The Real Picture of Health


What does it take to be the true picture of health?  No, I’m not asking what it takes to be healthy, but rather what it takes to appear healthy; the cover girl, the feature model in a supplement ad…the epitome of health, beauty, and dedication and the inspiration for so many women.

What it takes is an unbalanced lifestyle, poor nutrition, mood swings, and obsession.

I recently landed my first spot in Oxygen Magazine; a life-long dream and something that I am extremely proud of.  Since the issue was released, it has been very interesting to hear the support and feedback from friends, acquaintances and even complete strangers.  I really appreciate all the love and encouragement I have received, but I also want to shed light on what it really takes to get ready for a fitness photo op.

My schedule leading up to the day of the shoot was nothing short of crazy, I’ll admit it.  The reality is that most fitness models, or at least the ones I have come across, have some pretty insane tricks to get ready for their close up.  Why am I so adamant about disclosing these rituals?  Because it’s important to understand that walking around with less than 10% body fat (which is about where I was at the time of my last photo shoot) all year round is completely unrealistic and unhealthy.  I want to break into the industry to help others reach their goals, not set impossible standards.  I want to advocate a healthy balanced lifestyle, which is what I try to adhere to most of the year, but really want to emphasize that the final prep makes a huge difference in the final outcome.  Myself, along with most other fitness models who actually lead a balanced lifestyle, do not walk around with paper-thin skin and tans that would make you question my ethnicity.  I stay in great shape and am always two weeks away (max) from being ready to shoot or compete but those two weeks are hell.

Here’s what goes into my typical prep:

1. Carbohydrate Manipulation
Two weeks out, I start cutting carbs big time.  Carbs hold water so without carbs you don’t hold any water, leading to a dry, more ripped appearance.  I could barely function at work, I was moody as ever, and walking up the stairs was a chore as I was lacking the primary source of fuel our bodies thrive on (carbohydrates).  One day before and on the actual day of the shoot, I carb up.  Being so carb depleted, a sudden increase in carbohydrates fills your muscles with glycogen, allowing the muscles to appear more full and pulling any remaining subcutaneous water from beneath the skin.

2. Water Loading and Depletion
The week before the event, you drink yourself silly.  That means drinking one to two gallons daily!!!  You’re peeing like a racehorse and because your body gets used to urinating so frequently, when you cut back your fluids 48 hours out then completely eliminate all fluids 24 hours out, you really dry out.  Yes, I didn’t drink a sip of fluids 24 hours before my shoot.  My abs looked good?  I guess so, but at the same time, my tongue was stuck to the side of my mouth and I was sucking in ice chips like mad!

3. Tan
Definition shows better with a glow.  That means either every second day in the beds or a solid spray tan before the big day.

4. Up the Cardio
Two weeks prior to the event, I increase the cardio to burn off as much fat as I can.  This is done in my moody carb-depleted state and I feel beyond horrible.  I really hit the wall ten minutes into a boot camp and looked overall like a sloth.

5. Cut Sodium
The week before the event, I watch and track every mg of sodium I ingest.  Staying around 1000-1500 mg is challenging to say the least and every item needs to be accounted for.  Even a stalk of celery has too much sodium, for goodness sakes!

After all this prep, which some would call torture, the outcome is picture perfect.  I want people to know that the appearance of perfection is not the norm and that the industry standard of fitness and health is ironically the furthest thing from the truth.  No one is perfect; you can only be better than you were yesterday and finding your balance is absolutely essential not only for your health but, most importantly, for your happiness.


Kristen Vidlak is a registered dietician and personal trainer. She grew up as a competetive gymnast and later attended the university of Maine on a full athletic scholarship where she was captain of their record breaking women’s track & field team. Currently, Kristen enjoys modelling and competing in fitness events throughout North America. Her experiences in athletic training and competing, coupled with her dietetic education give Kristen a unique and well-rounded perspective when it comes to health in fitness.

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