The 2020 New Year is shaping up to look a lot different than those before it for Oakdale’s Sherry Dillard. The wife and mother of two has her eyes set on a sparkly barely there bikini which she intends to wear come April as she competes in her first Bikini Competition.
“Working out has always been a part of my life,” Dillard shared. “Then when I turned 48 my body just was not responding.”
From the age of 18, Dillard shared going to the gym has been a part of her everyday routine, aerobics and aerobic activity her workout of choice. Yet once her mid-40s hit she noticed the pounds began to pack on and her workout efforts did little to nothing to keep the weight at bay.
“I’ve never been heavy or had to worry about my weight,” the gym enthusiast shared. “So, when I started to in the last five years, my confidence was shot down. I think I just needed this to build that up.”
Dillard shared she was first approached with the idea of competing three years ago by then workout friend and now coach Liza Davis. Flattered, yet not quite sure she was ready, Dillard attended a competition as a spectator and set the idea as a possible goal for when she turned 50.
Yet her 50th birthday came and went and she continued to struggle with her body image and a metabolism which seemed to be failing her on all accounts.
“I was so unhappy and I couldn’t figure out what it was,” she confessed. “I couldn’t figure it out, because my life is great. My kids are great, my husband is great, but I was just unhappy. Until I figured it out one day. I’m unhappy with me, I’m unhappy with myself.”
In 2019 after working out every day and not seeing a physical change, Dillard decided she had to do something, sharing the idea that she wanted to try competing with her 20-year-old daughter Brooke.
Brooke in turn not only encouraged her mother, but as the weeks passed and she witnessed her progress became inspired by her as well.
“I’ve lost 23 pounds,” she said of the transformation to her petite frame. “It was one of those things where I’ve always been interested in doing it. I’ve always been fit and always worked out. I really need this at this time in my life.”
A one-time Atkins diet fan, the bikini competitor noted reintroducing carbs into her diet was hard on her body. Three years of anti-carb, high-fat food consumption served her for a period, yet she quickly learned through coach Davis that to get the maximum from her body the right carbs were necessary.
“I’m like living proof,” she said. “Everyone’s asking, how are you doing this and it’s on clean eating and exercise.”
By the time Dillard takes to the stage in her rhinestone studded swim suit in April, she will have given 10 months of her life to the end goal. A length of time perhaps longer than most may deem necessary, but one she felt fitting to not just prepare her mentally, but physically as well.
“I needed something that was going to give me a goal. Give me something that I could really focus on,” she said. “My metabolism was gone, but once it caught up with me, oh man, I couldn’t stop losing weight.”
Dillard stated the combination of the meal plans, gym time and supplements have transformed her body to a fitness which she is not only comfortable in but proud of. A disciplined meal plan and two hours of gym time daily, have proved fruitful for the 50-something, but not without criticism.
As her petite frame has become more defined, some friends and colleagues have questioned and commented that she has become “too skinny.” A notion which at first she felt proud of, hence notice of the progress, yet now finds a bit annoying.
“But then I go to the gym and these people that have watched me through the whole thing are positive and encouraging,” she said.
“I’ve broken so many bad habits, you can’t even believe it,” Dillard continued. “I just love it, because it’s taught me how to eat right. When I’m done, she’s going to teach me how to maintain it.”
And while she’s completely dedicated her free time to achieving this goal with the support of her husband and children, Dillard admits she doesn’t wake with enthusiasm for clean eating and two-hour workouts every day. Some days, she questions if she can do it and then reminds herself, she has to do it.
“It’s crazy how much I’ve changed. The meal prep was a little overwhelming,” she said of the commitment early on. “Then I’m out there (family outings) eating my food and drinking my water and they’re eating their chips and salsa, but I wasn’t going to let anything stop me.”
In addition to the lessons through commitment, she also sends progress photos in her competition bathing suit to her coach each week. A task which made her uneasy at first, but now six months in has proved to be instrumental in maintaining her dedication.
“When I’m having a bad day, I just look at that before picture,” she said. “I’m not going back to that. It keeps me motivated.”
Not only has the process been life changing for Dillard, but friends and family as well. As her achievement of her goal gets closer, many in her life have become inspired to take steps in their own lives. Her time at the gym is no longer lonely, as a close friend now joins her for her gym time. Her daughter has also now expressed an interest in competing in her age group.
“It’s nice to have a workout buddy, because it goes by so quickly,” she said, sharing that the two use the first 10 minutes of their treadmill warm up to chit chat and catch up and then … they’re about business.
“I want to help other women. I want other women to feel good and feel good about themselves,” the competitor shared candidly. “So, if I’m an inspiration to them, I love it.”
Now 23 pounds down and sharing clothes with her 20-year-old daughter, Dillard doesn’t hesitate to show people her “before” bikini photos. Her enthusiasm and pride for her accomplishments make it easy to see how those in her life have become inspired and motivated.
“This was for me. I needed the confidence,” she stated. “I need to feel good about myself. When you’re happy with yourself, you’re happy with everything.”
As she looks to the spring, she narrows her focus on not just the condition and definition of her body, but the poses she must master to showcase her hard work. That’s a process which prompts more photos taken and sent to her coach, a task which has taken much time and practice.
“I’m like in it to win it. I haven’t felt like giving up,” she said. “I’m ready for it. I was ready for this change. I was ready to feel good about myself again. I’ve really learned if you put your mind to it, you can do it. I would have never, ever thought I would truly see this through. I’ve never done anything like this in my life and now my kids are watching.”
And as for the 10 months of her life she will have given up come competition day, Dillard shared: no regrets.
“I would definitely do it again. I seriously didn’t think it was going to change the way I think, but it really has,” she admitted. “And that I can be there for someone else, so they feel good about themselves is really awesome.” ■