I consider myself a lifelong athlete; starting as a competitive swimmer at age eight, I’ve played multiple sports over my thirty-something years including equestrian (showjumping, dressage and western/AQHA), tennis, grass hockey, basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, cycling, yoga and now weightlifting. While I’ve always been athletic, I’ve not always been mindful or educated about nutrition, and there have definitely been times where I chose to focus on other areas of my life and interests.
My twenties were mainly focused on university, music, travel, socializing and starting my professional career. I seriously neglected my health and fitness for a good ten to twelve years, working in bars and live music venues with a lot of fast food, drinking, smoking and many, many late nights. During those years I gained an extra 40-ish pounds of weight and my body composition leaned hard to under-muscled and if I’m brutally honest, too much fat.
Having always been athletic and fit, I dealt with intense body dysmorphia and disordered eating behaviors (mostly negative cycles of restricting and then binging on highly palatable foods, something I’ve done most of my adult life). I experienced bouts of intense depression, not realizing how important physical fitness had been to stabilizing both my mental and physical health from a young age. I was prescribed anti-depressants, which I took faithfully for many years, but they never really helped the underlying issue causing my depression.
This all came to a head when I entered my 30’s. Desperate to shed weight, I experimented with progressively worse fad diets, ending up as a strict fruitarian. I had developed orthorexia (the obsession with purity of food and self-care products) and believed only fruit was “clean” enough to eat. At one point I was eating up to thirty bananas a day! I gained even more weight, felt worse about my body image and was even sicker and more depressed than before. This was not healthy and definitely not sustainable.
In 2015 I discovered the burgeoning fitness community on Youtube, including the very first generation of fitness “gurus” and influencers (some more worthy of the guru title than others!). This was my first introduction to flexible dieting, also known as IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros), and the beginning of my love affair with nutrition and training science. From there I discovered the works of Lyle Macdonald, one of the first fitness industry leaders to talk about body composition and fat loss from an evidence-based perspective. I learned so much from Lyle’s blog and books, I highly recommend reading any of his materials.
Around this time I also discovered the training methods of Dr. Bret Contreras, Dr. Mike Isratel and Greg Nuckols. I was especially interested in the science behind resistance training across different disciplines, and especially as it related to women’s bodies, physiology and mental health. There weren’t a ton of women active in this space, so I started following female powerlifters like Jen Thompson, Marisa Inda and Megan Gallagher (Megsquats) and found incredible inspiration in seeing athletes who are both beautiful AND really freaking strong. Shifting the focus to performance and strength, and placing less emphasis on looks and aesthetics was the best medicine for me at that time.
So I threw myself headfirst into weight training and IIFYM. At first, the changes were gradual and subtle: I noticed my clothes started fitting better, I had more energy and my outlook was more positive. I felt more confident and able to take on life’s daily challenges. And then after about 6 months, my progress really started compounding -I was losing inches off my measurements while seeing marked improvements to my muscle definition and strength on a weekly basis. I went from being a chubby 185lb at 5’8 to ripped at 145lb, with visible abs and great muscle definition in my back and legs. My “Big Three” lifts all increased massively, maxing out my squat, bench and deadlift and regularly hitting PR’s. I also started incorporating a lot of focused glute training (thanks to Bret) and developed a butt I’m pretty proud of. I will always remember hitting my first 500lb PR on hip thrust!
But there was more to my transformation than just being strong, or having a great ass - the most valuable takeaway for me was self-confidence. I had been settling in my personal and professional life, feeling like a bit of an imposter and not really pushing myself outside my comfort zone. About a year into my fitness journey, I began a transition from working in the creative arts (music and events) into a career in technology. I had previously been too scared to make the jump, but when a recruiter reached out to me with a perfect transitional role at a software company, I took the challenge head-on and went for it! I realized I was a badass and that they were the lucky ones to have me as an employee. It truly was a liberating and life-changing experience to feel this way and I credit this shift to getting stronger and fitter, both in body and mind, but also in spirit.
So here we are at the present day, and I won’t lie and say I’ve reached all my goals and my life is perfect now--far from it! I still deal with injuries, setbacks and challenges to my self-worth. But I am fitter and stronger than I ever have been in my life, and that makes dealing with life's challenges seem less daunting. I firmly believe that
“Life doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger”.
Having coached myself through a pretty significant physical, mental and emotional transformation, healed a lifelong dysfunctional relationship with food, and reached some pretty incredible athletic and personal “bests”, my goal now is to motivate and inspire others to reach their lifestyle and athletic goals.
To help serve this mission, I obtained a NASM Personal Training certification in 2019 and a NASM Nutrition Coaching certification in 2020, and launched Jaguara Fitness. My mission is to bring a unique, no-nonsense science-based approach to training to women, trans and nonbinary people looking to transform their bodies, lives and mentalities, and
...become badass athletes.
Does this sound like you? I can't wait to connect with you to discuss your own personal fitness goals.