. All of the girls were super nice, and the promoters and everyone involved in the show also made it a very relaxing place to be. The best part was when they got everyone together before the show and announced that they discourage any type of negativity; just have fun! Of course, that still didn’t shake my nerves about walking on a stage in front of everyone. It turned out to be an extremely long day, but nonetheless, everyone was real encouraging to one another; it was inspiring and welcoming.

While there were many different classes to enter, I only entered Figure Debut, which meant I would only have to get on stage one time! Once I found out that I could still crossover to another class, my husband tried to get me to enter into the others, but my nerves weren’t ready for all that. I know, looking back, I should have done it; after all, I did work really hard to get to that point. There were 10 girls in the debut class and I placed 8th, but I didn’t care. I was just so elated that I did it. I completed my figure walk, and it was over.  I received feedback from the judges and they told me that for future shows I needed to work on posing because I appeared too stiff and robotic!

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I agree with the judges! I was sooooo stiff and nervous!!!
Needless to say, it was a long, fun, and memorable day. And I met some really cool people!
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Once the show was over, the promoters for the show invited everyone out to celebrate, but I was craving food big time and I wanted something that I was familiar with so my husband and I headed to Chili’s instead. I splurged on a chicken sandwich, french fries, ( I ate my husband’s fries too!) and a Blondie for dessert. YUM! After dinner, we just went back to the hotel.  Even though I was so exhausted, I still couldn’t sleep because my mind was on instant replay of the entire day’s events. I had such an awesome time. The promoters, Joel and Justin Napolitano were so relaxed and fun throughout the entire day that it was impossible to regret having picked that particular show, The OCB Natural Yankee Classic as my first!
The next day we woke up early to head to NYC to get the kiddos from my mother in law. Before leaving though, I wanted to check out the beach, and I think I found my next vacation spot!!
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As for right now though, I’m ready to do another show! This time I know what to expect and what I’m getting myself into so I cannot wait! As for my supportive husband pictured below (maybe not so much!)
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My husband was so supportive that day; helping me and making sure that I had everything I needed! Sadly, however, we didn’t get a picture of us together. I have no idea how that happened?