My name is Maneeta, I’m 31 years old, and I’ve got a degree in Biomedical Science. My career choice at the time I graduated (in 2013) was to become a dentist; however, circumstances changed, and I quickly found myself having to look for a full-time job just so I could help out at home. I used to go to the gym for recreational purposes, and although I didn’t have a specific goal in mind I enjoyed doing classes, which meant I was consistently going to the gym 5-6 times a week, sometimes even twice a day… Over the years, my interest in training grew, and I then qualified as a personal trainer.
I never took training seriously until about 2014 when I spoke to a friend who did bodybuilding competitions and encouraged me to look into it. I wasn’t really ready to give up my favourite foods and do any form of strict dieting, so I never paid much attention to it until the following year when I found myself a coach and decided to prepare towards my first bodybuilding competition in 2016. I didn’t know what to expect, apart from having to be very strict with what I ate, making sure I got all my training done, having to make sacrifices during social events, all so I could stay focused. I did struggle with this initially, but once I got into a routine, training and eating became part of my lifestyle.
I won my first show in 2017, which qualified me for the British finals at the end of the year and it’s then, that I realised how much I love being a fitness competitor. As strange as it sounds, I enjoy the routine and structure and having a specific goal helps to keep me focused.
What inspires you?
Hard work and determination inspire me. I have many influential people in my life; my coach, Ryan John Baptiste is one of them. He leads by example and always motivates me when necessary. I’m also inspired by my fellow competitors- prep isn’t easy, and we’re all there for each other, keeping the motivation and spirits high. I have a lot of role models in my family who support and encourage me. I’m always reminded that no matter how much success I achieve in life, I should always stay grounded and be grateful.
What is your relationship like with the gym and fitness? Has it always been positive?
I love being at the gym, training is my favourite thing to do. It helps me de-stress, and I can zone out and focus on myself. I’m not always motivated, and I do have moments where I’ve questioned everything, but I always remind myself of my goal, which is to become a professional competitor.
As an Asian female bodybuilder, what has the response been like?
When I first started off there wasn’t many Asian bodybuilders- to date, there still aren’t that many. There is a stigma against being Asian and exposing your body, which discourages a lot of Asian girls from competing.
Fortunately, my family have been very supportive, although it did take them a while to understand the reasoning behind my ‘extreme’ diet and training regime. I have had comments from people on social media about ‘not getting too big’ or ‘having manly muscles,’ but I never pay attention to them. I’ve never had any confidence issues regarding my body. The sport which I love and compete in is all based on appearances, I get judged on my physique, this is not for the lighthearted; luckily, I have always been quite headstrong and taken criticism with a pinch of salt.
Do you think social media and fitness influencers, have a positive impact on people, or do you think they are they building into the stigma associated with having the ‘perfect body’?
I think fitness influencers are becoming more open about body image and mental health and although there are still opinions flying about, you no longer have to look a certain way to be accepted.
I must admit when I first started going to the gym, I always aspired to have that ‘perfect’ body, and although there is no such thing as perfect, I still found myself looking at all the things I didn’t have rather than appreciating what I did. Even though I never actually had any confidence issues, I still had found myself comparing myself to all the fitness influencers with amazing bodies. It’s normal, everyone does it, but there’s a lot more being posted about cellulite and body rolls and mental health so that just goes to show how much people’s perceptions have changed towards physical appearance and the impact it has on mental health.
Sometimes it can be your mind that actually prohibits you from achieving your goals, what would you say to someone who is struggling at the moment with this?
I have struggled with mindset, and there have been times where my head has been all over the place due to various stressors, and this affects my whole training regime. As a competitor, if your mind isn’t clear, you’ll struggle to make progress, the same applies to anyone with a certain goal(s). To overcome my negative mindset I find that practicing mindfulness or doing some form of meditation helps me to remember WHY is started doing this in the first place.
I’ve proved to myself continously, how strong I am mentally by overcoming all the lows I’ve had so far, and there’s a couple of mottos that I live by ‘mind over matter’ and ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ I believe this applies to anyone who’s struggling with whatever they’re going through.
What is the book that has inspired you most?
I’m not much of a reader, but I have recently been listening to ‘audible’ and managed to get through quite a few books on mindset and self-love. I feel like I’m currently in my discovery phase with spirituality and reading more about it had given me a new perspective on the challenges I face on a day to day basis. However, there is a book by Vex King called ‘Good Vibes: Good life,’ and I’ve been telling all my friends and family about it, so if there was a book I could give, that would definitely be it. Every person would be able to relate to every chapter in that book, and it just changed my way of thinking. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who needs a pick me up.
How has failure set you up for later success?
I haven’t had any failures as such; however, I have had several setbacks, which meant I had to reconsider my career choice. I did have my heart set on dentistry, I was not in a position to fund this. I also lost my dad during my second year of university, so one of my priorities was to find a full-time job in order to gain financial stability. Initially, I was excited to join the corporate world, but I later found my enthusiasm for my job fade. I then made the decision to quit my job and pursue my passion for fitness, and I haven’t looked back since!
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?
As I was prepping for my competition in 2017, I injured my back which meant I was unable to train for weeks on end. This was probably my biggest challenge as I had been signed off work for 6 weeks, couldn’t move and the stress of not being able to work out caused me a lot of anxiety. I’m generally a very positive person, but I found myself struggling mentally and physically. Luckily, I had a friend who is a mobility coach, and he helped me get back my strength- it wasn’t easy, but I managed to overcome this injury and continue with my prep. I had to work twice as hard in order to make good progress.
This particular incident taught me just how strong and determined I am as a person and how I was willing to do whatever it took in order to get myself into condition for my competition. My health had taken a huge impact, but I proved to myself that no matter how much I struggled, I could overcome anything if I put my mind to it. Having a supportive network helped, but the majority of my achievements resulted from me having to go through a tough time in order to come out stronger on the other side.
What keeps you motivated?
I love what I do, and that’s what keeps me motivated. My passion for fitness is my biggest motivation, and I can’t ever imagine not doing what I do, whether it’s competing or helping others achieve their goals.
If you could have a gigantic billboard – what would it say?
It would say, ‘Never give up on your dreams and follow your passion. Believe in yourself and keep going’.
Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?
‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ ‘You’ll never know what you’re capable of until you try.’ ‘Give without expecting anything back in return.’ ‘Add value to someone’s life.’ ‘Consistency is key.’
In the last two years, what new belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your life?
Through my own experience, I’ve realized that physical strength means nothing without having the right mindset. I started practicing mindfulness about 2 years ago, and this really helped me deal with my anxiety and extreme levels of stress. I tend to overthink things, which means I find it hard to switch off, so practicing mindfulness has taught me to focus. It’s also changed my perspective on life and taught me how to deal with any challenges I face. There’s always sometimes positives to learn from whatever life throws at you.
What advice would you give to someone who has low self-esteem and is about to embark into a journey into fitness and wellbeing?
Everyone starts somewhere, and the fact that you’ve chosen to take charge of your health and well being is a step in the right direction. No matter how hard it gets, stay strong, and keep going! You won’t always be motivated so you must always remind yourself of why you chose to do this in the first place. Consistency is key, and as long as you’re doing whatever it takes to achieve your goal, the struggles will be worth it. Finally, this is a marathon, not a sprint, so take your time to appreciate how far you’ve come.
What would be your message to the AWMB community?
It would be to keep doing what they’re doing and inspiring others to follow their passion and achieve their goals!