| BRAZIL, BIKINIS AND ME
by Joanna Bonaro
As a cervical cancer survivor I knew deep down that I should feel happy. Nevertheless, I was in a constant state of despair, especially getting dressed in the morning when I would longingly look at my “old” clothes which I refused to throw out or give away, but which almost 7 years later I still could not fit into. And let’s not even mention the idea of the bikini!
I thought I would have to eventually resign myself to a “perfect” size 10, until one day I saw a notice for volunteers to undergo a pilot exercise program entitled “Brazil ButtLift with Leandro Carvalho” the trainer for many Victoria Secret models.
The producers made us stand in front of a huge display of a bikini clad model on a sun drenched Brazilian beach, announcing a grand prize trip to Rio de Janeiro. They took pictures of us and asked us to talk into the camera, saying something about winning the trip to Brazil.
I quipped about my very own yellow bikini collecting dust on the shelf.
To my surprise I was chosen. I started the program. I met Leandro - the man who would change my life.
Leandro turned out to be a warm, very energetic and highly knowledgeable trainer par excellence, who demanded our utmost. One of his favorite statements is, “Don’t settle for less.” The workouts were tough, but the challenge was exhilarating, and the exercises varied. As the weeks progressed, I started to look forward to exercise as more of a pleasant diversion instead of as an onerous activity. I also started to think about a certain yellow bikini.
My favorite exercises were the ones that focused on “the tummy,” or as the class was to become known as “Brazil Tummy Tuck.” The concept of tightened obliques became less oblique as the weeks went by. Leandro’s favorite directive was, ”More definition in your movement, more definition in your body.” Well, I was starting to see definition on my arms, my thighs, and yes my stomach. Those were victorious defining moments for me. I was learning what I needed to do to transform my body and I was seeing results. The inches were melting away. Yes it was hard work, and yes I was committed. As I had read in a great novel somewhere, “What would it be worth if it were easy?”
By week 11 out of 12 in the program I had lost 23 lbs and a lot of overall inches.
After the program ended, they took “after” shots of us all. They interviewed us and asked, “Will you be the one who wins the trip to Brazil?” I remember saying, “I have already won more than you can imagine.”
When I got home, I didn’t even glance at the clothes about which I had been opining. Instead, I ran to the shelf that held the zippered bag, that housed the wrinkled yellow bikini. I put it on. It fit. In fact, it was too baggy. I think at that point I cried. I finally felt as if I had been given my life back. It was my self image. My identity. The person who looked familiar again when I looked in the mirror. In fact, she looked even better than before. I was “the new old Joanna.” And I needed a new bikini.
And yes, wonder of wonders, I also won the trip to Brazil. I went to Rio de Janeiro and wore a teeny, weeny, itsy, bitsy, turquoise bikini on Ipanema Beach. And now, over two years later, I own a red one too, along with a whole new size 4 wardrobe. I go to the gym now with glee to work out with Leandro and keep up the pace with gusto or pop in a Brazil Tummy Tuck and Brazil Buttlift Workout DVD and think about when I’ll be going back to Rio! Next time I’ll be in yellow! With feathers!