What’s the secret to Kelsey’s success? It’s all been “staged.”
Not in the way you’re thinking about either. You see… Kelsey has made her passion about getting up on stage, allowing her transformation to take place in stages, and has allowed her success to be a stage for her faith to play out on.
Kelsey’s story starts off in a darker place. Before she could become the strong and confident woman she is today, she was timid and filled with self-doubt. Before she could lift and inspire others, she spent hours isolated. Before she could form solid meal plans and stick to them… she battled an eating disorder: Anorexia.
It didn’t start there. It took several more recent struggles for her to end up there. But that’s where it ended up. That was back in 2012. She felt, as she describes, mentally, and physically weak.
“It was an incredibly challenging time for me and my family. For several months I roller-coastered between making a little bit of progress and then relapsing again.”
Kelsey needed a sign or some sort of direction to pull her through. That came in the form of a well-known and beloved women’s competitor.
“I saw this picture of a beautiful, strong, and confident woman with hundreds of thousands of comments. As a read through the comments, they were filled with so much hate and hurtful words that I couldn’t believe. Yet this woman was still so confident in herself. None of the comments seemed to have any negative effect on her. I sat there in admiration.”
Many of you might have guessed who this is by now:Dana Linn Bailey.
After seeing Dana’s confidence, Kelsey said she wanted that. She wanted to be strong and confident, calm and composed, a source of inspiration and not of concern.
So she became that. Step by step.
From there, Kelsey began searching for any information she could on the various bodybuilding organizations and any of the competitors she could. She began actively following them on social media, and began actively unfollowing those pages she had previously been following which fueled her unhealthy lifestyle. She studied as many exercise and nutrition plans as she could and became a walking database of fitness information.
At this point, even though she knew she didn’t know everything yet, she began hitting the gym with her dad three times a week. She had to get started. It wasn’t long after that, she said, that she began to notice not just physical changes, but mental changes as well.
“Every time I went to the gym and improved in any way, I would get the best feeling. It had been so long since I could say I actually felt good about myself and was proud of myself.”
After about a year of doing this, she gained back 27 pounds, was no longer afraid of food, and felt real confidence. She acknowledges that this strength came from her, from her decisions, from her family support… and from God.
“God had done some amazing work in my heart and my mind. From where I started to where I was going was absolutely impossible without Him.”
Now she got serious about competing instead of “one day competing.”
I can’t do any better justice to what Kelsey defines as the next pivotal moment in her life, so I’ll just let her do it best:
“I transferred to a new gym and began preparing for my first competition. I faced ups and downs, injuries and setbacks, but nothing ever stopped me. I was driven, determined, and full of so much passion for the sport. I knew the depths of my story more than anyone else and I knew all that had been overcome. I knew that nothing was going to stop me. After having overcome all of the demons in my past to get to where I was now, I knew that with God, I could conquer anything. Nothing seemed impossible anymore. I continued to trust God through it all, knowing that ultimately He had the best plans set out for me.”
With that kind of drive, it was going to be next to impossible to stop Kelsey.
In preparation, she gained another 27 pounds, putting her at 54 pounds above her lowest weight.
In June of 2014, at 18 years old, she competed in both Open and Novice Figure, placing 5th and 4th place respectively.
She was hooked. She took a full year off to continue gaining size and building a more competitive physique. She then hired her current coach, Shelby Starnes. He brought her to a much improved physique at 10 pounds heavier than her first show.
She competed twice in 2015 at 19 years old. Her first show of the season was the NPC Golden State where she placed 5th place in both Open and Novice Figure. A few weeks later, she competed again at the NPC Jay Cutler Classic where she took home 3rd place in Open Figure.
“This journey has forced me to not only be strong physically, but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. To this day I am the healthiest I have ever been and through the process, I have developed a confidence to face whatever life throws my way – a confidence and self love that I never imagined was possible. Every day I am learning and growing into more of the person God has planned for me to be.”
Kelsey also wanted to leave everyone with one of the verses that carried her through this:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17
Some people find inspiration in family, some in God, some in friends, and some in external role models. Ultimately, to change, we all find the inspiration internally after someone has shown us what it looks like.
Find your inspiration. Get in shape. Live a healthy life so you can live a long one with the ones you love, doing the things you love.