When I got the call, I thought I was being Punk’d.
“I’ve read your blog and was wondering if you would mind being considered for PEOPLE Magazine’s ‘I Lost 100 lbs’ feature?”
I was sure someone had read my post about last year’s 100 lbs feature, and was messing with me.
But, just to be sure, I hit the Google machine.
Holy crap! This girl actually works for People Magazine!!!
Insert a scream only dogs could hear *here*
Well, I suppose I could be persuaded to consider…
Step one: Go ahead and send us a picture of yourself in a bikini.
Um…. Send you a what now? A bikini picture? Moi? An actual Two Separate Pieces bikini?? For strangers??
Can I really do this?? Do I have it in me to put myself out there that much??
Then, after a minor existential crisis:
Hell yes, I can!
There is no CAN’T at Happy Exhaustion. We roll Eleanor Roosevelt Style around here.
“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
Ok, Eleanor – it’s you and me. Let’s go buy a bikini.
(I feel a distinct possibility that just typing those words may have caused the great lady to roll over in her grave… Moving on.)
Back at home and it’s time to pose. Should I wear heels? Flats feel odd, and barefoot feels wrong…
My kids built Lego towers while daddy took painfully awkward pictures of a bikini-clad mommy in the living room. Hot.
Ok. Be brave. Hit send.
Step Two: Commence waiting for what feels like an eternity, stuck in a nightmare mind-loop: What if the sight of your body in a bikini results in rejection on a grand scale? Recovering from that kind of blow to the ego could take some time…
As the days rolled by with no word from PEOPLE, I even begin to consider the possibility that I was not being Punk’d so much as Catfished. What if some perv had talked me into naively sending out bikini pictures!? My mind was spinning at 12,785,276,920 miles per hour.
But then, another call from NYC knocked me back on my heels. I was in! They picked me!
Suddenly everything hit warp speed. Interviews were being conducted, flights to Miami for location shoots were being booked, facts were being checked.
And, I was sweating my FACE off.
See – PEOPLE didn’t request a bikini picture because they wanted me to come for a photo shoot in a flirty little party dress. PEOPLE wanted a bikini, a small bikini and nothing but a bikini, so HELP ME, GOD!
I was sworn to secrecy until the day of the issue reveal and not a moment sooner, rendering me unable to share what I was really up to here on the blog – so I gave only the faintest of hints as I posted about my pursuit of abs and hamstrings.
WELCOME TO THE ULTIMATE FITNESS MOTIVATOR OF ALL TIME: PEOPLE Magazine is going to show your bikini body to the Whole. Wide. World.
I worked out like an athlete and I tracked my food like a fiend. Not a single morsel went into my mouth that wasn’t a plant, a seed, or a lean protein.
I got into the hands-down best shape of my life. I developed abs! Real ones! Can you see them?!
Eduardo The Great
The Girl Who Used To Wear Size 24 didn’t know abs were possible.
I’m not even going to pretend I wasn’t proud.
The number on the scale did not take a nose dive from the 140 I have happily maintained since reaching my 100-lbs goal, but my body definitely changed. I became what the resident trainer calls ‘lean’.
I hit Miami at 136 lbs, with lots of new muscles and a BMI low enough to make them show.
After dedicating lots of heart and rivers of sweat to my goal, it was finally show time.
The adventure began on June 12th , when my four new friends (all fellow 100+ lbs losers) and I all boarded planes to Miami.
Lori Filipiak, a fellow mother of two from Illinois was my soul-sister from the start. We bonded right off the bat. Lori and I flew from Atlanta to Miami together with Edwin Velez, the hard-body from Alabama. With his deep southern drawl and boundless energy, Edwin will charm your socks off the moment you meet him. The three of us giggled and gossiped all the way to Miami, sharing our before-and-after pictures, imagining what excitement lay ahead.
In Miami we were joined by Judith Anthony from New Jersey and Erin Banks from California. These two girls not only delivered the hotness, they brought with them the support of their diet plan teams (Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem respectively).
Judith may seem shy, but she’s a tiger whose eye-on-the-prize attitude is an inspiration. Erin rounded out the group with an ambitious fire whose posing experience (gained during appearances in national Nutrisystem campaigns) put me to shame.
Once we were all in the same place, it was full-throttle from the word go. After being collected from the airport and taken to our gorgeous hotel in Miami Beach, it was off to wardrobe fittings. I have never seen so many bikinis all in one place! Rainbow-colored racks of bikinis, all in my size, all there just for me!
All for me! Eeeeek!
After extensive fittings unearthed the best bikinis, it was off to bed after a quick spray tan.
*I may or may not have gifted a bottle of Grey Goose (my favorite cocktail) to the super-goddess that is Jennifer Lee – our spray tan/makeup artist. Before I even met her I had a feeling that after an evening spent spray-tanning the fully stripped-down bodies of five former-heavyweights, a cocktail may be in order.*
Day 1 was Location Day
On location in Miami. A girl could get used to this… Left: Glamazon Lori prepping for her close-up. Center: Yes. Yes, indeed. Right: Celebs get red carpets. Ours were cardboard :-)
Our first full day was spent on location at a gorgeous, massive private home on the beach.
We met the rest of our glam squad on location, who helped us to bring the sexy.
Jen was there again, this time to manage our faces. Full red-carpet-ready cosmetic drama was not on the docket for our ‘real people in swimwear’ shoot. But after I waxed poetic about my love of false lashes, she conceded and gave me a *few*. Jen built me up. She was kind, she was insanely skilled, and she made me believe in myself.
It’s hard not to feel like a star when Jennifer Aniston’s makeup artist is touching up your face!
I then fell hard and fast for my new gay boyfriend (seen above) – hair god Eduardo Garcia, who convinced me that I really ought to strut even when my instinct was to hide. He did more than prove to me that my hair is capable of previously-unexperienced fabulousness, he gave a 33-year-old stay-at-home-mom her very own pop star moment.
Know what’s a great thing to have when you’re about to pose in a bikini in front of a whole crew of photographers, stylists, producers and assistants? A pop star moment.
The glam squad.
They gave all five of us a ‘story’. Edwin and I both had ocean stories (score!), Lori had a pool story, Judith was cabana, and Erin was palm trees.
At this point, I earned the right to add ‘professional water kicker’ to my resume.
In pursuit of a whimsical and fun bikini picture, I did my utmost to channel every ladies’ razor commercial ever made. You know the ones – with smooth-legged bikini babes flirtatiously kicking water at the camera from the edge of the surf?
I may have looked like a dancing bear, but damned if I didn’t give it every ounce of Baywatch I could muster.
That was also the morning I learned of my pathological issue with dipping my chin in pictures.
Turns out – this is a problem.
Our high-profile and long-suffering photographer must have yelled “chin up!” at me 123,874,805 times. Somewhere in heaven, Perry Hagopian‘s halo was being polished, because at no point that weekend did he assault me with a blunt object.
After all of our solo photos were done, it was time for group water kicking. The wind was blowing our hair in our faces, my smile muscles were sore, and I was having the time of my life.
Sharing that unique moment with a group of new friends all celebrating the accomplishment we had worked so hard for was a moment worth savoring.
That day was FUN.
Group shot. See the chick in the not-necessarily-age-appropriate white Taylor Swift shorts? Yup. C’est moi.
Day 2 was Studio Day
Primping for Day 2!
Despite continuing to marvel at the sensation of having stepped into someone else’s life, I gotta say – Day 2 was HARD!
Studio Day was Full-On Modeling day.
I take back everything I have ever said or thought about models not having difficult jobs. Modeling is rough!
That was the day I learned that I am capable of perfectly controlling approximately 3 parts of my body at a time. Anything beyond that is beyond me.
If you want me to point my toes just so, and bend one knee just so, and orient my hips in one direction, while twisting my torso in another, and pointing my shoulders over there, and hiding my back hand, and relaxing my front fingers, and smile big!, and keep my stupid chin UP… I might not be able to pull it off.
If ‘pop star’ is the way you want to feel at a bikini shoot, ‘I might not be able to pull it off’ is *not* how you want to feel at a bikini shoot.
But I had worked too hard and come too far to not do my very best, so I gave it 110%. And if anyone can get an awesome pic out of me, it’s Perry!
Thank goodness Eduardo was on hand to keep my hair looking fly while he manned the wind-machine.
Props… oh dear.
Before we got to Miami, we were warned that there would be lots of down time while the rest of ‘the talent’ was shooting. It was suggested that we bring books, magazines, phone chargers, etc. to keep us occupied during all of our down time.
But I didn’t spend a single minute feeling bored. It was too much fun watching my new friends get their model on, interviewing with superwoman Michelle Tan, and picking up hair and makeup tips from the glam squad!
Effing fierce new friends gettin’ their pose on
That night, we all celebrated with more calories than any of us had treated ourselves to in months. After a long time without a cocktail, one was certainly in order.
Raise a toast to THAT’S A WRAP!
Lori, Edwin, Judith & Erin – Team Superstars – We did it! We really did it! We were all dangerously obese, and we just wrapped a bikini shoot for PEOPLE! Never has a tropical cocktail been more well earned.
That’s a wrap & I’ll drink (brightly colored tropical cocktails) to that!
I am so very grateful for this opportunity. As I write this, I have not yet laid eyes on the article. I don’t know how the text will read, or how the pictures will look. But I don’t even care. I made friends and memories that will last a lifetime, and that’s the best reward.
Now – Stay Tuned!
I’ll be sharing the workout routine that got me those abs, keeping you posted on my constantly evolving fitness adventures, and hopefully encouraging you to run hard in pursuit of your own goals.
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine posing in a bikini for PEOPLE.
You have no idea what you can accomplish, so get to work!
Photo Editor/Point Man Extraordinaire/Answerer of Incessant Questions/Dear New Friend: James Miller – I know that the five of us must have given you an ulcer. You had so much on your plate, and you handled it all with both compassion and grace. Even when the heavens threatened to open, you kept every single ball in the air. I knew I would adore you from the first email, and I was right. Thank you for all of the things.
Boss of All PEOPLE People: Michelle Tan – You, miss thing, are a force of nature! Your intensity and your heart draw everyone towards you. Full superstar status. Who run the world? Girls.
Wardrobe Stylist: Don Sumada – For your flawless taste. Also, because the moment when you insisted I wear a ‘sample size’ will play on a highlight reel in my head for the rest of my days.
Wardrobe Assistant: Belaxis Buil – Shine bright like a diamond! I cannot wait to watch you soar. Hope all who visit Miami will get to see your art.
Assistant Hair Stylist: Leandra Francuna- gurrrrl, you are the other side of my lucky penny!
PEOPLE Reporters: Stephanie Pfeffer and Catherine Kast – It was so fun working with the two of you. You have no idea how much an email from either of you would shake the snow-globe of my suburban life. Congratulations on successfully putting a Dyck on the cover of PEOPLE Magazine ;-)
Production Managers Barbara Garcia and Johnny Beltran – Thank you for the fun. You were like my big brother and sister, keeping an eye out for me and making sure I made it to the church on time. You light up whatever room you’re in.
And finally, thank you to my real-life support team.
To my wonderful, strong & long-suffering husband, who kept me steady as I spun a million miles an hour and wrapped myself around a pole twelve times a day. I’m nothing without you.
To my kids, who think it’s so fun that Mommy is in a REAL LIFE MAGAZINE they can’t believe it.
To Maggie, Amanda & Cindy – the trusted few. Every girl should be blessed with friends like you.
To everyone who has cheered me on. Thank you.
I am so blessed.