I got tired of being afraid and intimidated to chase a dream.
It’s an honor and a privilege to bring my readers the following interview I did with Tammy White. She became pretty popular over the internet from her before and after picture. But as you will see, this is more than just a weight loss success story. As Tammy says “I started this adventure because I was afraid of dying too young. Along the way, I found my bliss.” Maybe by reading a little bit about Tammy, you’ll be inspired to find your bliss too.
FFTF: You’ve mentioned on your blog that you went from “Fat chick to bodybuilder before I killed myself with stress and inactivity.” Was there one moment in 2009 that prompted this desire to change your life?
Yes, it was an ER visit for what we thought could be a heart attack. Because of my health status (on blood pressure meds, age, overweight), they admitted me right away. Four hours later, it was determined I had an anxiety attack, but I was told that I did the exact right thing considering my circumstances. Basically, it was a “not this time, but it’s likely” realization. Also, my mother died of a brain aneurysm when she was 56 years old. As I got older, I couldn’t shake the idea that I may also have a little health ‘timebomb’ in my near future. If I were only going to live as long as my mother, would I be OK with my life the way it was? No. I was not going to wait for ‘someday’ anymore.
FFTF: What was your husbands and other friends/family initial reaction when you told them you were going to do a bodybuilding competition in 2010?
The reaction was a negative at first. Husband started looking at pictures online of the big women – I had to reassure him many times that it wasn’t possible for me to gain that much muscle naturally. I don’t think anyone else really expected me to follow through with it. I know my husband supported my decision because he loves me, but it’s been hard on him because this is a 24/7 lifestyle. When I can, I have to do a better job of having balance in my life. Right now is one of those times.
FFTF: You posted something recently about the doubters and the haters; that they fueled you. During any part of your weight loss or competition prep, did some people react negatively to what you were doing? If so, how did you handle this?
The weight loss period was somewhat different from the bodybuilding period. There were several back-handed compliments from acquaintances. Friends were always supportive. In the beginning, the negativity hit me hard and I had one or two people close to me that let me vent a little. Eventually, I learned who was having a problem with my transformation and avoided the topic or avoided them. After a while, everyone seemed to get used to it and accepted the new “me”. There is one coworker who still feels the need to tell me that what I’m doing is “gross”. I have decided that he has some kind of personal issue that has nothing to do with me.
FFTF: Tell us about your first competition experience:
– How did you find a coach?
I asked for referrals and was given my coach’s name several times. We met, started working together, and now I work for him, too.
– What were some of the highlights?
Training is my favorite part. The time on stage was surprisingly more fun than I expected. The thing that changed the course of my life dramatically was when my picture was featured on Siouxcountry’s Facebook page. That’s when I became “Facebook Famous”. A local TV interview followed. My before/after pic is even in the school yearbook where I teach. So the most surprising thing was how my students responded to all of this. I spend time almost every day talking to a younger person about nutrition and exercise. They know that I understand what it takes to do something really hard.
– What were some of the low points?
The water deplete is the worst part for me. Last August, I had to be in staff meetings during peak week since school started the Monday after the show. That was not fun. I don’t really like the competition spray tan either.
FFTF: Obviously nothing deterred you from doing a second competition that you just completed in June. What lessons did you takeaway from your first competition that you kept in mind for this second prep?
1) Schedule competitions when I’m not working. 2) Don’t go nuts with the food afterwards. I did relax for a few days, but ate mostly clean and got right back onto my normal food very quickly. For this second prep, my coach kept my calories high, my carbs comparatively high to what others were doing, and my cardio low. This prep was a lot easier for me. I took two days to recover and was back in the gym on Tuesday after the show. Felt great! The show was just a little interruption.
I spent the first year doing cardio and dieting. That was a mistake. I should have been working with a trainer from the beginning.
FFTF: Any advice for the would-be competitors out there? Something that you wish someone would have told you before you embarked on this?
I spent the first year doing cardio and dieting. That was a mistake. I should have been working with a trainer from the beginning. I had a great nutrition coach – and I’d recommend working with someone to learn how to eat for the sport. I am a trainer/coach myself and too many people have told me that they are going to “wing it” or buy cookie cutter online programs because they are cheaper. I did a massive amount of research AND worked with experts to do what I did. It’s not just about losing weight – building muscle is hard for most, but I believe women, especially women of the age when skin doesn’t just snap back – well we need to be very, very precise in our nutrition programs. And very patient. Too much cardio and not enough muscle will make you look very “saggy”.
FFTF: Any plans for another competition in the future?
Yes, but not until next summer at the earliest. I may even skip a year so that I can focus longer on building more lean mass without having to stop and prep for a show. I also have some things in life that have been neglected for the last couple of years.
I try to avoid discussing products or my program in detail because what I do is not relevant to what someone else should do. Personal variables require individualization.
FFTF: I’ve heard from a few other female competitors that the lack of 50+ age group categories is lacking and there aren’t enough opportunities for women at this age to compete as there are for women under 40. Do you find this to be true and if so, what do you think can be done about this?
My division is usually an open division. I can compete anytime I’m willing to pay and show up. So far, the women I’ve been on stage with are in their 40’s and they have been competing for a long time. Women’s Physique isn’t a division you can decide to do in December and be on stage in June. I want to compete against them. They push me. If a masters category opened up, I’d most likely compete in the open division anyway.
The thing that changed the course of my life dramatically was when my picture was featured on Siouxcountry’s Facebook page. That’s when I became “Facebook Famous”.
I tend to be pretty open about my process, my thoughts, and my opinions I am a Christian and will share some things about my faith, but I really focus on my own fitness/bodybuilding journey. I am not trying to be a public figure or a fitness personality. I would like people to spend a little time exploring the page and the blog before they comment – I honestly believe many have no idea what I’m doing. They were attracted to the page by the before/after pic and think I’m all about weight loss. I try to avoid discussing products or my program in detail because what I do is not relevant to what someone else should do. Personal variables require individualization. I don’t even push my own training/coaching practice that much. I’m very particular even about the pages I “like” because, even though I don’t consider myself a public figure, others might and I don’t want people to think I endorse some of the things I read on other pages. Too many people are doing dumb stuff that will backfire on them down the road. They aren’t patient. They are spending the money they say they don’t have for solid coaching/training on shakes, detoxes, surgeries, etc. Yeah – I have an opinion. New people should probably know that in my day job for the last 18 years, I’ve taught really hard math to about 40 teenagers at a time. “Subtle” isn’t really in my skill set anymore. And since I’m of a ‘certain age’, I really don’t care. LOL!
FFTF: Let’s talk about food. I see you’re currently NOT counting your macros or weighing your food. How difficult has this new adjustment been?
I’m feeding myself intuitively. I eat what I feel I need when I need it. I log what I’m eating, but not how much. I’m supposed to log how I feel, but I’ve been feeling really good everyday, so I neglect to write that down. I’m enjoying this very much and I have not gained any weight back other than my water weight. After four years of being a little OCD about my food, it’s nice to know that I’ve learned how to eat without tracking.
FFTF: What’s next for Tammy White? What else would you like to conquer?
For the next four (possibly 10) weeks, I’m doing strong woman training. I’m pushing my body to see what it can do. I’m pushing my mind to accept that my body can do more. I am not giving up bodybuilding – that’s my passion. But this kind of training is very difficult and fun. I expect my level of fitness to improve dramatically whether or not I follow through in a strong woman competition or not. There is one sponsored by my gym in September and one of the events is a fire truck pull. I really want to pull a fire truck.