My name is Cristina and I’m a typical 27-year-old, except I’ve lost 115 pounds and I love competing in the bikini division of NPC.
My first show was the New England Championship in 2014 and I was 150 pounds on stage, far from the smallest, but surprisingly not the biggest competitor either. My second show was this past spring – the Cutler Classic in Boston. I was 130 pounds on stage and a size 0. I knew going into competing that it was going to be hard work. I did all the research I possibly could before throwing myself into a completely foreign world. I have never looked back.
I hadn’t truly considered skin removal surgery until March of this year. I was 134 pounds and a little half way through prep when I went to have body fat testing done. I was 16.2%. As someone who had been over 240 pounds at their largest, I already couldn’t fathom 134 pounds, let alone 16.2% body fat. It made me rethink surgery. It took 52 months to lose the weight through proper nutrition and exercise. While we all know that competition prep pushes our body both in the gym and in the kitchen, I had never dropped below 1,400 calories in either prep and my workouts, while rigorous for me, I know don’t compare to other competitors – we all have different methods, strategies and plans of attack on the season. Prep wasn’t a way to lose weight – don’t get that twisted.
In April, I had my first consult and not only was the surgeon impressed with my loss, she was also impressed with the muscle I had developed, how my body looked overall and how easy this surgery would be for her to conduct on me. I scheduled surgery for May. I blog and sometimes make videos for ideas that are too much to write about; I remember getting emotional in a video I made because the body I had been working so hard for, that I had a hard time seeing, I finally would have. I told my surgeon three reasons I wanted to have surgery:
1. I love running and nothing is more stressful than being more aware of your body than your stride. I wanted nothing more than to not be concerned about my stomach moving during a run. It was painful sometimes and annoying others.
2. I wanted to feel good in my clothes. I wanted to find that perfect dress and not have to wear spanx. How could I be a size 0/2 dress and need to wear spanx?
3. I wanted to see me the way my boyfriend sees me. He sees me as brave and beautiful, but more often than not – prior to surgery – I felt embarrassed in the bedroom or even changing in front of him.
I qualified for a full body lift, but decided on a standard abdominoplasty with slight abdominal repair – better known as a tummy tuck. I didn’t want the longer recovery and the excess skin in my lower back didn’t both me like my stomach did. We also agreed that the development in my quads and hamstrings helped the loose skin in my thighs and if we didn’t have to give me more scars let’s not.
Having surgery to be a better competitor wasn’t even a thought that crossed my mind, but is something that others have asked me about. To be honest, I actually didn’t think I would want to compete again after the Cutler. I wanted to love the body I built - that’s why I had surgery. I was cleared to go back to lifting 13 days post-surgery and that’s when it really clicked, I wanted to see what my body was capable of for the fall season.
I’m 8.5 weeks out from my third show – the New England Championship and I can’t be more excited, but I do question myself – am I really a competitor? Do I deserve to be on that stage? Will my scars be distracting? We all have a story. We all have our reason for why we compete, why we challenge ourselves over a 12 week, 16 week, 20 week or longer preparation. For me it’s about the structure, the dedication and discipline it takes. It’s everything leading up to those 10 seconds in the spotlight. It’s about the heart inside that makes you a competitor. Without lifting, without the support of the women and men that I have met through competing, I don’t believe I would’ve been brave enough to step out of my comfort zone and find myself. I don’t think that I would’ve been brave enough to endure surgery. I don’t think I would’ve gained the appreciation for what my body is able to accomplish like I have with this sport.