Bodybuilding’s crucial role in my physical

and spiritual transformation

By: Debby Zutant
Magazine 6 #2

When asked to tell the story of my transformation, I had to decide how much of the story to tell. Some of the details are somewhat intimate, as well as potentially embarrassing. I came to the conclusion that to omit certain portions would be an injustice to the truth. The entire story is relevant to my motivation for bodybuilding, and the connection bodybuilding has to my spiritual and emotional health, as well as physical health. Therefore, you get my story in its entirety.

I was never really an overweight child. My weight problem didn’t start until my late teens and early twenties. I had started drinking and using drugs as a young teen, and by this time I was in full swing. My lifestyle was about as unhealthy as it could get. I drank almost every day and used drugs on a regular basis. My eating habits were horrendous. I was so sick most of the time that I couldn’t eat until 2 or 3 in the afternoon and would regularly eat–garbage, of course–very late at night.

I was never athletic at all, and exercise was not a word that was part of my vocabulary. My weight started to balloon. As my drinking and weight increased, my self–esteem sharply decreased. By my early twenties, I weighed well over 200 pounds. Although I am tall (5′10″) and carried it well, there was no mistaking that I was fat. More important than that, I hated myself. The lifestyle associated with heavy drinking was taking its toll on my spirit.

No one would ever believe that I could even stand on stage at a bodybuilding contest when I first walked into Hercules Gym

It became a vicious cycle. The more I drank and ate, the more I hated myself. To alleviate that discomfort, I ate and drank some more. There were days that I couldn't even look at myself in the mirror. I eventually got to 250 pounds and I looked and felt physically ill every day. I was dying inside and I didn’t know how to stop. During the last year, suicide became a viable option for me. I had hit an all-time bottom.

Then one day something happened. I had just turned 26. After a long night of partying, I had a moment of clarity and I knew I had to stop. And stop I did. That day was almost six years ago, and it was probably the most significant day of my life. It was time to change.

Debby old jeans

With my newfound sobriety came a much healthier lifestyle. I wasn’t so sick all the time anymore. I stopped hanging around smoky barrooms and started making healthy changes in my life. By just not taking in all those empty alcohol calories everyday, I lost 30 pounds right off the bat. My eating habits began to change for the better and I actually started exercising. Not only did I start to look better, but I also started to feel better about myself. My spirit had begun to heal.

After a couple of years, I received a promotion at work and moved to Syracuse. Here I was in a new city. I was bored and lonely. A friend, who has been a bodybuilder for many years, had been encouraging me to work out. He would tell me that I could do anything I set my mind to. I wasn’t so sure.

As a way to try to make friends, as well as continue my weight loss, I decided to join a gym. I drove by a small gym near my house and decided to check it out. Little did I know that the day I walked into Hercules Gym would mark the beginning of a new, exciting chapter in my life.

Hercules is a small place – the kind of place I felt comfortable in. Seeing that I had never so much as touched a weight in my life, I needed a lot of help. Under the guidance of Joe Dardano, the owner, I began my introduction to bodybuilding.

Joe helped me learn all the basics. I remember him telling me that I could walk into a gym anywhere in the world and feel comfortable. He taught me to squat, deadlift and clean and press. No machines for me!! My introduction to weightlifting was through the old fashioned, hardcore exercises. I loved it!

When I joined the gym I had already lost 50 pounds on my own and was down to 200. My body fat was through the roof, though. My diet was better, but it still consisted primarily of a lot of processed carbs (pasta and bread) and low protein. Joe also began to work with my diet. I started to learn everything I could about proper nutrition. I fought all the way, but I finally found a diet plan that works for me.

I couldn’t get enough of the weight training. I started going to the gym 4–5 days a week. So many positive things happened in my life. My weight and body fat continued to drop and I decided that this was the lifestyle I wanted. I had never felt so good about myself.

I went to my first bodybuilding show shortly after I joined Hercules. Joe asked me afterwards what I thought. I looked at him and replied, I’m going to do this someday. And I meant it. My body and mind were healing and I started to really believe that I could do anything I set my mind to. All I had to do was look at how far I had already come.

Almost a year and a half after I saw my first bodybuilding show, the posters for some local shows started to appear. During this time, I had been training very hard – going to the gym on a regular basis and eating right. I told Joe that I wanted to try and compete in the 2 local shows. He agreed to work with me. But he did warn me that even after all the hard work; I may not have what it takes. I went ahead anyway. I wanted to do this more than anything.

I started training 20 weeks out. With help from Joe and Sandy at Beverly International, my training and diet were developed. I was already using Beverly International supplements as part of my weight loss regime, but now I kicked it into high gear. I started my competition diet at 183 pounds. During the first 2 weeks I lost almost 15 pounds. I remembered something I read about competition dieting – NO CHEATING!! I took that advice to heart. I was totally dedicated to doing this. I trained hard and didn’t cheat. Joe monitored my progress weekly and made changes as needed. My body fat was dropping at the rate of about .5% per week. We were both very impressed at how well the diet and supplements were working.

female bodybuilder transformation
Joe in Syracuse and Sandy at Beverly International worked together through the telephone and fax to adjust my diet and supplement strategy every step of the way

After what seemed like an eternity, the shows were weeks away. Three weeks out, I weighed 154. I concentrated on all areas of preparation – diet, tanning, training, and posing. I was ready. As the date approached, I became more and more excited. I knew just how hard I had worked and how far I had come. I also realized that this would be my first show and not to expect too much.

Then the big day arrived. The morning of the show, I cried. This was the culmination of 5 hard years of work. I was really doing it!! It’s hard to describe what I felt like – what it felt like to once have been so unhealthy and fat, and now getting ready to appear in front of hundreds of people in a tiny posing suit. It was one of the happiest and most exciting days of my life.

My first show was the Norstar Physique Classic. I won 1st in my class (heavyweight) and the best poser award. The 2nd show, the Iron Man Classic, was a week later. I won 1st in my class again. I was thrilled. And I am hooked. I’ve decided that this is just the beginning. I want more. Joe and I now have plans to pack on 15–20 pounds of lean muscle. Using a structured diet and Beverly International supplements, we hope to accomplish this before mye next show. Bodybuilding is my lifestyle.

Bodybuilding has changed my life. It has played a crucial role in my physical and spiritual transformation. I was once so unhealthy – both physically and mentally. It has helped change me from an overweight and depressed shell of a woman into the strong and confident woman I am today. I do believe that I – or anyone else – can do whatever they set their mind to. If you want something bad enough, it’s attainable. That’s not to say that it’s easy. It requires a lot of hard work. But that’s what makes something truly worthwhile

Bodybuilding has taken me down a path that I never dreamed possible. But I have proved to myself that anything IS possible, if you want it bad enough.
Sincerely, Debby Zutant

Volume 6 # 2

© Beverly International