Share a little bit with us. Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Lana Larouche.
I am 26-years old, graduated at the University of B.C. in Kelowna with my Bachelors in Fine Arts and I currently work in an insurance office as an assistant. I compete in the BCABBA (B.C. Amateur Body Building Association) and this year in the CBBF (Canadian Body Building Federation) for Figure in my spare time.
I am an artist, painting, drawing, carving (basically do it all) however while competing I find that my creativity takes a spot on the back burner as I find myself pretty one-track minded and usually once I have a focus, 100% of my efforts go there.
How did you get into the health and wellness community?
When I moved away for University I didn’t know anyone and unfortunately had the mindset that I wasn’t going to make friends because I hated saying goodbye, and knew school was only for a few years. (which is stupidly plenty of time to make friends and that isn’t a good enough reason to seclude yourself) Anyways, I desperately needed something to do with my time so I started going to the local recreation center down from where I lived. I would go to the gym every day after school. This was around the time when I separated my regular Instagram account and created a purely fitness related one to both keep myself accountable and because I was embarrassed of my new-found interest. Yes, embarrassed. I didn’t want my family and friends to see what I was doing I guess out of fear that they wouldn’t understand or would presume that because I am working out that I wanted to lose weight/was unhappy and thus would disapprove (as I was already tiny) I even made sure to block every friend/family member I knew so they wouldn’t find the account! But my goals were actually to become stronger and to put on weight for once in my life. I still had no real knowledge of a proper balanced diet and now looking back at my first posts I can see just how little I was eating.
As I kept going to the gym I started to make acquaintances with the regulars there. I remember this one specific day when I was asked if I competed. “Compete?” I had no idea what the guy meant, he then asked if I did bodybuilding to which I laughed and presumed it was a joke because of how small I was and the fact that I was a gym-newbie. Thinking that bodybuilding was only for large men or super-human sized, steroid-using women, bulging and veiny with deep voices. I had no idea that there were different categories and what bodybuilding was actually about. He sparked my interest, and it wasn’t long after I begun looking up figure competitors on social media and looking into bodybuilding and what it really entailed. I started copying workouts others posted and working towards gaining muscle in all areas of my body. I started attempting to do lat spreads and pose like the competitors did. (Some of the old posts of me posing are quite hilarious) Whereas before I thought working out was cardio, abs and bicep curls ha-ha. It’s been a long learning curve since then to not only get involved in the bodybuilding community but to now know more about the other aspects of health including diet. Which is of huge importance.
As I continued working out and after close to 3 years later I finally made the commitment to try and compete to which at that point my social media presence grew along with it. get asked a lot how do you get so many followers? And well honest answer is I didn’t really try, I just posted often and honestly over a number of years. The more people followed me the more I was inspired to post more and post better content, to learn more, to be more informative and helpful to others and so it continued to grow as I did. The last 2-years I started a personal blog which I kept as almost a daily diary during one of my preps to now posting on it occasionally when I’ve got more to say than Instagram allows. But I hope to contribute to it more frequently and touch base on more topics people are interested in hearing about soon.
Today, I have met and am continuing to meet so many informative and wonderful people in the health and wellness community. Many online and a lot in person at my competitions—which includes miss Mia Harris, whom I actually have known since high school. Just when I think I know something, I get a message, sometimes from a complete stranger telling me something new and I love it! One of my favourite things about this community is the fact that you can’t know it all, learning about your health is a continuously growing and learning process.
It’s insane just how supportive some people can be who really don’t know you. I’ve had care packages and gifts sent to me numerous times, supplement and gym sponsorships given to me and even cash donations from strangers when I had a gofundme page set up for unexpected vet expenses. I’m so incredibly lucky to have the support and friendships that I have--whether online or not, they are real, real people with real hearts.
For example, my friend Melissa Tofsrud whom is a Physique competitor had competed in my very first show back in 2014, although we never officially have met, we have spoken to each online and have been friends on facebook since. Recently she was kind enough to save me a bag of those Cadbury Mini-Eggs (my favorite) at her place because I am on prep and don’t have the willpower to keep them myself and she had offered to do so. Not only that, but she ended up mailing me those chocolates and to my surprise it arrived in a giant box, (apparently loaded with other post-show goodies) a care package if you will, with a combination lock on it! She will give me the code the day of my show. How crazy and kind is that? I literally felt like crying because this is somebody who I know, but to others’ eyes I don’t actually know yet they have done something incredibly selfless for me. THIS, is the kind of health and wellness community I am proud to be a part of and want to be a part of. Motivated, positive and selfless individuals.
What inspires you?
I would have to say that what inspires me has changed drastically throughout the last 4-years. My idea of health and wellness could be summed up in one word—Abs. I now know that being healthy has so much more to it than simply having a six-pack. My inspiration used to be looking at fitness model’s photos which I now don’t even blink an eye at anymore. What inspires me now? People who are involved in the fitness community than genuinely love what they do and genuinely care about others’ health and not just put up an act of “perfection” or cry for attention, or promote things purely to make money off of or benefit themselves. Role models that promote the importance of mental health as well as the physical, those who aren’t afraid to share and acknowledge their failures along with their successes and be vulnerable. I am inspired by people who aren’t afraid to ask for help or take risks. I am also inspired by those who are pursuing their passions with a smile on their face. Basically, these things that inspire me and that I look up to, is what I do my best to promote and reflect in myself.
Can you break through some of the stigmas in the bodybuilding world?
Firstly, I’d like to address the stigma I personally fell for when I first started going to the gym, and that was that experienced lifters (or those who looked that way) were unfriendly, uninviting, and the judgmental type who really didn’t want you in “their” space. However, I found this to be far from the truth. Almost all the gym-goers and bodybuilders I have met I’ve found to be super supportive, helpful--often teaching me things and offering advice to me when I knew nothing. If you have put in the effort to step foot in a gym or to better yourself, no matter what stage you are at, you are respected in that space.
Second, is that bodybuilders, especially competitors, live and breathe the gym and working out. Because that is (for the most part) what they promote on social media or what one would assume by looking at their lifestyle. I would like to argue though, that the gym is such a small portion of their (and my) life, it is merely an hour most days, wherein its followed by other hobbies, a job, family, friends, etc. etc. Although the mindset of keeping on track and sticking to goals is always there, it is not the only thing involved in our lives nor the only thing we care about.
Lastly, is that bodybuilders have no athleticism. Unfortunately, this may be true for me haha for I lack balance, flexibility and agility...but it is something I intend and continue to work on. However personally know so many bodybuilders that are very athletic and/or skilled athletes on a sports teams etc. Curls and cartwheels can go together! Not just one or the other.
You have been pretty open and honest on your instagram about struggling with disordered eating. Can you tell us a little about that and some of the things you have done to overcome it?
For those who haven’t had an eating disorder it's really hard to sum it up or discuss it just a little. Growing up, from the age of probably 8-15 years old, my early teens being the worst, life was miserable and all because of food and the media. I had scrap books with magazine clippings of Mary-Kate Olsen (when she has clearly malnourished/had an eating disorder) from articles bashing her whereas I would put into my book to applaud and look up to her. When I fit size 00 clothing I would cut off the tags and tape into this “thinspo” book to motivate me further. I would go onto online “Pro-Ana” (pro-anorexia) websites and read others’ stories and motivation for starvation. Completely absurd? Yes, but this is true and I am sure 10+ years later the availability of such sites and media outlets has probably worsened. Even on Instagram if you go looking it is incredibly saddening seeing pages that still promote such unhealthy nonsense. I would wait until my family was asleep in order to sneak downstairs where there was more floor room than my bedroom and do literally 1000 sit-ups until I was so exhausted then crawl back to bed in tears in an attempt to over-exercise on top of under eating. I’ve attempted numerous occasions to make myself puke (and failed) thus feeling like more of a failure than I already did for not being thin enough, for not seeing my bones, for not being worth it, for not feeling loved… and I’m merely skimming the surface. Eating disorders are no joke, and even those who “look fine” can be far from it. My family had no idea, aside from my sister, at a time when I needed to be seen more than ever.
Growing up helped, developing a social life, maturity, and realistically just keeping my mind busy and preoccupied so I didn’t focus on myself so closely. Drinking helped distract me as well as other forms of self-abuse took their course but overall time healed me. I grew up and became more aware of how good life really is and that it is what you make of it. Fight and find your happiness, don’t waste your life create unhappiness.
I feel like eating disorders are never truly gone or overcome. It is in engrained in the wiring of your brain how you view and do things. For me, it's obsessive. The need for control, structure and routine. My eating disorder made me feel in control of my life and to this day I still desire full control. I am a wreck—anxiety, irritated and angry when my plans or what is expected goes off course. It’s what makes having a social life difficult for me because social gatherings and people are unpredictable. It’s something I must work on, to relax and realize everything will be okay and it's okay to not know and to not be in control all the time.
My need for routine back then of getting up at ridiculous hours of the morning and doing unnecessary amount of crunches every night has now become my daily routine of going to the gym every day at the same time. Me cautiously trying to eat under 500 calories a day is now me cautiously weighing out my 100g of chicken into Tupperwares for meal prep. Instead of pinching my skin and wishing I could see my rib bones, I now worry when I see bones, and pick myself apart for not having more muscle in certain areas.
The thought process is exactly the same, but the outcome, the results, and the mental/physical health are completely different. Still not the perfect mentality towards myself, but something I will continue to work on.
What is your food philosophy?
Don’t eat [ it ] because you are upset. But eat, if not eating [ it ] will upset you.
Sounds strange, right? But for myself, I think emotional eating is a horrible thing and creates more issues/harm than good. Eating to feel better because of an upset is no good but if you are in good spirits, then say no to a certain food which then makes you truly upset THEN I don’t believe that is worth it, and you should eat it. Food isn’t worth feeling miserable over or shouldn't make you feel terribly. If it makes you feel good, soul food as they say, then I’m all for it.
When it comes to ‘dieting’ I also dislike the term because diets tend to have deadlines but when you want to create permanent attainable change it has to involve a lifestyle. When I am not prepping for competition I prefer to “intuitively eat”. I’ve tried macro counting, IIFYM, keto, high-carb, carb-cycling etc. etc. all of which I couldn’t keep up with for extended periods. I am most happy and feel the healthiest when I eat intuitively. By doing so, I also find it way easier to make good decisions when it comes to food and am able to say no to things when I am no longer restricted from such things as sweets or carbs or whatever it may be (as I would be on prep).
Listen to your body. I personally (used to) struggle with IBS issues and it completely is my fault. Dairy makes me sick, yet here I was putting heavy flavored creams in my coffee every single morning. Why? Sometimes it can be worth it, if you don’t mind the occasional stomach ache, but if your body is making you feel miserable and interrupting your life (as it was with me since I would constantly have to run to the bathroom at the worst of times) then you should consider change. Your body will let you know what is a good fit for you. I know that processed sugars, dairy and a high fat diet makes me feel like garbage, so, the smart thing to do is to not eat those things...or at least keep it in moderation at the very least.
Walk us through what a typical day looks like for you (Food, exercise, work/life)
5:10AM Alarm goes off, get up and take ECA stack, L-Carnitine and head off to the gym for morning fasted cardio (35-minutes steady on seated bike) usually I sweat quite a bit because I layer up and wear sweat pants/sweater whole time. I find doing cardio really early has helped me immensely with reducing my anxiety and anxiousness and helps expel some energy before having to sit at a desk for the majority of the day.
6:00-8:00AM Back at home, shower, drink 1-litre of water before I’m allowed my coffee (coffee motivates me to do things lol) Make my coffee and blend with 1-tsp coconut oil for a “bullet” coffee and add a tsp of Truvia some days. I like to take my time in the mornings hence why I am up to early although I don’t work until 8:30AM and cuddle my kitties and cruise social media and relax.
Pack up my lunch for work x3 meals plus breakfast meal. Shaker cup, gym clothes, runners, tanning goggles, posing shoes. Scooter to work.
9:00AM Work has started, I’ve filled up my 4-litre water jug from the sink and its first meal time: Egg whites and Berries (not together). Basically, have a desk job typing so I spend my day working away at this 4-litre jug of water, running to the bathroom and repeat until 4:30PM.
11:00AM Chicken + Broccoli + CLA
2:00PM Ground Turkey + Yam + Broccoli + CLA
4:00PM Ground Turkey + Rice + Avocado + CLA
4:30PM Work is done. Off to the gym! I don’t normally tan but for a few weeks prior to competing I do in order to get a base tan which makes the spray tan a lot nicer and won’t look as terrible when it comes off too. Once at the gym I hop in for a quick tan, then train usually for no more than an hour which is then followed by HIIT (High-intensity-interval training) I am supposed to do treadmill sprints of 30 seconds fast and 45seconds rest but I’ve got shin splints/knee pain currently so I have been doing my sprints on the Spin bike. Total of x10 sprints which ends up being around 11-12 minutes. Cardio however changes weekly depending on my check ins with my coach on Fridays which she adjusts and lets me know. After workout, I have 1-scoop of protein in a shake and 2000mg Vitamin C, 10g glutamine. I also drink 1-scoop of BCAAs during my workout.
After training if the studio at the gym is free I’ll take my posing shoes and do some practice cat walks. Practicing is crucial if you don’t want to look awkward on stage.
6:30PM Home, shower. And time to meal prep, typically I meal prep every other day so the previous night I would have taken out chicken breast/turkey to thaw and made sure I had gotten any groceries I may need for today.
Meal prep usually consists of cooking a pan of 6-8 chicken breasts in the oven, cooking a yam in the oven, steaming a large pot of broccoli, pan frying a dozen asparagus’, cooking 2-3 cups of rice, frying a package of lean ground turkey, cooking my egg whites for breakfast the following day as well as weighing out my berries into containers. Once everything is bulk cooked, ill lay out the 10-15 Tupperware containers and start slowly weighing and sorting all my meals out. Meal prep in total takes an hour to 1.5 hours to do. Yam takes an hour in the oven which is the most time consuming but I’ll usually throw it in and watch a show or something.
7:00PM Chicken + Rice + Broccoli + CLA + Multivitamin
Between finishing my meal prep and bedtime it’s usually just wind down time for me, at this point I’m usually pretty worn out and end up cleaning the house, doing laundry, sweeping and that sort of thing. I am a bit OCD when it comes to cleanliness and find myself constantly cleaning when things can just be left alone for a day. Josh always wants me to relax and snuggle up for a movie at this point but I can’t help but be go-go-go right until bedtime. Josh is very busy in the evenings and often isn’t home until 9PM which at that point I can’t keep my eyes open. We unfortunately don’t get to spend much time together but he has made a conscious effort to get up on those early mornings and do morning cardio with me <3 He really is very supportive of me.
9:00PM Chicken + Asparagus
9:30-11:00PM L-Carnitine before bed.
Since I tend to meal prep every other day or so the days I am not meal prepping I have the evening free and like to craft (make custom magnets), paint, go to the beach and hunt for treasures, go on walks with my mom, grocery shop, watch Josh’s lacrosse games or the teams’ games that he coaches, relax at home, go to the movies, or whatever it may be. I like those days.
What are some of your go-to foods/snacks for busy days when you are not on prep?
‘stir-fry’s’ usually ground turkey or beef or chicken mixed with rice or quinoa and sun-dried tomatoes/tomatoe sauce (or some kind of sauce/seasoning) with lots of pan fried veggies (broccoli, onion, mushrooms, peppers). Josh and I often make a big batch of a meal like this with some sort of carb/protein/veggies in it and can use it for multiple meals and lunches.
Hummus & baby carrots
Hard boiled eggs
Protein Bars/shakes (biggest one)
Flavored mini Tuna cans (usually I like the olive oil ones, tomatoe basil, and especially the spicy satay peanut ones) ill often bring rice cakes with me to put it on.
Overnight oats: oatmeal, flax/chia, vanilla protein powder, almond milk and leave overnight to thicken/soak up.
Chicken wrap, with lettuce, hummus, cucumber, Caesar dressing, sprouts, sun dried tomatoes.
Greek yogurt cups, mozza cheese strings, apple/banana..easy lunch stuff
Honestly having been on prep now for a few months I almost forget what it's like to have options and can’t remember what I was eating before chicken/broccoli and rice haha. All I know is that Josh is a great cook and we did have a lot of variety in what I ate, as I said before I eat intuitively so no meal plan, or set foods. We try to get the most for our money though so big pots of pulled pork, or home made chilis, and hearty stuff that last many meals tends to be our staple.
What has been one of your biggest struggles? (can be with food, business, or personal)
Relationship: Currently while on prep my days can be quite busy and if they aren’t my mind sure is. If I am not meal prepping I’m grocery shopping, if I am not working out, I am sleeping, you get the idea. “Prep-Brain” is the real deal, even if you aren’t literally doing something prep related your mind is always thinking about it. I can’t help it. I have a very hard time relaxing during this period and rarely have time for Josh and I. This goes both ways, he works full time and has a part-time job, plays on a professional Lacrosse team and assists with coaching two lacrosse teams. He works Monday-Friday until 5 which is then followed by either his own lacrosse practice or coaching his teams practice. Weekends are either his own games, or coaching games as well as working his second job. As mentioned previously he gets home late in the evenings at which that point I am finished my day and most likely in bed. It has been like this for quite some time. The days when there is no practice, and I have no training is like a miracle! They are also the BEST days and we so enjoy and appreciate each other’s company when we do have it because we know it is not often enough. We’ve been together for 10+ years now and we understand that we both are goal oriented and have our focuses’ and that’s okay, so long as we support each other and are there for each other we make it work. But of course, maintaining a relationship through the busy chaos and having alone time is a real struggle.
Food: I am a sugar-addict. I could give up cheese and dairy and burgers etc. but my biggest struggle during prep is obviously avoiding sugar, which currently is down to my 80g of berries in the morning. It is what I crave most and the only thing that I usually cave on my diet because of—whether it be candies, donuts, cheesecake, muffins, cookies etc. etc. all things sweet I want in my mouth right now. It is also the most problematic because I am just like a garbage disposal after competition with sugary treats which I am hoping this won’t be the case this time around as they do make me feel so ill. The less I eat sugary things though the less the cravings are… I just have to stay consistent with it.
Personal: Along with building up my social media which crazily has exceeded 25,000+ followers now, comes the dilemma, who am I? When I go out to local bar every single time I am greeted by people I’ve grown up around and sometimes strangers with “Hey Lana omg I follow you!” and they proceed to go on about it and even refer to me as “LanaBananaFitness” as if it is my name. It just gets frustrating because the only thing I hear about are my posts and account and no one bothers to ask how Josh and I are doing? What my future plans are (outside of competing) or just attempt a conversation where Instagram isn’t brought up at all. I guess I’ve just gotten a bit tired of it and really hope that I am more than just someone with a bunch of followers. I know my content has purpose and meaning behind it and has truly inspired others and had a positive impact on them which I absolutely love—but in the “real” world I want to just be me, not an “Insta-celeb” behind your phone screen. I worry that, beyond competing in bodybuilding, I am nobody and have nothing going for me. I think about this a lot. Especially considering I plan on this next show, Nationals, to be my last. Then what? Do the followers begin dropping off like flies and people stop talking to me when I go out? What will I do next?
I am a competitive person and driven by goals. Without a goal or deadline, I find myself lost and in emotional turmoil. I have so much anxiety over this next show being done that I try not to think about it, even writing this makes me start to feel uneasy but I know it is something I need to address and come to my senses with. That I am a somebody, with or without bodybuilding, with or without a social media presence, and that following this next show I will continue to do great things and to be a successful happy person... and that no, you don’t have to have all the answers and know exactly what that may entail.
What advice do you have for those who are new to health and fitness?
As the saying goes Whether you say you can or you can’t, you’re right. When I finally realized that I am entirely responsible for my own happiness and well-being, that is when things became better for me. As soon as I realized that, I saw how much power I did have and control of my life. Once you own your potential for success is when you can move forward and actually progress. Thoughts lead to actions. No more excuses, no more whining, no more “what ifs” or self-doubt just positive affirmations that you can do it. If you say you don’t have time, well, guess what? You don’t have time. But it is an excuse and you have to accept that. Make time, if it is something you truly want you WILL make it happen. This train of thought was the exact opposite of how my thoughts were when I had an eating disorder. Back then it was continual negative affirmations that I was not good enough, that I was incapable and had no control of my life. That strength, empowerment and happiness came from self-suffering. Wrong.
Have no fear!
The biggest thing stopping you from reaching your goals is yourself, whether you are afraid of what others might think or are scared to step foot in a gym/new setting or to try a new exercise. The best thing you can do is try!... and try again. I built my success upon failures and trial and error. I had to learn everything I know today from experience as well as being open-minded to learning from others’ experience. I finally stepped out of my comfort zone and begun asking people for help at the gym even if it was things like “Hey, what exercise is that? What muscle does it work? Can you show me?” etc. Just like going to school for something you love you have to be willing to learn and put an effort out there not just expect the answers or a quick fix. You will make mistakes, you will fall, but getting back up is what matters. EVERYONE started somewhere. You must remember that everyone was once in your place and that it too was daunting to them.
Check Lana out here:
Instagram(s): @LanaBananaFitness (fitness) , @LanaLarouche_Expressed (art)
Photo credit: Brandy Warunee www.brandywarunee.com