How one mother and daughter inspired each other to change their lives.
BY AMANDA LIM | PHOTOGRAPHY BY RON PERRON
In 2012, my mum completed something that left me at a loss for words. My sister and I had come up from Vancouver to Salmon Arm to visit her for Mother’s Day only to find my stepdad saying, “Your mum isn’t here. Make sure to get ready for an early morning road trip; she has a surprise for you.”
Early Saturday morning we woke up and left for Kelowna (in the south of Canada) only to discover she had entered herself in the physique show as a figure competitor. It was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever witnessed. After losing more than 100 pounds (45kg), there she was standing on stage in an itsy-bitsy bikini, competing in her first show at the age of 52!
Unfortunately, what happened afterwards shattered me: my mother had become a victim of the post-competition crash. She became obsessed with her appearance, weight and working out. It was difficult to watch someone who I looked up to and who raised me struggle so much. I think it would be hard for anyone to witness their role model suddenly become vulnerable and develop poor self-image and self-worth.
I witnessed this for a long time. It wasn’t anything specific that happened that lead her to this; it was just the path that she went down, and it absolutely devastated me. In this moment, I instantly developed a negative opinion of the competitive fitness industry and swore that I would never compete or allow myself to fall victim to this.
During this time, like my mum, I was struggling with my self-image and weight-gain. I was slowly working on getting healthier, but started to crave more of a challenge. I had lost more than 35 pounds (16kg) and was open to the idea of trying something new.
In 2013, about a year after my mum’s competition, I decided it was time for me to get a new coach. Mum was also slowly working on her physical, emotional and mental recovery while I was on my search for my next challenge. It was then that my mum suggested I hire an online coach, Fatima Leite Kusch, who had been recommended by one of her friends. I was sceptical to begin with, because a lot of Fatima’s clientele were women who competed, and I was so anti-competition.
After connecting with Fatima and understanding what her programs were like, I was convinced that she was the coach for me and signed up as a client. During the first year with my new coach, I was pretty cautious in my approach to training. I took it as a learning year to divulge deeper into the fitness industry.
I took note of the girls’ comments during competition preparation before, during and after their shows, and I made a point of understanding our roles as teammates to help support each other, and what my coach did to support them as well. Because of this, my perspective of the fitness industry changed dramatically.
Fatima has been able to create something unique: a sisterhood among women who are encouraged to reach out, talk to each other, share our successes and acknowledge our struggles. These are real women with real stories.
Connecting with them made me feel empowered to reach for my goals, and knowing that I would be supported so positively along the way gave me confidence and strength. I eventually understood that what my mum went through was not how it should be.
I constantly shared my experiences with my mum. I’d tell her about the support and compassion I received from this group of women, and she regularly told me how much happier, healthier and confident I was becoming. She was able to see how this was having such a positive effect on my life. I knew it was something that she desired as well, and I believe that I inspired her to seek something similar for herself. It wasn’t long after that my mum decided to become a client as well.
To me, it’s interesting to reflect on our journeys and see how intertwined they’ve become. My mum inspires me to stay active and healthy, and although she did not have a positive experience on stage, seeing her chase her dreams and accomplish something that she wanted was what encouraged me to compete for the first time in 2014.
I chose to compete because I felt safe with this group of women and I was mentally strong enough to handle the training. My mum also kept me so strong mentally; I felt like my experience couldn’t be anything but positive, and it was. I felt good about competing and happy that I was able to challenge myself and succeed. In return, my coach, teammates and I were able to provide my mum support on her path to finding self-love and acceptance.
Competing changed my life. It gave me a new appreciation for the hard work and dedication that people put toward their sport and themselves. It made me appreciate myself more and realise how important it was to love and take care of myself.
Immediately after my show, I did struggle. I thought I would have a better handle on my post-show, especially after watching my mum, but it didn’t go as well as I planned, but I’m okay with it because I’ve learnt from it.
It took me approximately six months to be able to come to terms and strike a balance between living my life and training and shifting my energy and focus into positive outlets, but I did figure it out. I will continue to work on that daily, because it’s important to me. I do feel that I’m better prepared for my next show, and I’m happier now than ever before.
The most important lesson I’ve learnt from this is to be thankful and humble about your life experiences and to embrace your journey. I am lucky and blessed to share this with my mother and for us to be able to garner strength from each other.