Natalie is a 29 years old stunning young woman. She is originally from Houston, Texas, although her roots are half Vietnamese, half American.
You can also visit her web-site here.
1. How come you have chosen this type of lifestyle? Did your parents have any influence in choosing it?
My parents have always been supportive of me to maintain an active lifestyle as in my childhood they encouraged me to excel in sports as martial arts, swimming and tennis. However, as I got older I relaxed a bit on the sports while becoming more focused on my professional and college life. Once I moved from the States to Belgium on a work assignment, I saw how Europeans were generally more fit and slim than Americans which made me reflex on my own body. It was an easy motivator to get into better shape.
It’s difficult to identify myself as any particular character within those fields because the downfall could be that if any of those traits went away then you would lose your identity. I prefer to think of myself as a very focused, ambitious, fit, educated woman who actively pursues her passions as a fitness model, photographer, and business world.
3. How did you first get your interest in fitness training?
I picked up fitness as a way to deal with homesickness and to have a new personal goal to pursue. It’s great to keep working towards goals of competing in physique competitions to stay in shape and help spread the good word about natural fitness and health.
4. How many times per week do you train yourself? Do you have a personal trainer or are you self-training?
When I trained for my first competition, I worked with a Belgian personal trainer and we worked together 5x/week for an hour a day. As time went on and I became more experienced at the workout moves, I now train myself based on the input that I receive from fitness professionals. I’m training for another show in one month so my routine is quite heavy: 6x/week with 1 hour cardio and 1 hour weight training.
5. What is your favorite fitness activity and why?
My favorite fitness activity is typically any new program given to me by my trainers that incorporates combination moves with resistance such as bands or weights and performed at a cardio pace. These programs are done within 1 hour and can really make me break a heavy sweat!
6. Can you share with us your daily and weekly fitness routine?
During my competition prep, 5x/week I perform 30 min. morning cardio on my stationary bike and in the evenings I do another 30 min of intervals on the stair stepper, 30-45 min of weight training. I typically split up the body into five parts: legs, back, shoulders, arms, and chest. A daily split would be for example:
DB = dumbbell
Monday – Quads/Calves:
* Machine Leg Press 4 sets x 12 reps
Tuesday – Back:
* Machine Lat Pulldown 4 sets x 12 reps
Wednesday – Cardio Only or Rest
Thursday – Chest/Shoulders:
* Cable Crossovers 4 sets x 12 reps
Friday – Triceps/Biceps:
* Cable Pushdowns 4 sets x 12 reps
Saturday – Cardio Only or Rest
Sunday – Hamstrings
* One Leg in Air Pelvic Pop 4 sets x 12 reps
Abs Workout Everyday
* Bicycle crunches 4 sets x 20 reps
7. You said that “Life is not about the cards you were dealt, it’s how you play them.” How did you play your cards in order to get 1st place in WNSO FAME European Championship 2008?
I looked at the European Championships as a personal challenge to get into the best shape of my life with no excuses allowed as I would be judged by a panel of industry professionals and on stage with others that had as much motivation as me. None of us were born with ‘perfect’ bodies and many even had to overcome massive roadblocks prior to stepping on stage. I for example had just moved to a foreign country by myself, no friends, and challenged with a new job/culture/life. But rather than letting that hand of cards prevent me from pursuing this, I was completely motivated to working on making myself into the woman I always wanted to be. That is the beauty of Life – overcoming the obstacles in front of us, learning from each lesson, and improving ourselves with each step.
8. Which one do you consider the biggest fitness related accomplishments and how did you managed to achieve it?!
I would say that the very first win at the 2008 FAME European Championships which led to a feature in Muscle + Fitness UK magazine, a modeling contract with W Models – the premier fitness agency in Europe, and the invite to the Worlds. I spent the first 5 months in Europe dedicated to changing all of my diet habits such as not drinking even if that meant being the odd one out at get-togethers, and consistent dedication to the gym after long days at the office. There’s something to be said about the very first effort made as my hope was to not look like a fool on stage and get into the best shape of my life. It truly proved to me that the fitness lifestyle created rewards that far outweighed the sacrifices.
9. Is there any difference between fitness competition diet and every day diet? If so, can you offer us some examples?
Definitely. During competition prep the goal is to reduce body fat to very low levels, which typically cannot be maintained for a long period of time. Therefore the diet is extremely strict and calculated precisely to support my calorie exertion and nutrient needs. Each meal is weighed and typically cooked in advance in order to make staying on diet easier. The diet is typically high in protein, moderate carbs, low fat, and capped at a number of calories. An example day would look like this:
1 hour later or 45 minutes before I go to the gym 1/2 cup uncooked oatmeal.
In the off season aka every day diet, I still eat rather clean (ie. avoiding obvious junk food, binging, etc) but I don’t restrict myself by weighing my food and enjoy desserts now and again. However, it’s important for me to maintain a fit physique to make future competition dieting easier and of course important for fitness modeling.
10. Do you take any kind of supplements?
Yes, it’s very important for me to take supplements which I consider are a part of my nutrition program. As my diet can often be very restrictive caloric wise, it’s important for me to get my vitamins and minerals in other ways. In addition, as an athlete I need to consider conditions such as fatigue and recovery which can also be addressed through appropriate supplements.
11. Can you offer our readers some quick tips about how to lose weight and look great in a short time? (around 2 months)
Weight loss is simply a mathematical equation of calorie intake and expenditure. It was recently in the news regarding a scientific study comparing various diets that varied the amounts of protein/carbohydrate/fat. Researchers found that one of these varying factors made the difference in losing weight but instead it was the reduction of calories that was responsible for this. In a very pure sense of this diet mathematical equation, this is absolutely true. For women, reduce your calorie intake to 1200 calories, focus on eating clean healthy unprocessed foods, and drink lots of water (4L+/day). Add regular exercise to this such as 30 min cardio and some wieght training 3-5x/week and you will see massive physique changes in two months.
12. What is your favorite recipe? Does it suites your diet or does it follow your heart’s desire?
My favorite recipe is a Vietnamese dish called Buon Bo Nuong which consists of rice vermicelli, grilled beef slices, topped with a heaping of fresh herbs such as coriander, lettuce, mint, bean sprouts, and green onions. It’s been my favorite growing up and I remember my mother making me a bowl when I came home from school.
Depending where I am with my diet, I’ll enjoy a hearty bowl. The problem with favorite foods is that it’s easy to binge so I have to be careful when I’m around this dish!
13. Can you share with us some tips from your diet recipes? We would love to share them with our readers.
Pretty much any recipe can be made into a diet recipe. There are some easy substitutions that you can do such as:
* Bake rather than fry
14. You wrote in your blog about your typical day by day eating program. How did you choose it? By own experience or was it recommended by a nutritionist?
My typical day to day eating program evolved over time. In the very beginning I heavily researched bodybuilding websites to see how the figure and fitness athletes ate and simply modeled my diet to theirs. Upon winning the European show I enlisted the help of a well-known trainer to top athletes such as Olympians for help. He put me on a very heavy protein diet which allowed me to significantly put on more muscle over the last year. Since then, I have partnered with an Italian pharmacist/nutritionist/former competitive bodybuilder/elite athlete trainer to bring his 22 years of anti-aging/nutrition/exercise research to the English speaking world and am currently acting as a guinea pig in his program.
As my fitness modeling and competitions are a part of my professional life it is important that I invest in it by surrounding myself with subject matter experts to take me to the next level.
15. Please share with us how to follow a healthy diet without struggling ourselves too much.
Making a commitment to change is like anything: you have to repeat the new behaviors day after day and before you know it you have developed a new habit. If you simply want the change but do not make a commitment to yourself to do so, even the smallest change will be a big struggle. That being said I think that we all know about the obvious things to avoid which negatively affect our health: smoking, drugs, gluttony & binging, empty calorie foods, heavy drinking, etc… A couple of tenets I like to follow help me maintain focus on a healthy diet:
* If it flies, swims, or grows – eat it. Avoid processed foods!
16. What is your daily beauty routine?
I use all sensitive skin products such as Dove sensitive soap, Cetaphil skin lotion, baby oil and cotton balls to remove eye makeup, and 2.5% benzoil peroxide to address my occasional acne. One month a year I’ll do a weekly glycolic acid peel to get my skin in order. I never ever go to bed with a makeup on.
17. Can you tell us some of the cosmetic products you use all the time? (Examples of: mascara, foundation, creams, lipstick, perfume, etc.)
I often do my own makeup for my photoshoots as I went to Beauty School. On regular days, I’ll typically only where some Revlon Colorstay concealer on small blemishes and MAC blot matte powder to cover shine.
Evenings out I’ll use Lumiere mineral makeup foundation powder, Lumiere shadows anchored by an eyeshadow primer, Loreal mascara, and some MAC lipglass.
For photoshoots, I adore Revlon Colorstay foundation for oily skin (stuff has amazing coverage, perfect yellow tones for my skin, and lasts the entire day) and the same products that I would use for a night out. I really like mineral makeup as the pigments are deep and show well under bright lights for photos.
18. What kind of make-up would you choose for an “every day life” photo session?
One thing to remember about a photoshoot is that even if it is supposed to represent an “every day life” look, that won’t be the case for the makeup because what shows under bright lights of the studio is different than natural light and in person. The key ideas that come to mind when I think about creating an “every day life” look is flawless yet dewy skin (ie. a good coverage foundation), lightly pigmented lipglosses, matte bronzer as blush and shadow, and brown eyeliner.
19. Did you ever choose SPA treatments from saloons for your body, or you prefer self caring?
The best spa treatments I have ever had were in Asia where you can get a very elaborate day package of seaweed wraps, scrubs, massage, pedi/mani, and facials at 4 star establishments for $150 USD. Here in Europe I like to treat myself every occasionally and recently went to a spa resort in Austria which was known for their natural springs and in its history Beethtoven wrote a symphony while staying at the property. So nice!
20. How do you choose your make-up, according to the event or your mood?
I have to say that both factors will influence the look that I’ll go for in the evening. Big nights out are lots of fun for me because it allows me to get even more creative with makeup and hair. As I spend my days looking very plain and athletic it is a nice treat to get a little more fancy at night.
21. You have a very busy life.. How do you find balance between, career, love, and passions?
I find that for me the busier I am the better I am able to optimize my schedule, work more efficiently, and prioritize what is important to me. Fitness and diet is extremely important as it is my passion so no matter what I will make sure that I get my daily exercise. Career is an around the clock thing for me as I do my business by phone, email, internet all day and evening. Love is the tough one to squeeze in with a schedule like mine I have to admit!
22. A short top 3 of things we need to do in order to live a healthy life.
* Surround yourself with people you admire for their intellect, kindness, and passion and cherish your loved ones on a regular basis. Happiness is a key part of quality of life.
23. You are a person that lives by quotes, so, what quote would you advice beautips readers to follow?
Set your fitness and physique goals, determine the steps required to achieve it, keep track of your progress on a regular basis and hold yourself accountable. Next thing you know you’re right where you wanted to be.