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Our Wild Love Fest

Our wedding was magical. It truly was a celebration of love.

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After months of preparation, the big day finally arrived.

Every aspect was an act of love from friends and family.

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It made me feel so good to look around and see my friends laughing and decorating our alter with vines from the garden. My mom and aunt Kathy in the kitchen making cakes. My aunt Bev making bouquets for the bridesmaids and I. Our friends Chris and Jazmin putting out finishing touches, laying out succulents from their garden, providing the most epic watermelon margaritas and even beer kegs they had on hand.

I did not want a big fancy wedding, but I wanted it to be special. These things made it so.

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I woke up the day of the wedding feeling very calm.

My brother picked me up in his amazing retro rental car and dropped me at the house.

By the time I had arrived, friends and family had set the tables, bright red linen and red napkins popping out of wine glasses and our hand painted wine boxes all laid out. I was mesmerized.

Just as I was about to run off to get my hair and makeup done a gust of wind came down and knocked half of the glasses and plates onto the ground.

I took a deep breath.

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We'd been worrying about a storm all week and it was up to the heavens at this point. We had gotten a tent last minute and there wasn't much else we could do.

So off I went to be made up. A girlfriend did my hair and a family friend did my makeup (both experts in their fields).

When they were all done, I slipped on my dress - an online whim for $70 - and felt the most beautiful I ever had.

Another family friend, a talented photographer, pulled me aside to take photos in the garden.Young- Barkalow WeddingYoung- Barkalow WeddingYoung- Barkalow Wedding Young- Barkalow Wedding

I expected to be nervous.

But walking down the aisle with my dad (to You Got What I Need by Joshua Radin) all I could feel was joy.

It was an incredible to feel all of the love and support towards our union.

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My mom, our officiant, put together the most memorable ceremony.

She introduced one friend or family member after another, who joined us at the alter to share words, read poetry, and sing. The best man's father sang Caruso while the rain began to fall, my cousin Ayah belted out L-O-V-E after recovering from a devilish stomach flu just the day before. We were so beautifully surprised.

During Derek's vows, as he poured out his heart, the skies started to pour as well.

I raised my hands in the air, said "Let it rain" and was soon rescued with an umbrella while he finished.

It felt lucky.

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The rest of the night flowed. We danced our first dance to "Without You" while the rain took a pause.

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Wine, margaritas, freshly made tacos, Champagne and hilarious speeches followed.

I could never have predicted, or thought I deserved such a grand celebration.

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The rain came down again and we danced our father daughter and mother son dances under the tent in the grass.

When it started to pour even harder after the reception, I took Derek out ito the rain and said "Let's use this dance floor."

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I can only hope to live the rest of our lives the way we did this wedding - to work together to make things happen, to surround ourselves with those we love, to celebrate life and always dance in the rain.

My heart, my soul and my entire being was moved and restored in a way that I can hardly describe that day.

To put it simply: love conquers all.

 

Memories: Berlin

I am starting a new series called memories. I need to write more. These will be part of a bigger story and book one day. Berlin. Beautiful Berlin.

Berlin was not beautiful in the way a pretty girl is pretty, but beautiful like one of those women with perfectly disheveled hair, who made smoking a cigarette look good, who was never on time but you didn’t care. Exciting, colourful, young, exquisite Berlin.

I fell in love with the city visiting my brother. We drank flat whites all day, and Club Mate, the cold tea sold in bottles that kept you wired all day, loved by computer programmers and clubbers alike. In the day we visited hip stores, perfect white walls, perfect German salespeople with no makeup and flawless skin. Effortless cool. Every meal we had was just right. Bountiful lunch salads in open spaces, and the best Asian fusion I’ve ever had prepared in a restaurant under the railway, where you had to knock on a hidden door and give a password to get in.

Berlin excited me. At night we went to little bars and clubs which seemed alive every night of the week. There was an overall “Come as you are” vibe.

When I think of all of my initial visits I think of the sun. Open fields and markets. Full patios.

I returned one very grey winter when I needed Berlin. Actually, I needed my brother.

Alone in our village in the South of France, I was hit with the realization that I had to leave my three month young marriage. I felt like I was falling. Everything I had come to know and understand was gone.

So he flew me to Berlin. It was dark and grey.

I walked alone while he worked in the day, headphones in my ear. It was misty. It was cold. It suited my mood. I struggled to eat and just walked and walked.

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We found joy in the Christmas markets. These over the top markets throughout the city were an abundance of colour and cheer. We hung around the drunken Germans singing Christmas songs and drank hot glüwein (mulled wine) and I was reminded of the lighter moments and the love in my life.

The darkness was frightening. And it lasted a long time, through Berlin, back to France and to Toronto. But I kept looking for the light.

Back in our small village in France that winter I took care of a friend's dog and walked in the sunshine as much as I could.

“I will be good again,” I whispered to myself, “I am good.”

My relationship had left me with the overall feeling that I was bad. I kept looking inside knowing I wasn’t but I couldn’t shake it. I thought a lot of my younger self, little Gigi, a blonde 4-year-old girl - shy and adorable - walking the streets of our little French village. That innocence, before life had dragged its nails along my skin, was who I was. I could get back that. I would get back to that.

Post Competition Weight Gain: Approaching it with Science and Love

"A lot of competitors blow up after their show." "You're going to ruin your metabolism."

There is a lot of talk about post competition weight gain.

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And with good reason. Because just like any overly strict diet, amplified by intense training, there are bound to be repercussions.

Some competitors will binge eat consistently after their show and gain more than their average weight. They are mentally and physically exhausted and sick of being in a state of deprivation.

Other competitors will slowly reverse diet, making the weight gain slower, but possibly further damaging their metabolism while getting to the same destination (and suffering serious hunger as their bodies are desperate to get back to a healthy state).

My coach and I decided it would be best to go into maintenance mode, increasing my calories and macronutrients substantially to get my body back to a healthy place without playing the waiting (and starving) game.

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Even with this, I suffered some typical post show behavior around 2 weeks out: cravings, needing to eat past fullness, and simply feeling burnt out from tracking macros and being strict with my diet. The stress of planning a wedding didn't help and I found myself overeating most of the week. I decided to allow a little wiggle room and not to feel guilty about it.

Right before competing / This week

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This week I reminded myself of my goals, accepted a much heavier weight on the scale, and decided to get back on track. I really dislike the feeling of overeating and it goes against everything I preach. I truly do love my body and want to treat it with love and respect.

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In the past this kind of weight gain in such a short time would leave me an emotional mess. But these days I look at everything body/diet related with science and love. I know, as a fact, that I did not gain 8lbs of fat in a week. The quick increase in carbohydrates means my body is holding a lot of extra water, and likely a little fat.

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So I set back to my maintenance macros, added in 30 minutes of cardio after my lifting sessions (above 40 could spike my cortisol, which I'm trying to regulate), invested in some good probiotics and got back on track.

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My weight is regulating and I feel mentally, emotionally and physically strong. My main goal right now is to gain strength and be healthy - which is what my current macros and programming are set for.

As I always, I want to be very open about this process and share the highs and lows.

So let's end on a high: my new lifting programming is heavily focused on glutes, I am slowly gaining strength, and loving the new curves that come with a strength and weight increase.