UTICA, N.Y. - For the thousands of people in the United States who struggle with fitness, Teri Nelson serves as a role model.
The former personal trainer who once taught group fitness classes is now a professional bodybuilder. This past weekend, she earned her 'pro card' at a bodybuilding competetion in Syracuse.
"I originally started here at Powerhouse Gym and group fitness instructing," Nelson said. "And going to bodybuilding, it's a little selfish. You know, you're focused on yourself and your personal goals, that was a really big and kind of difficult transition for me."
Teri has competed in two shows, earning her pro card and first place at the second. Between her two shows, she invested in a coach to develop an individualized exercise and diet plan. She now lifts weights five days a week and begins a rigourous diet three to four months before a competition.
"Teri is probably one of the most driven people I've ever met in my entire life," Coach Brian Devins said. "You're bringing your body fat levels to a lower range, where you can't sustain that year-round."
"Her weight at 104-105 pounds, for a lot of people, that raises red flags," Devins said "But when you look at body composition, you see people at 100 pounds who have a little bit more body fat. I think the number on the scale is relative to the person."
"When you're preparing for a show, you're focused primarily on eating whole food sources," Nelson said. "It's as healthy as you make it. You choose what you eat, and you choose what you do and most importantly, you choose your mindset. So if you have a healthy mindset about it and you look at it as a committment to yourself, then I say it's healthy."
Nelson says the sport can be dangerous for people with a history of eating disorders.
"You do have to be really careful about tracking and what you're eating, and I can see how that could be a slippery slope," Nelson said.
Even for those with a healthier body image, walking out on a stage in a bathing suit, in front of a panel of judges takes a hearty dose of confidence.
"I just think, 'what's the worst thing that could happen?'" Nelson said." I think if you love doing the work and you love keeping the commitment to yourself, the results just happen."