The Struggle is Real: Devoted to Unveiling All Sides of Competing
Name: Sonia Querido (Gonzales)
(Sonia on the cover of Muscle & Fitness Her’s in October 2010)
Thank you so much for agreeing to share your story Sonia! My blog has always been dedicated to spilling the truth in this industry. I appreciate your willingness to join me in being honest with your struggles, in hopes of helping others. That being said, can you fill us in a little on your background- life before competing and becoming Ms. Olympia and an IFBB Bikini Pro?
Before competing I was a full time hair stylist. I got my license right out of high school and did hair for about two years. Following that I went on to do nails for about 15 years. I was introduced to lifting weights at 16 yeas old and that’s when started working out consistently. There was a gym just around the corner from my house, and I would run there and back which would also be my cardio 5 days a week. I was hooked from then on!
(During Sonia’s figure career that started in 2004)
When was your first show and what made you decide to compete? I know you competed in figure before becoming a IFBB Bikini Pro, what prompted you to choose figure first? Did bikini not exist at that time?
My first show was in 2001. A friend of mine started to compete and I was so intrigued so I got the name of her trainer and it all began from there! Yes I did figure first because like you mentioned bikini did not exist.
After your first show, how would you describe the weeks following? How did you handle eating? Working out? Your mental state? How was this different from the way you viewed exercise and diet previous to ever competing?
The weeks following was a whirlwind. I had gone from this strict regimented diet (program) to being kinda left in the dark (no offseason program) so of course I would try to hang on to my contest look but because I didn’t have proper off season guidance, I remember somewhat binging the weekend after the show and then I went back to my contest prep diet. Needless to say, I didn’t have a proper offseason – no rest and no room to grow, it became a vicious cycle. I didn’t allow my self any cheat meals. I always stayed so lean because I was told to stay within 5 pounds of my contest weight because it would be easier for my next prep (and I felt a lot of pressure) so thats what I did.
I know you worked with Kim Oddo of “Oddos Angels” for a long time throughout your career, do you feel your money was well invested with the coaches you worked with? Can you elaborate more on your experience with that?
I only had one coach throughout my whole career. I did think it was worth all the expense – yes and no. I would say no just because I didn’t have any balance for a good chunk of my life in which I can’t get back. If could do things differently I would have done my own research and not given one thing all my control.
(Sonia during her 2010 Miss Olympia Win)
When did you start to notice a difference in yourself and when do you feel you really hit your “rock bottom” if you had one? Do you feel you suffered from any metabolic damage from your past with competition dieting? What was that experience like?
My husband and best friend – Coach Raymond Querido (The Online Coach ) started to point things out to me. He was going down the same road and so he started doing research and found betters ways to diet along with reverse diet and slowly found more balance within the process. We both had major metabolic damage and no balance so we started to reverse diet and rehabbed ourselves back to more normalcy. It was at the end of my career (when I retired from competing) that I noticed I needed to put more priority on my health and then I became pregnant. I knew there was no way I could sustain the bad eating habits I developed while being pregnant and raising my baby.
What would you say your strongest and weakest moments or most significant moments in your journey were?
My strongest moments were when I thought I had everything under control and my weakest would be realizing I had nothing under control. My life completely revolved around food and food timing.
As stated, this series of interviews are to really develop the underlying issues, physically, mentally, and psychologically that affect us on the inside and are often not seen from the outside. What would you say your biggest “hidden struggle” is today?
I would have to say balance .
What advice would you give to someone in your position, what has helped you find some balance?
I would tell someone to make your family and friends a priority!
(Sonia with her husband and daughter, Rylee, picking out there tree for Rylee’s second Christmas)
Also, do your research into IIFYM (If-it-fits-your-macros).
I know you are a big IIFYM girl now! Can you elaborate a bit about your experience with switching from “bro-dieting” to a more flexible approach?
Yes I am! I was skeptical at first, so I incorporated trying different foods slowly. Remember, I came from only eating tilapia, yams, almond butter, veggies, rice, and stevia. I was told not to eat grains, peanut butter, sugar, or dairy because I was allergic to it. Keep in mind, I was not diagnosed by a Doctor for these so called “allergies”. I had put my life in someone else’s control for so many years that these were the only food groups I would eat daily 6x a day.
When I became pregnant with Rylee I knew it couldn’t be healthy for my unborn child to not have nutrients from a variety of foods groups, so I started IIFYM when I found out I was pregnant and of course continued IIFYM into my postpartum after Rylee. The ironic thing is I was in better shape eating a flexible diet with different food groups and utilizing IIFYM then when I was on an extremely restrictive diet. Better shape meaning better then when I was competing!!! IIFYM for the win!!
(Some of Sonia’s creative high carb pancakes she makes now that she implements flexible dieting)
I see you have reverse dieted and worked your way up to the 300+ Gram Carb Club! I am jealous! Can you explain how you did this after being on a restricted diet for so long, was the process slow/hard/easy/etc?
The process was slow but for the record I got up to the 500 Gram Carb Club with no cardio and maintained weight with just heavy ass lifting!!! I just incorporated little by little everyday and I introduced something I wouldn’t normally have into my everyday meals then it just kept progressing from there. I just trusted the process!
(Sonia post-baby eating 450G of carbs)
I wanted to say congrats on your beautiful baby and now a second on the way! How has your body image changed with being a mom? Do you feel you are at a place of complete self acceptance within your body now?
Thank you so much! I think Rylee and my husband are my biggest reasons and the most important reasons to find balance! My body image has changed in the way that I feel like I can be more of an advocate to mothers after competing and while competing to find balance. I want to show other mothers that there is a better way while enjoying life with your loved ones and competing should be fun! You’re in the best shape of your life, you shouldn’t hate life, you should be at your happiest because you have balance!
What motivates you today? Has that motivation changed since you started?
I’ve actually have fallen in love with weight training again which is exciting. Hitting PR’s (personal records) and then eating ice cream and Oreos and making it all fit my macros is fun and motivating! I’m not deprived, I’m satisfied watching my body change in a positive way. I feel strong and powerful and now happy that I can share this with my kids, husband, family, and friends. I’m WINNING!!!
Do you have plans to compete again in the future? It seemed to me you were gearing up to possibly compete before finding out you were pregnant again (or maybe you just looked so good I thought you were). Wondering if you will continue with the bikini division or what your long term goals may be?
No, I’ve retired – I had a good 15 year run. I’m in the next chapter of my life with my kids, husband and family!
If you are interested in following Sonia’s journey, you can do so through the following social media channels: