This week’s interview is with small but mighty Liz Berres. Liz started out competing in Figure, but transitioned to Physique. I’m jealous of those awesome poses she gets to do on stage, sans heels no less! Check out what this firecracker has to say and then head on over to read about her boyfriend, competitor Michael Veaderko. And then maybe we should all nominate them for Hot Young Fit Couple of the World. 🙂 Dont’cha just love how the couple who works out together, stays together?
Competition Weight: 125lb
Off Season Weight: 135lb
Social Media sites:
Instagram and Twitter @cheezziitt
FFTF: Tell us how you got your start with transforming your body. When did you start to take an interest in fitness?
Growing up in a neighborhood of boys I often found myself outside playing kickball, building forts and riding bikes, very active little girl! Despite my small frame and stature I remember having the determination to keep up with them no matter what, and I have countless scars to prove it. Being active and fit came so easy back then that I never had to worry about what I ate, I had no idea at the time how fortunate I was in my youth.
I continued to be active through college with intramural leagues and weekly trips to the University gym, but I continued to eat mindlessly; greasy dorm food, ramen noodles and of course CHEEZITs! This combo made it hard for me to realize I was slowly gaining weight. I avoided the freshmen 15 but once I graduated college the pounds really started tacking on. As a working professional in a new relationship,I finally gained that inevitable 15 lbs. At 28 I was the heaviest I have ever been. Yet I was completely clueless…I thought I was doing everything right; I went to the gym on occasion and I thought I ‘watched’ what I ate.
My first step in the right direction was when I became aware of restrictive hip-dysplasia and my food ‘poisons’. It took about 8 years of living through many rough patches both with my achy hips and my agonizing stomach pains that I reached out for help. I had a food sensitivity test done resulting in my sensitivities to gluten, corn, yeast, sugar, almonds and walnuts. I thought I was a goner….but little did I know this was a blessing in disguise. I began to do tons of research to really educate myself on what a clean diet was. Meanwhile I was told unless I got more active, a hip replacement would be inevitable: this was the initial “spark” that led to begin a healthier lifestyle.
With this new information about my body, my boyfriend Michaeland I took a step back and evaluated our habits and lifestyle. We found ourselves 1 year into dating on an unhealthy trajectory, eating out, binge eating in front of the TV and constant social drinking with little to no gym time. We expressed to one another how unhappy we were with how we looked and felt.
We knew that in order to make a change we both had to be fully committed and show each others support, we shifted our direction and decided to make a change together. We both signed up to participate in the BSN Elite Physique -12 week transformation challenge on bodybuilding.com. This was our way to eliminate the potential excuses and keep structure with a finish line. I slowly figured out that in order to get the body I wanted I needed to get off the treadmill and start lifting. Since I had no idea how to get started I decided to follow my boyfriend around the weight room. I ate and trained per his program, personalizing his training program by the weights I felt comfortable with and reduced the calories for my size. With his encouragement I put down my fear and weight room anxiety and continued to increase my weight. After a couple months I noticed a significant strength gain and my body toning up! Not only was I seeing changes in my body with this diet change and lifting routine but I felt healthier; with more energy and focus, better spirit and confidence but more importantly felt more balanced.
Not only did I have a huge success with my body transformation (lost 10% body fat and gained 10lbs lean mass), I won grand prize for top female transformation!
Michael also placed top 5 for males and we were hooked! This accomplishment encouraged me to compete that same year placing 3rd and 4th in my first 2 figure shows. I continue to tweak my diet and workout more with a focus to gain more muscle mass. I started working with Casie Shepard IFBB Physique Pro in the fall of 2012 to really focus on gaining more muscle while leaning out for my 2013 shows; I shifted from figure to Women’s Physique and continued to place in the top 3. My body continues to respond tremendously to constant clean eating and regular lifting year round. This is no longer an on and off season but more a lifestyle with phases! My next show will be a national one in 2014!
FFTF: Tell us about your first competition – Highlights/low points? Did you enlist the help of a coach for your first competition or at any point in time?
I did work with a coach and I will continue to; there are SO many factors that go into show prep. Having a coach is like having a different eye (your own can be your worst enemy at times) observing your progress and making the changes needed in order to keep moving in the right direction. It is critical to find a coach you see eye to eye with and someone you can trust.
My High: There were definitely some hard points along the way; between blisters, low energy and self-doubt but I pushed through it all. Overall I am VERY pleased with my results and experiences, I did lose a little more muscle mass for my first couple shows but on a positive side I nailed my goal physique and got on that stage! Woot woot!! For my first shows and contest prep I couldn’t have been happier and it only made me want it more.
My Low: I have learned that contest prep diet should never feel like you’re depriving yourself. My first prep was cutting carbs fast as you approach show time; especially in combination with loads of cardio. I lost hard earned muscle mass and I was consistently worn out. I had low energy and really didn’t get to absorb the experience and the positive changes in my body.
I have learned that contest prep diet should never feel like you’re depriving yourself.
This is something I learned the hard way as after my first show I rebounded back with the typical weight gain female competitors find themselves with. My take away was to make my on and off season very similar in what I ate but to keep my sanity with some “cheats” here and there. The closer I am to a show, the more it requires a different mind-set with a stricter diet but it has less of an impact when you’re ‘OFF season’ is still ‘ON track’.
FFTF: What was your friends/family reaction when you told them you wanted to get on stage and take part in a bodybuilding competition?
This is a great question as this was one of my biggest challenges along my fit journey; it began with my diet restrictions. My Father was a chef , so I grew up on “full food pyramid” meals that included a variety of ingredients. There was never a ‘do not’ eat list so the concept of food sensitivities was somewhat hard to grasp. It wasn’t that they weren’t supportive it was just unfamiliar territory at first. I began bringing my own food to gatherings and slowly educating my family members on why I was eating the way I was.
Shortly after I begin training for my first shows, this was an interesting experience for them. They witnessed my diet habits but they did not see all the time and energy at the gym. They had NO idea what to expect at the show nor that they would be seeing all these muscular physiques on stage for hours including their daughter in nothing but a tiny swimsuit. It was a long show and did not interest them. Needless to say they haven’t come to another show since. Their support remains at a distance; at first it bugged me but now I realize it is not me, it’s a disconnect of interest. What they do recognize is how happy I am.
My friends are VERY supportive, they truly witness how much it means to me and they continue to watch and inquire on my goals and next steps. I have a great fan base that continues to cheer me on at my shows and it makes me feel like a champion. I can’t express enough on how having supporters in the crowd makes the experience memorable; at the end of the day even if you don’t place you walk away with that group just ecstatic and proud of you waiting at the doors to embrace you with hugs!
I can’t express enough how having supporters in the crowd makes the experience so much more memorable
FFTF: What are your other interests outside the gym?
I absolutely love traveling; I have been to 12 countries so far and various cities throughout the US. I just love absorbing the culture and experience. I am definitely an adventurer with a wild drive to explore! My other interests include: my passion to be creative and playful. Art and crafts – including but not limited to painting, collaging, graphic design, sculpture, stain glass and photography. Believe it or not, I actually have an art studio in my house rather than a home gym! My creativity goes further than my art studio but into my kitchen.
My eating habits have really enlightened me in the cooking realm; I have been very successful in making alternatives to a lot of the naughty classic dishes and treats! (Click here for Liz’s “Good Food for you” Oatmeal Puff Cups – Chocolate Chip Style” recipe)
I also love to get active outside of the weight room with camping, hiking and drive-ins or just simply being outside. Along with sports: soccer, kickball, or just pick up games of tennis ….oh and playing with my two very active Labrador Retrievers!
FFTF: I’m all about food these days as I prep for my first competition – I have to ask: What was your first meal after your first competition?
Food and time management are the most important things leading up and winding down; trying to fit in training and posing each day and getting in all your meals while avoiding all the surrounding temptations is SO hard. I needed to cook all my meals on Sunday for every week, and frankly that habit stayed with me to this very day to avoid coming out of a show and binge eating. Our fridge looks like Tetris with all the colored Tupperware jammed packed.
My post show foods tend to be a treat from my favorite gluten free bakery; this is usually devoured before I even leave the venue! My main meal is usually pretty hearty either a big steak and potatoes or Mexican dish with beans and rice; polishing it with a glass of my favorite type of wine: tempranillo. Overall I keep it pretty clean as I enjoy ‘real’ food over pizza and junk food, I just eat large portions!
FFTF: Along those same lines, what was your life like after your first competition with regards to eating? I’m just curious if you went “nuts” as I read some competitors do because they aren’t dieting anymore.
What I learned from my first show were my daily habit flaws when it came to my body. My biggest mistake was my reduction of carbs to almost zero, training without fuel didn’t work very well. I slowly added ‘safe’ carbs into my diet and bam my energy, ambition and strength soared. I also realized two huge mistakes I did on a daily basis, something most women are guilty of- Not eating frequently and not drinking enough water. I went hours without a bite of food or a drop of water, I had no idea the harm I was causing my body. Just simple moves like eating small meals every 2-3 hours and carrying a water bottle around made a HUGE difference.
As I mentioned earlier, yes after my first show I did lose track of things, with my food sensitivities I didn’t go on the typical cake and brownies binge. What I did lose was the ‘monitoring’ and portion control. I continued to lift heavy and workout regularly but my diet and workouts did not jive. I learned the hard way that they both need to work in concert to evolve your body, I found myself in what is typically called a ‘dirty bulk’ gaining 10+lbs.
I think my post show experience was fairly normal for a female. I also think I’ve done a good job bringing myself back in line better and better after each show, moving toward balance. Pushing a side my own self judgment on my post show weight gain; I never use a scale anymore. Of course I miss those abs & sharply defined muscles but I just have to keep reminding myself that I’m healthy and still in great shape. I know that I can enjoy things now that I couldn’t when I was on competition mode. You have to have balance.
After experiencing the post-show roller-coaster I was able to walk away with solid understanding of the dos and don’ts, YOU CAN GAIN MUSCLE and stay lean. I am able to achieve this by staying consistent, keeping things evolving and continuing to control and measure what I put in my mouth, it may seem mundane but it’s creditability to myself. My workouts and fuel will change based on my current goal but what remains is my full commitment to a healthier lifestyle.
FFTF: Would you say your competition history has been a positive experience overall?
The hardest thing for women after competitions is the physiological part of accepting your body fluctuations. Keeping a strong head will keep a strong body inside and out. It is my strong work ethic, discipline and passion that keeps me interested in competitions. It truly is a simple and great process and it is in EVERYONE’s grasp if you have dedication and desire; eat and drink clean, sleep often, lift heavy and have FUN!
Plus I love what competitions bring; getting all dolled up, feeling like a beautiful gem! I am a type of girl that is typically a tomboy that loves dressing up but hates it as an everyday routine. It’s an adrenaline rush I just can’t get enough of! Overall I am more confident, I feel and look even better with each and every show I do.
FFTF: Would you recommend competing to anyone or do you think it takes a certain type of individual to pull this off?
The process is very demanding, mentally, physically and emotionally and it takes A LOT to get on that stage in front of all those people. With this said I think anyone can get on stage with the right resources, discipline, and dedication but more importantly you MUST have the passion. What I get from each and every show is two-fold – I learn more about my body and what I can achieve and I gain more friends with the same perspective and interests. Surrounding yourself with positivity makes this long journey that much more feasible.
FFTF: What’s next on your goal list?
This has been a long journey for me, my physique didn’t change overnight and I feel like an artist continuing to sculpt her body! I know now that lack of progression leads to boredom and inefficiency. My daily goals are to keep intent and order to my workouts so I am able to sculpt my body to my goals and those short term goals are to stay lean this winter and build my back and shoulders. It is my daily routines, workouts and nutrition that build from one on to the other. It is important to my long term goal to keep balance; my fitness lifestyle is important but not my only priority; I simultaneously focus on my life outside of the gym to stimulate my growth as a person.
I want to be a leader demonstrating that dedication, hard work and passion can get you amazing results!
I can achieve this by keeping my workouts efficient by understanding my workout before walking into the weight room. I get asked all the time how long I dedicate to the gym; frankly the gym is and will never be more than an accessory to my way of life. I recognize what I have to put in but ultimately I need to do what makes me happy. I want to continue to practice architecture, travel and take on new house/art projects; similar to designing my body these are my outlets . Overall I want to continue to show other females that it is indeed possible to gain muscle, remain sexy and feminine, and have a life! I want to be a leader demonstrating that dedication, hard work and passion can get you amazing results! Fitness and wellness to me is represented by more than being pretty face with a strong and toned body but being relatable, smart, healthy, and able to achieve anything you set your mind too. I have my social outreaches purely dedicated to my pursuit of a fit-healthy life and my journey through the life of a little bodybuilder like me! I love to push and encourage more than just myself. Every day I strive for improvement all balanced with a positive attitude and enthusiasm. Of course gaining my Pro-Card is on my list but again it’s a long path to get there. I am on that track with my chin and ambition high! I can’t wait to see what is in store for me as I continue to nationals next year!
Every day I strive for improvement all balanced with a positive attitude and enthusiasm.
Thanks you so much for sharing your inspiration with us Liz! We wish you and Michael the best of luck on your future endeavors and will see you on that Pro Stage someday as you go from Fit To Figure To Physique to Champion!