Lisa Traugott - Bikini Competitor

In 2012 my life was a mess. My business was failing, my marriage was on the rocks and my doctor said I was borderline obese. Thatís when I got an invitation to my 20th high school reunion because God has a sense of humor.

None of my go-to fad diets were working so I decided to do something radical: at age 38 and size 14 I entered a bodybuilding bikini competition and it changed my life forever. In five months I lost 50 lbs, fixed my messy life in the process and wrote a book about it called ďSheís Losing It!Ē which is like a ďRockyĒ for Moms.

Somehow my blog got on the radar of FOX and they asked me to audition for American Grit hosted by WWE star John Cena. American Grit follows 16 civilians through military-style training exercises for the chance to win $250,000. While I personally did not win, two of my teammates did. My team was mentored by purple heart recipient Noah Galloway and we still keep in touch. It was an amazing experience that pushed me to the brink mentally, physically and emotionally. Iím much stronger for having done it.

Lisa Traugott

Lisa Traugott. Photo by SaL Robles

Diet and Training

My stage weight ranges between 105-110 lbs., depending which federation Iím competing in. (Some federations want bikini competitors to look shredded and others want their competitors to look softer.) Off season I cap my weight at 120 lbs. and if I go over that weight my trainer makes my workouts horribly miserable, so I usually stay in the 115-118 range.

Within that range it stands to reason that off-season and competition prep meals are actually quite similar. I eat six times per day and include protein, carbohydrates and fats. During competition prep more of my carbs come from vegetables versus rice and, obviously, I donít get the freedom of multiple cheat meals in the same week. My calories range from 1550-1800 depending upon my workout schedule and the timing of the show and the calories drop during the last two weeks before the competition.

Prior to my first competition I had only done fad diets, and I did everything under the sun: Atkins, SlimFast, NutriSystem, Cabbage Soup Diet, Beyonce Lemonade Cleanse, Herbal Life, water pills, Lean Cuisine, diet pills, and the list goes on.

They never worked because they were CRAZY FAD DIETS. I gained all the weight back plus four more. It wasnít until I trained for my first bodybuilding competition that I learned what real nutrition was and Iíve never looked back since.

For people wanting to learn about this I created the S.L.I. Method, which is basically everything I spent thousands of dollars to learn as an award winning bikini competitor distilled down into a 30-day kick starter program for weight loss for $79. I teach how to eat clean, food prep and give a meal plan. Thereís also 24 complete HIIT training workouts with a fitness video library and motivational videos to call you out on your excuses. If youíre interested, just check out my website

My training includes 3-5 days per week of strength training (50 minutes) and 6 days of cardio (about 30 minutes). I also do an extra glutes workout several times per week during show prep for an added lift. I practice my poses between 400-1,000 times before a competition.

The workouts are, honestly, the easiest part of my day. The food is the toughest part for me. Iím a wife and mother and it seems that all the children in Godís green earth have birthday parties two weeks before any competition I decide to enter. Itís really difficult socially to be in show prep. I canít drink wine with my husband or eat the tortilla chips and salsa in front of me while friends can eat whatever they want. But thatís the choice Iíve made with being an athlete. I really love bodybuilding. So when Iím in the off season I make it a point to meet up with my friends at restaurants and during show prep we do non-food things like get manicures. My family and friends are very supportive and I love them for it.

On Stage

Posing was way more difficult than lifting weights for me. The posing bikini is really small and remember that I had had an extra layer of fat protecting me for years before my first show. Even though I took posing classes, the confidence just wasnít there.

So I entered a pole dance competition for my 40th birthday. I figured a baptism by fire would help, and it really did. I worked with a phenomenal dance teacher, Serena Hicks, who helped me get in touch with my inner feminine warrior. When I was 20, like 1 in 5 women, I was sexually assaulted and it made me feel very vulnerable and ashamed. By pole dancing I was able to reclaim my power and realize that itís ok to be sexy. At first she had me create a stage alter-ego so I felt more like I was playing a part and not standing onstage as myself. That helped a lot. Now Iím just comfortable as me.

When I first started competing, I did it to lose the weight and then continued because it was fun. I always came in last, like dead last. Like 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 11th, 17th, dead last Lisa Traugott. It wasnít until I was accepted in the Arnold Amateur, the 2nd biggest bodybuilding competition in the world, where I would be judged against women literally half my age, that I even thought it was possible to win.

It was last year, just as my book ďSheís Losing It!Ē was being released, that my mom was diagnosed with end-stage lung cancer. She moved from NJ to my house in Texas and I took her to weekly chemo treatments and physical therapy since she hurt her hip at the airport and needed a walker. The stress of her illness brought back old habits and I began emotional eating and gaining the weight back.

So I did something crazy: Even though I did not have an award winning physique, I could write a great cover letter, and I was accepted in the Arnold. My mother was in the hospital for pneumonia and just as her fever broke I got the news that I was accepted. I was jumping up and down in the hospital saying, ďIím in the Arnold! Iím in the Arnold!Ē and my mom was like, ďThatís great! Whatís the Arnold?Ē

I had just started working with a new trainer, Robin Johnson Jr., and I told him, ďIím just glad I got accepted and just donít want to come in dead last. Iíve set the bar really low for you as a trainer.Ē And he said, ďNo, thatís the bar you set for yourself. I have higher standards.Ē

It wasnít until that moment that I realized that without knowing a single woman who was in the competition I had already decided that they were better than me. I lost in my mind before I even began! Once I threw that thinking out the window I trained harder than I ever had before. A snowstorm couldnít stop me from getting there. A bikini lost in the mail wouldnít stop me either. I got on stage and placed 20th out of 38, the best I had ever done and it was at an international show with no age division.

From there it was like a whole world opened in my mind: I really could win if I worked at it. Five weeks later I did the Texas Shredder and my mom was able to see me win 3rd place. She was so proud. She died a few weeks later. Iím glad she got to see that. Later that fall I went back to competing and won 3rd, then 2nd and then finally, finally 1st place. The announcer said, ďWell she may write Sheís Losing It but sheís winning it tonight!Ē

It had taken me three years, but I finally did it, I won.

Future Plans

Iím training for a bodybuilding competition in August that has an Angelís division. Yup, I get to pretend to be a Victoriaís Secret model for a day! Thatís pretty exciting.

But not as exciting as having my transformation story written up in the August 24th issue of Muscle & Fitness Hers! When I was overweight I daydreamed of getting my body back and ending up in a magazine; I never thought it would actually happen.

So I guess my final thought Iíd like to leave with you is that anything is possible. Maybe as you read this youíre where I was at four years ago: broke, angry, overweight, defeated. Maybe you look in the mirror and wonder, ďWho is that frumpy middle aged woman?Ē staring back at you. But if I can do it, hell yeah, you can change your life too. You are the youngest you will ever be, so just go for it.

Lisa Traugott
Award winning author and fitness blogger

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