That’s just one of the many demanding — and at times just plain strange — things Mary Beth Bien did in preparation for her first-ever fitness competition in May.
“Jelly has a lot of sugar in it, and it helps your veins pop, which [judges] like,” Bien, 23, said. “It sounds really weird, but it looks good on stage.”
Bien, who is the daughter of Aaron Bien of Bienie’s Automotive in Ottawa, competed May 25 in the World Beauty Fitness and Fashion Central Show at The Midland theater in Kansas City, Mo.
It’s not exactly modeling, Bien said, but more like a “pageant with muscles.”
“They kind of compare themselves to Victoria Secret models with more muscle definition,” she said, adding that judges also take into account a woman’s fashion and marketability.
Preparing for the competition took several months of hard work, which even meant isolating herself from the eating habits of her friends and family, Bien said, but it was worth it.
“Modeling and doing the photo shoots has made me love myself for the first time in my life,” Bien said. “So far this journey has been about my own personal goals.”
‘A perfect body’
Bien, who grew up in Ottawa but attended high school in Olathe, said she was athletic when she was younger, playing softball and participating in weight lifting classes.
“After high school, I kind of detoured and wasn’t very healthy, and took the wrong way for a while,” she said.
After she met her current boyfriend, though, she started meeting with a personal trainer to get back in shape.
Bien decided in December she would compete in the fitness show, after being encouraged by her boyfriend and inspired by her trainer, she said.
“The way (my trainer) carried herself and how hard she worked was incredible,” she said. “She pushed herself and looked amazing. After talking to her, she inspired me to compete.”
When Bien told her father she was going to compete, he started laughing, he said.
“She’s got a perfect body for starting something like that, just the way her physique was to begin with,” Aaron Bien said.
In addition to working out at the gym for about two hours every day, Mary Beth Bien followed a strict diet before the competition.
For the first leg of her training, she “bulked” for two months to build muscle, she said, but was able to have a “cheat” meal each week.
But for the past three months, she ate nothing but 99-percent lean ground turkey, salmon, swai fish fillets, green vegetables and sweet potatoes.
“I was eating basically the same thing at least five times a day,” she said. “All of my food was measured, and I knew exactly what was being put into my body. Sunday was my meal prep day. Typically I would cook all my meals for the week on Sunday evenings.”
The diet was so strict, she said, she purposely secluded herself from family and friends.
“For six months, I saw my dad maybe a handful of times, and that goes the same with my mom and her husband,” she said. “The way we eat, the temptation is horrible, and I have really bad self control.”
One of the biggest misconceptions about prepping for the show, Bien said, is that people think it’s about losing weight.
“That’s one thing that didn’t happen,” she said. “You don’t lose weight until the very end when we deplete our bodies of water to step on stage. You gain weight because you’re trying to build that muscle. We don’t want to be super lean and not have any muscle definition.”
‘So much fun’
Among four categories in the show — two of which are for men — Bien competed alongside 26 other women in the “Diva Bikini Short” division. She modeled in the morning in her bikini, and in the evening in an evening gown.
“I was very nervous,” she said. “I have always been the type of person that avoided a stage or getting up in front of large crowds.”
Right before she walked on stage, she said, she was hoping a good song would come on for her to walk to. But looking back, she has no memory of what song actually was playing.
“As soon as they call your name, you’re all smiles and you just go into auto-pilot,” she said. “It was so much fun, almost like you put on a different persona.”
Although Bien did not place in the top 10, she said, she thought she did well and reached her goal, which was overcoming her fear of the stage.
“I was just so proud of where I pushed my body,” she said.
Bien’s father attended the show along with other family and friends, and said he was proud of his daughter and thought she handled herself well.
“As far as competition-wise and muscular definition, I thought she was better than most of the other women,” he said.
Bien celebrated her achievement in her own way, she said — with a slice of cherry cheesecake and four pieces of pizza.
“It was awesome,” she smiled.
Bien said she couldn’t have done it without the support of her friends and family, specifically her boyfriend of four years, CJ Garrett.
“He pushes me and is my No. 1 supporter,” she said. “Living this life is tough, and it’s amazing to have someone so supportive in my corner.”
Her boyfriend also was the one who introduced Mary Beth to hunting, she said, which has turned into one of her favorite hobbies.
“First he introduced me to a bow, and I fell in love,” she said. “After the first morning of sitting in the deer stand, I was hooked. I love deer hunting. I have also had the opportunity to hunt hogs, elk, turkey and upland birds. My favorite, by far, are Kansas whitetail.”
Bien now works as a full-time nanny for two young girls, and also is a full-time student at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, studying criminal justice. She wants to continue working with children in some way, she said.
She plans to compete in another show in about eight months, she said, and hopes to build more muscle and improve her fitness skills.
She also wants to incorporate her other love — hunting — in her next show.
“In the Diva category, you have a theme-wear round,” she said. “I am very excited to be able to bring my love of hunting into it by being a huntress for the theme wear. I will be able to have my bow and am so excited.”
One thing that is not in her near future?
“I have not had any desire to have one since the competition,” she laughed.