When I logged off Sunday night there were 22.2K people following my journey. To put it in perspective, the Cutler Classic was April 30th, almost perfectly four months ago. That Friday I had 6K followers and by Sunday morning after taking you through my show day of eating and hanging out with fellow competitors backstage, I had 12K. THAT’S CRAZY TO ME. I’ve joked that I’ve convinced so many of you that I’m doing something cool, but seriously – cupcakes, doughtnuts and lifting, oh my! I’m not.
I am you and I’m going to tell you how.
My name is Cristina and I’m 27, but most days I look 20 and a few days a week I act like a 5 year old – sprinkles in one hand and a fork in the other. When you ask me where I’m from, I’m going to tell you “everywhere”. I was born in the Bronx and when I was almost three we moved to a suburb of Pittsburgh. While I lived in “Pittsburgh”until I was 13 and a half the half is important – we had lived in three different houses, I had gone to three different school districts. The summer between 7th and 8th grade we moved to Durham, NC. In Pittsburgh, I was in Junior High and 7th grade was the top dog. In Durham, I was in Middle School and thankfully I was going into 8th grade – so still a top dog. After high school, I was one of the few to go out of state and I brought myself back north to Utica College in central New York. Ten months after graduating college I ended up in Massachusetts for my first career related job. So when I say everywhere, I mean it.
Our histories shape us. Experiences in my history have made me the person I am today, whether they’re positive or not. As a kid I remember being charismatic, not 100% sure how true that is because there’s a lot of things in my childhood that I don’t remember. It’s not that I don’t want to, but this is also where my PTSD comes into play. Forgetting was my coping mechanism and no matter how much I try, many events blend together, come in fragments or not at all.
To break up this post a little bit because 1. I know this generation doesn’t actually read and 2. I do better with pictures too. I’m going to scatter some of me throughout and you can see my transformation.
Roughly 3 or 4 year old Cristina
Cristina above is roughly 3 or 4 years old – I’m not completely sure, I don’t have many photos because if you remember film was really expensive in the 80s and 90s. This is a scanned copy of a Polaroid – even more expensive than regular film. It’s photos like this that make me think I was a pretty happy kid by glance. It’s also clear that it was smart that I danced when I got a little older, when you can’t use words to express what you want action can – dancing or lifting, actions are louder.
Cristina’s first day of Kindergarten
I remember the morning above very clearly, that was my favorite outfit. It’s red velvet, please don’t ask why, I couldn’t tell you, but I think between the softness and the lace I was sold. The book bag was a very typical 90s jean back pack, it was also my older sister. I used to think she walked on water. I looked up to her (literally and figuratively) and any chance to get her hand-me-downs was not an opportunity I wanted to miss. It wasn’t until older that I realize 5’1″ wasn’t very tall and that she was more of a bully than someone I should be idolizing.
1st grade Cristina and the Pink Ranger
Okay, I’ll be honest this one is just for fun because who doesn’t love the Pink Ranger. If you say no, we’re not friends. The Pink Ranger was the best Ranger.
3rd grade Cristina
11-year-old Cristina at the gardens at George Washington’s home
We all go through some pretty damn awkward phases as a kid. There’s many photos where my face as a whole is completely different and I look like completely different children. Maybe it’s how I was feeling when the photos were taken or the reality of my face and body at the time, but when I was 11 I believe that’s the first time I realized people would judge me on my body. Wearing a leotard in dance class and only a leotard was my least favorite thing and if I recall right, those bucket hats were my favorite and I had way more than any 11-year-old should have. I also liked skorts as pictured above. Somewhere between wearing a skirt, but not having to deal with sitting like a lady.
So somewhere between 11 and 12 I gained some weight – unless your blind you can see that between the last two photos. What you can’t see is the why I did. So let’s start with the how. Food became comforting. It didn’t matter what it was, just something I could find in the cabinet. Ramen was big in our house because it was cheap.
Side note – it’s excellent when you’re sick and can barely swollen solid foods.
The why – my PTSD is caused from childhood trauma. My mom was physically and emotionally abusive. I took a lot of it, but so did my older sister, our younger sister was probably impacted the most with emotional abuse, but I haven’t lived with her in almost a decade and haven’t talked to her in a few years – so I have no idea really at all. Between 11 and 12 is when it got really bad and ultimately my mom has been out of the picture since then.
Same shirt and same girl, but you wouldn’t think that would you? Take the stress away, take away the anxiety and the habits to cope go away. I was dancing about four days a week and eating like a normal-ish kid eats. This is also before anyone ever told me about tweezing my eyebrows.
17/18 year old Cristina
Between 7th and 8th grade we moved from the greater Pittsburgh area to just below the Mason Dixon Line. The pictures no one needs to see, but just know somewhere around 10th grade I learned about tweezers and a hair straighter. I started to like wearing jeans and my make up was usually outrageous because I idolized Gwen Stefani and if she could do it, so could I. Wrong, so wrong. Maybe I was ahead of my time, but aside from typical teasing in elementary school and the horribleness that occurs in Junior High and Middle School – High School was the worst. I wanted to discover myself and everyone around me wanted me to be in a box, in a very specific category. My 12th grade art teacher told me college would be better, college was for people like me and I was swim, the others would sink.
I’ve mentioned therapy over the past few weeks because I think normal people should talk about their problems and try to solve them, but I also think that most people need some guidance. I stopped dancing in 10th grade because I couldn’t handle the cliquey nature of the other dancers. Many had grown up together and from day 1 I was known as the Yankee so I already had factors against me. Junior and senior year of high school was when I went to therapy for the most serious of reasons. I didn’t know how to cope and self-harm was all I could think to do. I am not alone in this. For every 25 attempts there is one suicide fulfilled. Every year there are 42.7K suicides in America. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death.In 2014, youth between 15-24 made up of 11.6% of suicides that year*. Talk therapy saved and it saves others every day. It helped me analyze why I felt like I did and how to express myself in other ways. Then came college.
18-year-old Cristina, October 2007 – Halloween
College was different than high school, but not by much. The biggest difference was you could have sex in your room only feared your roommate didn’t understand what a scrunchy on the doorknob meant. The bullies were still bullies, they just had a bigger playing field – instead of going to the principal there was potential for Campus Police.
My weight gain started the spring of my freshman year, 2008, but only slowly. It went full speed ahead between 2009 and winter 2010/2011. My heaviest was after college graduation at over 240+. I stopped keeping a scale in the house. My clothes were almost all sweatpants. I remember wearing sweatpants for my 21st birthday, how magical, but it’s all that I felt comfortable in. While the weight gain occurred I made Dean’s List, I worked an internship…or four, I had two part-time jobs including the school paper for a year. I was in a relationship. I had many ups and downs with my family. I started talking to someone on campus in the counseling center because it just seemed like too much life was happening at once.I wasn’t as outgoing as I had been before, but I was a lot faster with comebacks and my sarcasm level greatly increased. It was easier to be funny and use that to deflect.
Here’s the gain progression so you under a bit better.
18-year-old Cristina, fall 2007
21-year-old Cristina Summer 2010
22-year-old Cristina, spring 2011
22-year-old Cristina, spring 2011
Like many college aged adults, in 2011 finding a job was a pain in the ass. I worked a paid internship and a part-time job that summer while still seeking employment. When it became evident that it was going to take longer than the summer, I found a seasonal job at Toys R Us and a part-time job at Wendy’s. Before the holiday season ended, I was able to quit Toys R Us and obtained a temporary full-time job at my alma mate in Admissions. Finally, after some re-budgeting I was able to quit my job at Wendy’s and only work in Admissions. During this time, my relationship of 3 and a half years ended, my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer and I had applied to graduate school. In January 2012, I bought a car, took my road test in said car, passed my road test and obtained my license, got accepted into graduate school, and my grandmother died. Also in January 2012, I found fitness because I had already started losing a few pounds from walking to and from work (yep, no license at the time), but I needed something for me that I could have some say in. There was a lot out of my control happening around me, but I could Zumba on my own schedule. I could also decide what to buy, cook and eat.
My fitness journey started out to find health and find myself. In February 2012, I interviewed for a job in Massachusetts, in March I accepted the job and moved to Massachusetts and on April 2nd I started that job. I also started graduate school that fall. It’s not hard to see that I’m always busy and I like it that way. The structure I set for myself is 100% the opposite that I had as a kid and I acknowledge that is the reason I like deadlines, structure and to-do lists. I think that’s why it wasn’t that difficult for me to lose weight steadily. Along with deadlines, I need benchmarks – I’m the same way professionally. This is why I started running in the summer of 2013. It’s also why I started bodybuilding and macro counting in the summer of 2014.I needed new challenges to keep pushing me, I kept hitting what I felt was my limit and these two opportunities allowed me to learn something new that is constantly evolving.
Here’s some photo of my weightloss progression:
The weightloss part of my journey lasted 52 months and included two bikini competitions – November 2014 and April 2016. I lost about 115 pounds – there’s a few pounds fluctuation. I went from a pant size 24 at my heaviest to a 0.
I have had mental struggles. I have had physical struggles. I have had odds stacked against with lack of support. But, I am strong willed and I set my personal expectations high. I strive for personal greatness and for me that means always trying to be better than yesterday and a thirst for learning – always.
When you think you can’t, remember always the reasons why you should at least try. I have no idea where I would be if I hadn’t at least tried. Prep for my third starts on Sunday and I can’t wait to share that part of my journey with you.