The following is an interview with Stephanie Ferretti. I first connected with Stephanie through instagram, we both shared a passion for fitness and martial arts. Stephanie contacted me regarding training Muay Thai in Phuket and since then we have remained in contact.
To me, Stephanie is an incredibly inspirational woman. During the time that we have known each other, she has been kind enough to share with me snippets of her life story, and her experiences as a mother, a daughter, a wife, a sister, a competitor, a trainer and everything else in between. Stephanie’s stories inspired me, surprised me, moved me and motivated me. I’ll let her tell you the rest…
Where did your journey begin?
My journey began in early 2009. I was only 32, had been married and divorced, 30 kilos over weight, on the verge of living a lifestyle of eating crap food, no exercise, drinking every night and was going out to clubs with my older recently divorced/single girlfriends almost every weekend I had free .. My life consisted of myself feeling crap and always recovering from my big nights out.
I might have been appeared to be one of the happiest people in the room but deep down I struggled in a deep depression with trying to accept how I looked and how my clothes fitted me..
I had never ever wanted to look this way but struggling to deal with three children on my own, without family help and to be on my own was a lot for me and the best way I dealt with it at the time was to eat and drinking alcohol to mask my inner pain..
I started to date someone that lived the “body building” lifestyle in 2008. His lifestyle was something totally new to me and I knew that something had to change with the way I was living life because I could not even do 5 mins on an exercise bike while he could do a solid 45mins easily..
I sort advice from him how to eat and what to eat ranging from a broad selection of healthy fresh foods and meats. I lost over 15kgs of weight in three months from being strict and I hadnt even attempted cardio yet..
I felt GOOD !! And soon I had an urge to go to the gym to try something new.. So I started slowly and sort advice what to do from a personal trainer there.. A month later after I started, my friend and I separated and with a broken heart I searched for why he left me. I found out later the at he had been training someone else for a bodybuilding comp that was on soon in Adelaide.. So out of curiosity and part anger lol, I went to have a look..
I brought a girlfriend with me and as the show went, we absolutely loved it.. We were in absolute awe of everyones physiques. Just amazing!! And after that show, I knew what I wanted to attempt.. So I went for it !!
I invested in learning how to eat and train for a body building show and I attempted my first one in 2009. I trained my heart out, every day for weeks and weeks to try to be my best on stage. I didnt get the physique that I had been visualising but I was determined that I am not stopping until I achieve what I have personally set out for myself.
In 2001 after years and years of hard work to be prepared for this competition. We sacrifice many things as we all get ready to compete.. No one quite understands the hunger pains that we have to deal with and the amount of cardio and training we have to put ourselves through and on top of it all, we all have to work and try to function as a partner, work colleague, friend, mother, wife etc..
I have sacrificed dinners, birthday celebrations, holidays, weddings and other different events with family and friends because I was too exhausted from prepping for comps.. Our lives revolve around training, cardio and eating only certain foods and when you cannot relax with eating any kinds of delicious meals with friends and family, it is one of the most mentally testing hurdles in life you could put yourself through.
In 2011, after years and years of hard hard work, I caught a glimpse of the physique that I can achieve and I won the SA womens figure title and also the Over all Figure Title and the Australian Figure title that year.. One of my greatest accomplishments .. My favourite accomplishment so far is being rewarded with the IFBB Womens Physique first place in Oct 2012..
What is it to be feminine?
In this sport, it is easy to loose that feminine look.. I work hard to sculpt my body like something like a muscular comical super hero.. Something that is incredibly hard for women to achieve because we are not built at all to build muscle easy ..
As much as I love that hard lean and vascular look that I can achieve for a few weeks as I lead up to competing, I also embrace that more full fit and soft look that my body changes to after I get to relax and enjoy life again.. At no time at all am I willing to sacrifice my looks to change my body for a trophy..
What is it to be masculine?
To be masculine for me is to feel strong from the inside and to look strong on the outside… I have always train with mostly men, I try to out work them and to out lift them so that I can always say that I am one of the hardest working girl in the room..
I love my muscle, and I love muscle on women in general and I know it is not the look for every person out there, but I have put in so much hard work to look like this.. I appreciate women that have got muscle, because I know how hard you have to work for it.
I feel strong, I feel fit, I feel empowered to look strong.
I love weight training, I love powerlifting, I love Muay Thai boxing, I like learning new things to improve my body and to keep fit.
I remember just like it was yesterday that someone said to me when I was a young girl that
“I will never be as strong as the boys”
Im pretty sure that I’ve proved that person wrong.. 🙂
Would you describe yourself as feminine?
Yes, I still would describe myself as feminine.. I am still “soft” when I’m not competing, Id like to think that I have curves in all the right place.
I have more muscle than the average woman but I dont think I have too much muscle.. I have sculpted my body to make it look appealing to the eye rather than just “bulk up” .
To me to be feminine is to treat others with a kind and open heart and to treat other with the same manner that they treat me.. I am a Mum to three girls so I dont have time to act “masculine” or “mucho”.. They have their father in their lives to play that role..
I still wear make up everyday and take pride in my appearance.. I may not wear designer clothes, high heels,act ditzy or pile on the accessories but I still think that I present myself to the world as a woman.
What is beauty?
Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.. To me beauty is not the outer exterior that everyone puts so much money and effort into, but I think beauty is from all the things that you have had to experience, hurdle and trial through and also the way you accept yourself.
Ive wasted to much time on thinking maybe beauty comes being a certain dress size or if I wore a high end dress label, high heels or styled my hair or make up a certain way.
Beauty to me is created from hurts, from heart aches, from losses, from challenges, from emotional scars, from physical scars and from the way you handle life as it is thrown at you.. Beauty to me is to feel at peace within myself, to know that everyone that I surround myself and with what I do is what makes me the happiest..
If you are happy with yourself and at peace, beauty cannot help but radiate through you 🙂
How have your life experiences influenced the way you understand beauty?
Ive had to learn the hard way in life to learn what beauty is to me..
I use to hang around many large groups of people that were well known in my city.. They all had great jobs, dressed in designer clothes, had lots of money, partied all weekend, like to go to places where they were seen, were snapped in the local newspaper all the time. They were dolled up all the time, had the latest designer accessories and drove expensive cars but all of them were fake. They talked about the little subjects, they lied and back chatted each other, cheated on their partners and from that experience, it opened my eyes to how I perceived beauty..
Those things don’t matter to me as much as they did back then..
How did you feel about yourself mentally and physically prior to working out, and how do you feel about yourself now?
I love working out!! .. I love a variety of training from body building training to Muay Thai Training.. Most of my work outs, I love to get into the gym, turn my ear phones on and attack every session until I flog every frustration and anger out of me.. My workouts calm me and make me able release any of my negativities and regain focus for everyday life… I work out at least 5-6 times a week and it is what keeps my head clear and keeps a good routine in my life…
I am less worried about what people think about me now than I was years ago when I was younger and over weight. Like Ive said before, my body type is not everyones cup of tea, but it is something that I am proud of.. No one but myself has done the hard work to achieve the look that I have ..
Why did you choose body building as a lifestyle?
I dont choose “body building” as a lifestyle… I choose the “gym lifestyle”..
I have not set out to chase trophy’s, I have been on a mission to challenge myself and to improve my body every time that I compete.. Im not perfect and I don’t always get it right, but that always makes me want to work at it even harder.
In your own words, what is body building?
– to develop ones muscular body to how you would like it to look like..
Its a never ending hard working project !!
As body building and weight lifting become more popular, do you think that people will start to associate being muscular less with masculinity?
To be honest, no… I still think that we live in a society that go through fads..
Yes powerlifting, body building , crossfit, strong man events are getting more popular, but only 5% out there are are only living the true gym life style..
Its great to see the girls getting into the gym and weight training though…
When training, what is your motivation?
My motivation is to give everyone a run for their money .. to compete in a comp is not to just train in the 15weeks leading up to the competition but to train like a mad woman for weeks and weeks and months before the shows to build the physique I want so badly to present on stage and for myself..
It bothers me when I hear people tell boys to “act like a man” and “stop being such a girl”, or when girls are told that they “look like a boy”, how do you think that we can move past this? What would you say to people who think in this way?
“act like a man” “stop being a girl” “look like a boy”…. all of these comments are from referring to what we as a society think a “man” or a “boy” or a “girl” is and how they behave..
Men and boys are strong, brave, fearless, hard…
Girls are pretty, fragile, dainty, emotional, sensitive….
But are they ????
Is it wrong to let a man be open to his sensitive emotional side..
Is it wrong for women to lead their lives in a more “alpha male” role??
I think we need to encourage people to ” be brave” ,”stand up for yourself” etc..
People speak their words to loosely and with out thought these days..
Every words spoken from your lips will have some impact on someone else’s heart
Is there any advice that you give to your children regarding body image and gender, that you could share with me?
I very rarely speak to my children about my body building journey…
I think its important that they understand the hard work that I do.. They have seen that Ive worked hard to loose lots of weight and to change my body over the years.
I do not encourage them to go on “diets” or “fad diets” though, I ve always encouraged them to eat healthy and over the years I have changed the way we stock our fridge and pantry, there is always a good balance of healthy foods and the “sometime” foods and Ive always encouraged the girls to exercise..
I think its important for them to see me at the gym and living a fit life style.. I do not push them to do what I do though because Body Building competitions is such an extreme sport.
Because I have all girls, I really think it is important that they should have some kind of training like muay thai boxing so that they can feel confident within themselves and know that they can defend themselves if they needed too.