My Story - So far.

Welcome to my page! I'm glad that whatever brought you here did and that you've taken the time to learn more about me. I am 25 years old and reside in Southeast North Carolina with my husband, Michael and our two kids - Rottweiler, Boston and French Bulldog, Huck. I am a marketing professional, NASM Certified Personal Trainer and powerlifting athlete. 

I am a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (GO HEELS!) with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication (Public Relations Sequence) and a minor in Recreation Administration. I currently work full-time as the Community Relations Director for an Assisted Living Community and part-time as a personal trainer and health coach.

My journey has not been an easy one, but it has given me more experience than you could imagine. I was overweight from the time I started grade school. My entire family has struggled with obesity (Shoutout to Mom Vicki & Sister Lauren for being contestants on Season 17 of NBC's The Biggest Loser!) and maintaining a healthy body fat percentage has never been easy for me. In 5th Grade I weighed 150 lbs, essentially what I weigh now. 

I don't remember why, but I remember coming home from school one day and deciding to go on a diet. I began bringing my lunch to school and being more mindful about what I ate. I can remember eating dinner with my family and reading the labels on Kraft Mac and Cheese and using a 1 cup measuring cup to scoop out my portion. My older sister subscribed to Oxygen Magazine and I would sit in her room and do the exercises in each issue. I proceeded to lose 30+ lbs at 10 years old through diet and exercise. 

I was able to keep the weight off for most of my time as a student with fluctuations here and there based on whether sports were in-season or out. As an athlete, we were expected to take Weight Lifting as an elective each semester. I quickly realized I had found something I was unusually good at. I was lifting more than all of the females in my classes and even a few of the males. Unfortunately, I did not know that a competitive outlet existed for this and used it solely as a way to stay in shape and have less homework.

Like most people, I graduated High School and moved away to college and unfortunately, the mandatory practices that consumed grade school were no longer there. I decided to avoid the Freshman-15 at all costs and started going to the Student Recreation Center on campus. I used Bodybuilding.com, Oxygen Magazine, and my knowledge from high school. I didn't really pay attention to my weight but I was able to lose weight versus gain like so many of my friends.

The Summer after my freshman year I met my now-husband, Michael and we began dating. We all know ladies that when you get happy, you get comfortable and let the diet relax a little. I slowly gained weight the next few years of our relationship. I continued to work out and eat relatively "clean" (that was the new thing at the time). By my senior year I was very frustrated and wanted to finally challenge myself. My friend Jennifer had competed in her first NPC Bikini Show and pushed me to compete. I had tried unsuccessfully several times, so I finally decided to hire a coach and make it happen. I began prep in July of 2013 in my last semester of college and stepped on stage in November, 30 pounds lighter.

I had an amazing, supportive coach but followed a strict meal plan diet that unfortunately led to a severe post-show binge. I ate myself to the point of being physically sick several times after stepping off stage and within a few weeks had gained most of the weight back that I had lost. I made plans several times to compete again but always quit a few weeks in. I finally decided to give flexible dieting (IIFYM) a try and played with it for a year or so before finally hiring my current coach to start a fat-loss phase in Fall of 2015. We slowly lost 15 pounds to put me in a good spot to begin a contest prep in January of 2016.

In April of 2016 I competed in two NPC Figure Shows placing 2nd at one in the Junior Figure Division. I was not the leanest or the most muscular girl on stage, but I was probably one of the few that didn't proceed to binge for several days straight or gain back an extreme amount of weight. We then began slowly adding in calories in a Reverse Diet and I was able to stay within 5 lbs of stage weight for two months. Competing in a physique competition is one of the most mentally exhaustive things you can do. I do not recommend it and I am unsure if I will ever compete again. I've done it dieting on two ends of the spectrum and it's tough either way. It is a rewarding process though and teaches you a lot about discipline and perseverance. 

After my contest prep, I expressed interest in pursuing powerlifting as a new goal and a way to ensure the extra food I was eating was being put to good use. Within just a few weeks, I was hooked and was revisiting the love of the weight room I had in high school. I found a group of women close by that were forming a powerlifting team and attended a meeting. They are now an integral part of my life and my training. In September of 2016, Team Rebelle competed in its first Powerlifting meet as a team, and changed my life. The camaraderie found at a powerlifting meet is unlike any other competitive sport I've ever attended. It is refreshing to take my focus off of my appearance and shift it towards being strong.

My plans for 2017 include competing in the USAPL and hopefully qualifying to compete at Raw Nationals in October.

I hope my story shows that no journey will ever be an easy one. We have to learn, experience, fail and overcome in order to find our path both in life and in fitness. My journey isn't over and I'm sure there will be more setbacks and more discoveries along the way. Find what motivates you and aspire to it every single day. Find what you love and pursue it passionately. Don't let the fear of failure keep you from starting. Small successes equal great victories.

If you have a dream - chase it. If you have a passion - live it. If your life isn’t what you want it to be - change it.
— Jennifer Hanna