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Three women are transforming their bodies for body competitions and becoming healthier

Andrea McGillis, from left, Geana Schwartz and Stacy Heinlein are working out together, getting their bodies fit for bodybuilding competitions. DL NEWSPAPERS/Pippi Mayfield

Working as a wellness coach, Stacy Heinlein decided it was time to take her own advice and find a new focus for herself.

She had seen friends compete in bodybuilding contests, and while it looked interesting, she was a bit hesitant about participating in one herself.

“I’m getting older and after having four kids, I couldn’t get up there in a two piece (bathing suit) and put myself out there,” she said.

But then within about two hours one day last fall, she had two friends compete in bodybuilding competitions and thought maybe it was a sign she should go for it.

“Here were two moms rocking it in their 30s and 40s,” Heinlein said.

She decided maybe she could rock it as well.

Being different is beautiful: Andrea’s story

Heinlein’s is just one of three stories from a trio of ladies who work out together and push each other to be the best they can be daily.

“I just wanted to get stronger,” Andrea McGillis said of why she joined the push to build her body.

Growing up, McGillis was diagnosed with severe scoliosis. She had to wear a back brace for four and a half years, and later had to undergo surgery to place a rod in her back. She said she grew four inches on the table that day.

In elementary school, she had a 12 degree curve to her back. By the time she was a teenager, it had twisted to a 63 degree curvature, and it was affecting her breathing.

But as a child, she felt alone with her back troubles.

“I had no one to look up to. It was just me,” she said.

She said she had a horrible body image and it took her years to move past it. “It took until my late 30s and now to be comfortable in my own body.”

She may have gotten comfortable in her body, but working out and putting it on display, that was a whole other story.

“I thought why in the hell would anyone want to put themselves through that,” she said with a laugh about bodybuilding competitions.

But she decided to put herself through it, too.

She said that her back will show during the competition, but who cares.

“I’m going to get up there and be, ‘Here I am,’” she said with a smile.

McGillis plans to participate in her first competition in October.

Where it all began: Geana’s story

Geana Schwartz is where it all began. Well, her husband, Wade, actually.

“I got to a point where I got stagnant and decided to push myself,” she said.

She was actually getting too skinny, she said, and her husband encouraged her to start working out. She’s been addicted since.

Last year, she competed in her first bodybuilding competition and placed third in her height category. She said she has no future plans to compete again, but she continues to work out and help Heinlein and McGillis achieve their goals.

“No way could I do this without Geana,” McGillis said.

Schwartz said they are all mothers, complete with stretch marks and other flaws, who just wanted to improve themselves and hopefully inspire someone else along the way. With some dedication, she said, anyone can accomplish what they are doing.

“I had my moment, and now I want to help others achieve that moment,” Schwartz said.

Training and cutting

Along with Schwartz and McGillis, Heinlein started working out in October, training and building muscle.

They work out twice a day, five to six times a week, focusing on different areas of the body.

They also had to revamp their eating habits.

“It’s crazy. You really have to have that dedication,” Heinlein said.

Knowing what she should eat to be healthier, she said it’s such a big challenge with all the unhealthy, convenient options out there.

In the beginning, she was allowed one cheat meal, but it only made her feel worse.

She cut out processed foods and “bad” carbs and beefed up her intake of greens, oatmeal, “good” carbs, etc. It took a while for the cravings to subside, but she said she’s finally gotten to the point that she doesn’t crave junk anymore.

“The kids can eat anything and I can handle being around it,” she said.

Since the beginning of her training, Heinlein has journaled everything she does and eats in a day. She also pre-plans her meals each Sunday for the entire week, so there’s not the temptation of just running out to pick up a quick bite elsewhere. She said sticking to the eating and exercise routine has been like a second full-time job, which Schwartz and McGillis can attest to as well.

Heinlein said the changes in eating made her emotional in the beginning, when she started to make the cuts from her diet, but that’s subsided as well.

“I am so blessed and grateful for my family and friends’ support. It’s been amazing,” she said.

The competition

Heinlein’s competition is March 22 in Fargo, held on the North Dakota State University campus. The NPC Upper Midwest Bodybuilding/Physique/Figure/Bikini Championships has three classes of competition: bikini (softer, toned body), figure (more definition to the body) and physique (the big muscles). Heinlein is competing in the figure class.

She just decided last week which class she would compete in, the bikini or figure, but her body has taken form and she’s ready to show off the definition.

“Each week I can see my body changing. It’s been fun,” she said.

For the competition, the candidates will present in “full package,” which includes hair and make-up done and their two-piece bathing suit. There is a pre-judging round, where candidates will show their statures to the judges, posing alone on stage and in a line with the other competitors.

“You want to stand out to the judges,” she said.

Heinlein said the biggest nerve-wracking aspect is the two piece bathing suit, which she just ordered Thursday.

“I was looking at that skimpy thing,” she said with a laugh. “It’s real now.”

There are some regulations on the bathing suits, but each contestant can order whichever flatters them best.

If all goes well, Heinlein plans to do another competition in October with McGillis, which will be McGillis’s first competition.

What started out as a bucket list item, Heinlein said has become a life-changing feat.

She tears up when she talks about what she’s accomplished, from the eating to the exercise to the physical results of her body.

“Every day I don’t eat the yucky stuff, I win,” she said.

While it’s been nice to have a fit body and new healthy lifestyle, she said she hopes to inspire someone else to make healthy changes.

“That’s my main goal.”

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.