Jackie Gets Jacked
Senior, Spanish Studies
Interviewed by Randall Ulangca
A year and a half ago, Jackie Barrios was awarded an opportunity to transform her lifestyle from sedentary to healthy. On Oct. 8, 2017, the University Health & Wellness team involved in the short documentary, "Jackie: The Transformation Project", won a third place award in the Kingdomwood International Film Festival. Along with it, the film received an award of merit at the Christian Life International Film Festival in Canada, and an award of merit at the Awareness Festival in Los Angeles. Jackie hopes to inspire others through her story.
Throughout your transformation journey you had a support team with you—both staff and friends. How important was that support team to your overall progress?
Oh man, my support team was essential, especially at that time. I don't think I was emotionally strong enough to go through life-style change by myself. My friends and my sister, Mari, were the ones who encouraged me to apply when I felt too shy or ashamed to even apply. I applied and actually won! But I was not mentally prepared to actually implement and commit to a lifestyle change. I received no judgement from them. I would not have been as successful if my friends and Mari didn't remind me in my moments of doubt why I wanted a lifestyle change.
I also had staff support like you mentioned. A nutritionist, a personal trainer, a hair and makeup stylist and a counselor. Each one offered a different type of support. My nutritionist made me realize that food doesn't have control over me and that I ultimately have the last say as to what I feed my body. I learned from her that I had more self-control than I thought I did. My personal trainer taught me that only with hard work and dedication can I obtain my goals in life, and that my body can endure more than I thought it could; it’s all a mental game. My hair and makeup stylist showed me the importance of presentation. I learned that when we dress well, we feel good and vise versa; and my counselor guided me to be able to cope with all the changes that were taking place in my life, but most importantly she showed me how to fully accept and love myself while still implementing personal changes.
So yea, they were all very important in my overall progress. Without them, I don't think this transformation would have been as successful.
Talk a little about how you motivated yourself to change your lifestyle and eating habits, especially when temptation was strong. Did it ever get easier to resist?
How did I motivate myself? Hmm…Heh. At that time I was going through some emotional experiences. These experiences made me reflect on my life and how I tended to let myself get stuck in my concealed unhappiness. I vowed to myself that no matter how slow the progress, there would nevertheless still be progress in my life. Progress towards whatever made me a happy and healed individual, whether that be progress be emotional, spiritual or physical. I visualized myself in the future. In the film I said, “every time I walk up those stairs I am looking different” (or something like that). I literally foresaw my change. I played it like a movie in my head. Even when I didn't see results, I already pictured myself a changed person. That definitely helped me stay on track and focused. The more I focused on my goal, the easier it became to say no to certain things, especially unhealthy foods, and the more I said no to unhealthy foods, the fewer cravings I had for them. When I felt the burn of the workout and I thought I couldn't do anymore, it seems silly but I screamed in my head and asked myself (because cameras were present) how bad I wanted the change. In time, I started seeing the results and it motivated me even more. Did I fail sometimes? Of course. But even in those times, I knew what I had to do to keep going and I made the appropriate changes.
How did transforming your diet and health habits impact other areas of your life?
It definitely helped me socially and academically. It became easier to approach people and talk to them. This also made it easier to speak in public and during class presentations or even give my own opinions during class, which is is something I was always anxious about. I always kind of struggled with having a sense of worth and self-esteem. However, that's where I noticed the greatest impact which actually stemmed from growth in my spiritual life as well. I soon realized that the healthier lifestyle choices I made, the more cravings I felt to learn about my Creator. As I explored the Bible more, I realized Christ’s immense love for me. How could I not love and take care of myself if Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, loved me to the point of dying so that I could have life? How could I keep ignoring Jesus, when He is the one that created the body that I was so desperately trying to take care of now. Once I realized His love for me, I couldn’t help but want to take care of myself.
What is the most important piece of advice you'd give to someone who may be struggling with changing their lifestyle, whether it be health-related, academically, or spiritually.?
It’s not easy to accept a person you do not love. I had to learn how to love and accept myself first before I continued growing. So first learn to love yourself, and know that you are loved by those around you, and if you for whatever reason don’t feel loved, be sure that you are loved by God. One of the lessons I have learned is that if you want to make a change in your life, no matter what that change is, always put God first. He will give you the strength and endurance to go through your own transformation. Remember that transformations are not comfortable or easy, and they do not necessarily have an end. Transformations are a continuous process. It will be challenging, but worth every step of the way if it makes you a better and happier individual. Once you accomplish a goal, there will always be more that you will want to achieve. My willingness to change was not a desire driven by hate towards myself, but by love: love for my friends, love for my family, eventual love for myself, but most importantly, love for God. The decision to take the first step towards a health or any kind of change should be cemented by a strong conviction. So what is it that drives you? What are your reasons for seeking change? Are they the right reasons? How badly do you want that change, and what can you do to start attaining that change?