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Morehouse says she 'competes every day' in her sport through diet and exercise, and that the five minutes she spends onstage are her validation for the effort she puts in.
DIGBY, NS - When approached by her trainers about bodybuilding, the first thing that came to Jen Morehouse’s mind was Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“I thought to myself, ‘there’s no way I will ever do that. I don’t want to look like a man!’,” she says.
She had no idea the sport would soon become a serious passion for her.
Weighing 230 pounds, Morehouse set out on a weight loss journey that would span three years, and over which she would lose 100 pounds.
After adopting a child and battling colitis, Morehouse had gained some weight and wanted it gone. In 2014, she decided she was going to prioritize herself.
“I realized when I got Sarah home that I needed something for myself as well. I felt like I was an unhealthy shell of a person,” she says.
I'm still the same Jen, but in better jeans.
A running start
Her journey began by making small changes so she could once again feel comfortable in her clothes.
She had a desire to learning to run and began endurance running. She did this for a year, and then decided to kick things up a notch.
“I started entering competitions, and I started winning. It felt good to be good at it,” she says.
She began racing in local events like the Scallop Days Run and then entered a 10 k at the Valley Harvest Run.
“I didn’t clock a great time, but I definitely had a great time,” she says.
Morehouse began feeling like a fit chick, and began strength training to aid her running. She continued her workouts while on vacation in Florida with her family, and joined a gym there, where she was approached by its owners and asked if she’d ever considered bodybuilding.
Her answer was no.
Jen Morehouse, left, placed second in figure tall and third in Figure masters at the Nova Scotia Amateur Body Building Association Provincial Championships.
Success at provincials
After returning to Nova Scotia, she took her personal training certificate with a friend in the spring of 2015. Together they gave bodybuilding another thought and each hired a coach. Her friend dropped out, but Morehouse pressed on, though she had serious concerns about appearing onstage.
“When you lose a lot of weight, your body changes. I could never imagine getting up on that stage,” she says.
“Then I saw how much I loved the process, the changes I was seeing, and the structure of it all, and realized I could do it.”
She competed in her first show and placed well. She eventually qualified for provincials, and trained over the past four months with the help of coach Andrew McInroy for the event held in Halifax from Apr. 7-9, where she placed second in Figure tall and third in Figure masters, and qualified for next year’s provincials.
Morehouse receives mixed opinions on her involvement in the sport. She says many misconceptions surround bodybuilding – the biggest being it revolves around performance enhancing drugs, or PEDs, which she says simply isn’t true.
There are many streams for many people, and not all competitors choose to use PEDs, says Morehouse. She and her spouse, who is a professional bodybuilder, compete drug-free. Competitions are also open to competitors of all ages, and Morehouse says she's competed against women in their forties, fifties and sixties.
Other times it’s the muscles themselves that get mixed reviews.
“Some people are like ‘eww,’ and others are like ‘good for you, that’s a lot of dedication,’” she says.
“Other people think it’s this sexualized pageant of women, which is also untrue. It’s an extreme sport we play every day that happens to involve a stage and heels.”
Jen Morehouse in her before and after photos. "I'm still the same Jen, but in better jeans," she says.
Before and after: looking back
Morehouse has plenty of advice for people thinking of making changes and losing weight.
Her advice to those starting out is always the same: make small changes you can live with, increase your water, and stop drinking your calories.
“You can’t cut everything out at first, because that will never last. You will never be happy unless you take baby steps, set small goals you can achieve, and reward yourself,” she says.
She says there are still days when she has self-esteem issues, especially when her physical appearance gets noticed in a certain way.
“When people see me this way, they remind me of my former self and what I used to look like. I don’t feel any different physically than I did then, and I think sometimes now I even feel more uncomfortable than I did then,” she says.
She is proud of the success she’s achieved at both a competitive and personal level, but knows her weight will never define her.
“People see me differently, but to me I’m still the same. I still go to the size 16 section first when I enter a store,” she says.
“I’m still just Jen, but in better jeans.”