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EMBRACE THE NATURAL YOU: Meet Belinda Denise, Natural Bodybuilding

Updated: May 5

A woman wearing work out clothes standing with a battle rope hanging from her shouder onto the floor
Photo credit: Lineka Michelle Photography

I’m not sure about you, but when I hear the words bodybuilder, Arnold Schwarzenegger and  The Rock, Dwayne Johnson, come to mind. Male, gigantic muscles, and a hard body is what I see in my minds eye. For this reason, I have often shied away from the weights section of the gym. I know I am not alone in this thought because I have had many conversations with  women while sitting in the sauna at the YMCA about all the reasons to stay away from those  dumbbells. I just didn’t want to look like that. I wanted to look fit but still look like, well, me.  When a good friend of mine said she was a bodybuilder and posted photos of herself on Facebook wearing a bikini and a medallion around her neck, but she didn’t look like a man, had  no gigantic muscles, and still looked feminine, I had to invite her to share her story with us.  

Because Belinda Denise is my friend, it is a little awkward to interview her when we typically call and talk to one another about everyday stuff, and there’s so much I already know about her,  so I decided to start with the beginning. I ask her where she got her love for fitness and what  made her want to start a fitness business. She says, “I believe there are three kinds of people.  You’ve got some people who are taught fitness, some people who are made to be fit, and some  people are born to be fit. I was born to do this. I've been doing this since I was a child. I’ve  played sports since a child, and I had to learn how to love what was natural for me to do.

Fitness  is my gift, but I still had to learn how to have a love for what I was gifted to do. I started loving  fitness when I found out I was making a difference in other people's lives.” I ask her how she  knew she was making a difference in people’s lives. She continued, “I knew I was making a  difference because I saw them change. I saw the results not only in physical fitness but also mentally, spiritually, and their lives changed. They became more consistent in other things they were doing. They became disciplined with their nutrition, depression depleted, anxiety stopped, a  lot of things changed. They would come back and say, ‘Yo, Belinda, this, this and that is  changing,’ but they didn't have to come and tell me; I could see it, and other people saw it too.” 

I ask her if that is why she decided to create No Xcuse Fitness & Mo, LLC. She responds, “Well,  I was motivated to start my company because no one was doing what I was doing. I mean, there  were people doing advanced movements in the workouts, but they were not modified enough for  those who were just beginning to workout. We have people who are beginners, who have injuries and previous injuries, or people who want to get into the workout, but can’t do it the way that  advanced people do it. I thought, okay, how about I create workouts for a beginner, modify the workouts and help them to get to intermediate workouts, and then advanced. Even if they couldn’t get to the advanced movements, they could still do the modified and get the same  results as the advanced. That was key for me. That no matter the level of the movement, people  could get big results.

So, I started from the bottom, and I molded the people to the top while still  doing modified workouts. Some people are afraid of fitness because they think their knees are  going to give out, or they think they are too big. To be honest, a 350-pound woman continuing to  do jumping jacks is going to mess up her knees, eventually, so I created something that a 350- pound woman can do, a modified movement, and she will still get the same results as an  advanced person. I want my clients to continue coming back, not to get injured and be unable to  work out. 

Belinda and I continue to chat about fitness, clients and all that good stuff. I told you we’re  friends, so we get carried away in conversation, so I switch gears. Now that we know  why fitness is her “thing” and since this 2023 Winter Edition of SpeakUpSis! Magazine  

is all about Embracing the New, I asked Belinda if there is anything new within her fitness  journey that she is embracing in this new year. Her response, “Yes. I’m embracing who I really  am in my heart.” I asked her to explain. 

She says, “Embrace me as being a black woman. I didn't embrace my heart, my body, my color.  It took me a while to learn how to embrace all of that. Fitness has brought me to a place of  understanding that there are some things that I cannot change and must embrace. I can't change  my hips, my butt, my boobs – my form. I was born this way. I don't care how many crunches or  how many sit ups or how many squats I do, I can't change my natural form into what the world  says I need to be. I can’t change myself into another color, so I had to learn how to embrace it  all. I had to pull the inside of my heart out, and say, ‘Hey, this is who I am.’ Accept it. I realized  I had to learn how to accept me before I allowed anybody else to learn how to accept me.

Once I  learned how to embrace myself, and say, ‘This is who I am. This is what fitness is to me’ is when  things started to change around me. Once I understood I can't fit my body into homegirl over  there, and I realized I have other sisters who want to do the same thing, but I first needed to do it  myself. Entering the world of body building I had to become okay with somebody saying that  I’m fat. I understood that what someone else considers fat about me is simply my body structure,  and it's okay. Does it make it right or wrong if someone says that I'm fat, or if they say the way  my hips are structured is fat? No. That's their opinion.” 

She begins to tell me about an experience she had with a judge during a competition.

She shares,  “At my first competition, the lady who judged me and gave my feedback was black. I have a  whole write up stating how she viewed me. She stated in her feedback that I needed to lift more  weights because I was too fat and needed more muscle. It was written kind of like I was just too  fat. My hips, my butt, like, I have too much of all that. I needed to be made to look like the other  women, the Caucasian women. I needed to be very small and anorexic-looking for them to judge  me. Angel, her feedback hurt me. The way she wrote it was like, okay, your makeup looks good. Your outfit and your hair and your posing, I mean, she went down on everything when she judged me, and it hurt, Angel. It hurt so bad. Even my coach wondered why she would do this. I  looked amazing, and everyone saw it.

After that experience, I took it upon myself to find a place  where I fit just being myself because I knew what they wanted was not for me. I realized I was  supposed to be in wellness.

The thing about bodybuilding is that there are different categories.  Because I have a pear shape, and I’m naturally curvy, wellness was a better category for me to  compete. My coach told me if I find an all-natural, wellness federation, he was with me. I found  it within a month or two. I ended up finding OCB [Organization of Competitive Bodybuilders].  They are geared more to natural bodybuilding, and I trained hard for it. When I went there Angel, they embraced everything that I had. I gave them my all. When I got on that stage, it was  like…my performance was like…this is me. I got my feedback right after the show. And guess  what? A Caucasian lady gave me the feedback with my coaches right there - my fitness coach and my posing coach. The woman said wellness is you. She said that everything - my top, my bottom, my posing, everything is on point. She said, ‘The only thing you need to do, honey, in  the back, just a little bit of lifting and a little bit on your hamstrings, and I need you back here in December.’” 

After listening to Belinda share, I asked her if the hurt was because of the way the other  lady gave the feedback because this woman also mentioned needing to lift a little more  weight and building some more muscle. She said, “Yes. The way she said it, and the fact that another black woman, and Angel, she was bigger than me, was so negative towards me.  With the first woman, everything was like you are just out of your league. She was like why are  you even doing bodybuilding; why are you even here? The second competition’s judge was more  encouraging. She gave encouraging feedback. She was like, we have all colors here, and I don't  need you to be this, to look like that. I don't need you to look like somebody else. I want you to  be who you are. I want you to embrace you. That's all I want you to do. Embrace it and come  back.”

Now, I am excited for her because her face has brightened, and she’s beaming while  telling the story. She says, “This was more encouraging, and Angel, if we’re honest, we have  more black women in the body building industry now. They change their bodies just because a  judge says, ‘You’re too fat. I want you to look like this.’ Then, they kill themselves in the gym  doing their best. Thinking, no, I gotta get this, I gotta look like this. So, you're looking like ribs  touching your back, your spine. That's not how it's supposed to be. You're killing yourself.  That’s when you get to the point where you don't know who you are anymore.  

So, me, I put my foot down and said, I know who I am. I'm not gonna allow this to make me  change. No. I'm gonna step out and find a federation that accepts me for who I am. I just have to embrace me and be firm in that. That's it. Angel, I never told anyone this story. You’re the first  person besides my coaches that I’ve told this to.” I tell her that I’m honored that she would share  such a personal experience with me, and I ask her what she placed in the competition. She says,  “I placed second in Novice, and I placed third in Masters Wellness. She laughs when she says,  “And when I placed second in Novice, I went up against 27- and 37-year-olds, and I am 44 years  old. That was something.” We both laugh, and I tell her she looks amazing. I know how hard she  works on her craft, as a trainer with her clients, and now on herself as a competitor. I congratulate her on second and third placements, and I know she’s going back for first place. She laughs and says, “I’m going back December 3rd and coming back with a Pro card.” 

We both laugh and nod in agreement. I tell her that she must come back and let  me know how she does, and maybe I can give you all an update in the Spring  Edition of the magazine. I applaud her on choosing to embrace her authentic self in this new season of her life, and I thank her for giving me the opportunity  to share her and her story with you. I pray that you have enjoyed getting to  know Ms. Belinda Denise Berrian.  


Belinda Denise’s Contact Details: 

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