Amber Forshee - NPC Figure Competitor

My fitness journey has been a whirlwind of an adventure, to say the least. Like most stories, it has also been a rather unlikely one. I was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska with a gorgeous mother, loving father, older brother, and younger sister. Neither of my parents is shy about their love of ice cream, cookies, candy, and peanut M&Ms. My entire family tree is sugar-coated and covered with peppermint bark and cocoa leaves. Unfortunately, I inherited this monstrous sweet tooth. What I did not inherit was my parent’s love of activity and a physically demanding lifestyle – my father works construction and my mother has always been a passionate athlete.

My deep-seeded aversion to exercise was paired with this genetically engrained love for sweets (and foods of all kinds, really) and consequently I grew up a fat kid. At sixteen I weighed in at 230 pounds. I found myself distraught and wondering how I let it get this far… What was I going to do? What was the problem here? My grandmother as a teenager was Ms. Spokane Valley – twice. My mother was gorgeous, and – like fine wine – was getting even better with age. My cousins were all stunning. One of them even modeled. I had good genes; that much was obvious. It all led to one painful realization: It was me. The problem was me. Realizing that you only have yourself to blame is tough at any age. Doing it as a teenager was a hell of a pill to swallow…

By my seventeenth birthday I had lost 90 pounds. I started exercising, watched what I ate, and restructured my life in a way that would promote and support healthier living. That was the beginning of a passion that would ebb and flow through the years, but would eventually come to be a pillar of my being. After graduating high school I went to Santa Clara University. I had the privilege of opening for the 2007 collegiate nationals in boxing in Reno. Consequently, I was awarded Female Athlete of the Year as a freshman. While I never returned to SCU, I never really got away from boxing. I was hooked and it remains an avid interest of mine to this day.

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Moving back to Alaska, I went through a wild phase in my young adulthood. Being a “late bloomer” led to a feeling of having some ground to make up. Basically, I went buck wild. That lasted until I was 24 and led me stumbling through a move from Alaska to South Dakota, then from South Dakota to Minnesota. In Minnesota I was presented with yet another harsh reality: I had gotten away with entirely too many shenanigans with minimal consequences. I probably should have ended up in jail or raped, murdered, and left in a ditch somewhere. Lady Luck, God, Karma, the universe (whoever is in charge) had been watching over me and I had a foreboding feeling that my luck was about to run out. Nobody gets away with behaving like that without some disastrous effect. It just wouldn’t be fair. So, I decided to hang it up. I figured that I would get out while the getting was still good. I didn’t have a drop of alcohol for over two years.

Quitting drinking led to a vast increase in free time. No longer getting drunk, being drunk, being passed out, and suffering through a hangover left me with about 16 hours every day to fill (8 if you don’t count the sleeping/passed out portion). Instead of another full-time job I decided to get a gym membership and a personal trainer. When he asked me what my goals were, I stated simply that I would like abs. That was all. My whole life they’d been merely theoretical. I had never seen them from the outside; I just had to trust that they were there. I wanted to change that. Before long we had decided that I might as well go for the whole package. I would start training for my first bodybuilding competition. That was August 2014. As my trainer in Minnesota had no experience coaching bodybuilders, I decided to train with him according to a regimen designed by someone who was better suited to the task. In December 2014 I met with Mike Patino over a trip home to Alaska. January 2015 I started what would become a wonderful working relationship in bodybuilding with him. In October of the same year I competed in the figure division of my first show.

The months leading up to that competition were some of the most trying – and rewarding – of my life. Step one had been accomplished and a goal had been set. Step two was to address a couple of logistical issues. Issue number one: I’m still a fat kid at heart. That’s never going to change. I love food. Good food. All food. All the time. Dieting was going to be tricky. That’s where Mike came in particularly handy. He drafted my meal plans in accordance with my lifting routines and stage of my prep. My personal favorite was carb cycling with a cheat day. Going extremely lowcarb for four days is miserable, but at least I had a medium and a high day to look forward to. I don’t know many people who get chicken wraps with bleu cheese or spaghetti and meatballs every week leading up to a show, but Mike made it happen and I love him all the more for it. Not only did he keep me fed well, he kept me fed full. The lowest I went calorically was around 1,600.

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After carb cycling, eating seven times a day was my favorite part of prep where food was concerned. It took some adjusting to, but by George, once I got used to having a meal every two hours I found myself hungry every two hours. It did wonders for my metabolism. “But how did you not get bored with chicken and rice for seven meals every day?” you may ask. That is where learning to “food-hack” the hell out of everything helps. In fact, my culinary creativity was probably what kept me sane throughout my prep. If it sounded like it could be made into pancakes or ice cream, then 9 times out of 10 that’s what happened. (See? Fat kid.)

My off-season is a little more relaxed. I get substantially more carbs, usually curb my protein slightly, and continue to watch my fat intake. Depending on what style of training I’m doing, we tailor my diet and cardio routines to facilitate maximum growth while maintaining as low a body fat composition as possible. Typically I consume 2,100-2,500 calories a day over the course of five meals. I’m still at the point in my bodybuilding career that I crave structure and have found that running 80/20 on a scheduled meal plan keeps me focused and reduces the risk of me going off the deep end. Left to my own volition I’m liable to eat a bucket of fried chicken, corn fritters with honey butter, and a half dozen donuts for breakfast. I’m sure eventually I will be able to switch to a macro approach, but for now sticking to a meal plan cuts out all the guesswork and keeps me focused.

As a matter of fact, I consider myself very lucky when it comes to meal planning and dieting. I was fortunate enough to be paired with a wonderful coach who refuses to employ hack-meal gimmicks or last-minute tricks. If I’m not on track by a projected date or time before a show, then I’m just not competing. I wasn’t subjected to any crazy prep rituals or crash diets or anything like that. It was week upon week, month upon month of rigorous training that brought me into my shows. I had to give 100% from day one. I had to commit myself completely. I had to work for it and I had to earn the body that I wanted to present at my competition. That was where the real fun started – at the show.

The thought of performing is enough to send some people into panic attacks. Here is where I lucked out in another monumental way: My parents also gave me an uncanny level of showmanship and confidence. Even at my heaviest I knew how to work a room and command attention – verbally and non-verbally. When they call my name and my heels get to clacking, that is my stage. It is my platform that I get to use to showcase months of sacrifice, hard work, and dedication. It is my chance to sparkle and shine on the outside as much as I always have on the inside. That stage is my stage and I love every minute of it. Granted, my heart is in my throat and I can feel my pulse in my ears for the whole thing, but man… What a feeling.

As a matter of fact, the actual competition is the easiest part for me. I just have to paint myself brown, slap on heels and makeup and run around naked in front of a bunch of strangers. I have friends who do that for a living every weekend. It’s the diet that took the most getting used to. That and fasted cardio. When you do construction and have to be at work at 7 every morning, 4:30 comes real early. It takes a lot of discipline to keep your hands out of the peanut butter jar, skip the cream in your coffee, and hit the stair master for 30 minutes before 6 a.m. Compared to that, the actual lifting part was a breeze. Meeting with Mike for personal training sessions increased the closer we got to competition day. Yes, he’d push me until I wanted to puke on leg day. Yes, he’d make me do forced reps, and no, he wouldn’t let me give up 50 reps into a 100 rep lightweight burnout. It was brutal, but it was still fun. If all it took to compete were the gym commitment I would have started years ago. The real kicker part of the whole thing was the eating. When my trainer first told me that it was 90% diet, I laughed in his face and told him “It’s 90% NOT going to work, then.” He thought I was joking.

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Knowing that food was going to be my biggest hurdle, I decided to approach it headon. My bullheadedness kicked in and I determined that I would find a way to make it work – whether I liked it or not. That is when I hit the books (and by books I mean Google and Pinterest) looking for ways to eat the foods that I love while adhering to the limited diet plans being provided by my trainer. The more I tried; the more I schemed, and tested, and mashed together; the better I got with what I affectionately refer to as “food hacking.” Not only was that the beginning of a much more enjoyable prep, but it was also the beginning of my entrepreneurial endeavors. I decided to form a company called Feed Me AK, LLC. Feed Me will be providing an array of meal prep options to people geared toward weight loss, muscle gain, or a generally healthy lifestyle. Feed Me will also be providing vegan, vegetarian, paleo, and keto options. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the desire, knowledge, culinary ability, or time to prep your own meals. Just call me up and say “Feed me,” and you will receive the right ingredients in the right proportions at the right price. I am scheduled to launch December 1, 2016.

Once Feed Me AK is fully functional, I will refocus my attention on bodybuilding. I am currently training and will continue to do so throughout the next year so that I may bring a first place package to a Fall 2017 national qualifier. After that, I have my sights set on nationals in Miami the following November. I may be new. I may be unknown as of now. But let me assure you this: This is just the beginning.

Amber C. Forshee
(605) 939-1447
IG: acforshee

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