From Size 14 To Size 6

My First Figure Competition

Here’s How I Did It – Step–by–Step

Tara Darland

I don’t know about you, but I’m a dreamer. Starting as a little girl, I’ve sat around daydreaming about all the things I wanted to do. The problem is, I’m a dreamer, but not a dream chaser. Some say that keeps me grounded, but I say it’s lead me to be comfortably complacent in life.

I know that God wants us to be our best in every facet of life, love, friendships, work and health. We’ve all been given an incredible capacity to achieve continually, better ourselves and learn daily. Although this is what I knew in my heart, it wasn’t the way I was living.

I was taking the easy road when it came to my body. I’d look in the mirror and critique every inch of my body wishing it looked different… knowing that it took more than wishing. It took discipline and focus; two things I had deep down, but always let self doubt defeat.

I’ve been through all the ups and downs of dieting – losing it, then gaining it back. Even though I was a tennis player in both high school and college, I’ve always been a size 10–12 and at times a 14.

Tara Darland NPC NKY Figure contest

Tara NPC Northern Figure contest warming up before going on stage

My senior year of college, 1999, I trained for and ran the Walt Disney Marathon with my mother for the Leukemia Society. I completed the race and was very proud of my accomplishment. Yet, in terms of body size and composition I didn’t lose a pound during my training. I was still 170+ pounds and probably 28% body fat.

I’ve been through all the ups and downs of dieting – losing it, then gaining it back.

That same year I met Todd and after a whirlwind romance we were married. I had worked hard on my lifting and diet and had gotten in what for me was pretty good shape. A year later, Todd and I opened Bluegrass Fitness Center, in Harrodsburg Kentucky. Now as hard as it may be for you to understand, just because you own a fitness center doesn’t mean it’s easy to get fit. In fact, Todd and I found it very difficult to get back to training consistently after opening the gym. “Working out where you work” wasn’t working out for me!

Tara and her husband
Todd, my husband, was great! He kept reminding me, "It’s not end result that matters, but the journey to get there".

We opened a second fitness center in Elizabethtown, KY and did start training, but our diet program was unconscious eating and weekend gorging. We’d usually do OK during the week, but would eat pizza, wings and more every weekend. Even though I was training fairly consistently, my body started creeping up in size. Last year, I had to break out my "BIG" jeans and that was not something I was too happy about.

My sister, Shelley had made some great strides working with Beverly for her figure contests and I thought maybe it was something I’d be interested in doing as well. My problem was I really didn’t believe I could do it. It was hard enough to lose 2 pounds, much less the 25 or 30 I needed to lose to compete. I thought about calling them for help, but honestly I was scared. I’d known a lot of ‘fit’ people who used Beverly, including my sister, Shelley, and I was afraid that I couldn’t measure up.

After my visit to Beverly International, I was pumped up and ready to go.

I said to myself, "They won’t want to see me, I’m too fat. I can’t do it." Then I’d become disgusted with myself and decide to call. Finally, after a lot of back and forth I made an appointment. Todd and I made our way to BI for our first appointments. I remember that day very clearly; I was so nervous!! Todd and I were greeted like we were old friends. I weighed in that first day at 173, I had a lot of fat to lose and now I had a plan that would work, if I followed it.

I left pumped up and ready to go. I had a goal to do a show in six months. The first few weeks were great. Then I started to slack. The weekends would come and I’d gain back a pound of what I’d lost the week before. I knew in my heart I wasn’t following the plan like I needed to.

Six months passed and I was still a good 10 pounds from where I needed to be. I’d started at 173 pounds and 22 percent body-fat, now I was 164 pounds and 18 percent; progress, but I knew it wasn’t enough. And I had only myself to blame. The realization that I could run a marathon but not stick to my diet for more than a few weeks at a time brought tears of frustration… and a new resolve.

I made the decision to really change, to quit playing around with my diet and this time stick to it, perfectly. And I did for the next 15 weeks! I never felt better in my life. I got my weight down to 145 pounds and my body-fat to 13 percent body-fat.

I also finally attained my goal of competing in a figure competition and looking like I belonged there at the 2005 KY Muscle Open Figure Championships where I placed fourth out of 19 in my class. I WAS THRILLED!

For now I plan on one more competition, the Northern KY this spring, then Todd and I would like to start a family.

I’ve learned so much throughout this experience; not only about dieting and working out, but about myself. I’m now stronger physically, mentally and spiritually than before.

I want all of you who have dreams of competing or even of just looking your best to know you’re not alone. I know how difficult it can be, especially when it seems so easy for others. Believe me, it wasn’t easy for me; but whenever I felt weak I would pray and ask God to give me the strength I needed to complete the immediate task at hand. I believe God wants us to continually challenge ourselves not only spiritually, but also mentally and physically to be our best. As it says in 1 Corinthians 9:24, "run in such a way as to get the prize."

I could never have achieved my goals without Rachel Wade. Rachel was there for me through all my ups and downs. I have to admit I broke down on her and Angie, my trainer, a couple times during the course of my contest prep. Todd was great and very supportive. He kept saying, "It’s not the end results that matters, honey, but the journey to get there." What a philosopher. Thanks baby!

Tara’s Diet 16 Weeks Out
Supplements: Ms Power Pak, 3 Ultra 40 and 3 Mass Amino Acids with each meal, 2 Lean Out per meal, and 3 EFA Gold with meals 1 and 5.
Meal #1: 1 whole egg and 5 egg whites; 3 ounces 93 percent lean beef, chicken or turkey; ½ cup oatmeal
Meal #2: Protein Shake: 2 Scoops Ultra Size or Ultimate Muscle Protein mixed with water to desired consistency
Meal #3: 6-ounce lean protein source; 4-ounce sweet potato or ½ cup cooked brown rice; 1 cup vegetables or salad
Meal #4: (same as meal #2)
Meal #5: 6-ounce lean protein; 2 cups vegetables
Meal #6 (Occasionally): 1 scoop Ultimate Muscle Protein, enough water to make it pudding consistency and topped with 4 tablespoons Cool Whip (yum!)
Tara’s Diet 6 Weeks Out
Supplements: Super Pak; 4 Ultra 40 and 4 Muscularity BCAAs with each meal; 3 EFA Gold with meals 1 and 5.
Special Fat Loss Supplements:
Lean Out – 2 caps with each meal 7–Keto MuscLean – 3 caps in am & 3 in p.m. GH Factor – 4 caps in a.m., 4 before training or an afternoon meal, & 4 before bed (all on empty stomach – taken final 5 weeks) Energy Reserve – 2 tablets before training and before each meal.
Training & Recovery Supplements: Glutamine Select – 1 scoop before and after training
Muscle Mass – 5 tablets before training, and 5 every 8 minutes during training until I reached a total of 25
Joint Care – 3 caps with meal #1
Digestive Support: Multiple Enzyme Complex – 1–2 tablets with each meal
Meal #1: 3 egg whites, 1 scoop UMP or MP, ½ grapefruit
Meal #2: 2 scoops protein brownie mixture: 1 scoop Ultimate Muscle Protein Vanilla + 1 scoop Muscle Provider Chocolate
Meal #3: 5-ounce very lean meat, 2 cups veggies topped with red wine vinegar
Meal #4: Same as meal #2
Meal #5: 5-ounce very lean meat or 10 egg whites, or 6-ounce whitefish or 3 egg whites and one scoop UMP or MP, 2 cups veggies (ate lots of spinach). I love egg white and spinach omelets!
Mondays and Thursdays: In place of my 5th meal, I had this version of the Beverly carb
Meal: ¼ cup oats, ½ cup brown rice, 1 cup veggies, 4-ounce sweet potato, and 1 tablespoon butter.