My Story by Jean Jitomir
My bio and life are probably easiest to describe as a series of five phases, which start with simple life on the farm straight through my immigration to Texas (remember the Alamo).
Phase 1- Early Farm Life
Most of childhood escapes my memory, which is probably a blessing. I did many standard farm things: woke up early up to feed the animals, chopped down trees for fire wood, and went “haying.” These chores were early weight training, which was supplemented by the Angus beef that we raised. I was brought up living a bodybuilding lifestyle— there was plenty of high-quality protein, no craptacular food and lots of heavy lifting.
The lack of “junk” food was due to our state of poverty rather than my parents’ dedication to healthy living. My mother was a high school drop-out; my dad was a mechanic who was “laid-off” about half the year, so my family of five survived on under $20,000 per year. There was little money left over for soda and ho ho’s, but I digress. Each meal was a hearty chunk O’ meat, washed down with fresh spring water.
I also grew up without TV, save for my dad’s Betamax, so my sisters and I spent most of our time outside- we’d hike hills, play with the animals, climb trees, and swim in our muddy, leech-infested pond. I wouldn’t go near it now, but my, the fun we had at the time.
Phase 2- Tumultuous Poverty
My parents always had a rocky marriage, but when it progressed to the point of pure hatred, my mom finally left my dad. I was eleven at that time. My mom, my sisters and I stayed in a shelter at first and then with one of my mom’s friends.
We moved into a government-subsidized apartment, which was not bad on its own, but was embedded in a neighborhood that was detrimental to all of us. Apathetic and culture shocked, I got suspended from school for carrying a knife and started drinking, smoking pot and fraternizing with men twice my age. I got away with this behavior, in part, because my mother was busy attending community college and beginning a 7-year custody battle with my father.
Phase 3- Life Back on the Farm
When I was 14, my mother re-married and we moved to another farm- it was here that I started to become the person I am today. As a freshman in high school, we were subjected, as we were every year, to the mile run, pull-up test, and body fat test. I “ran” the mile in 13:36, couldn’t do a ¼ of a pull-up, and was told that I was over-fat by my gym teacher. That weekend, I was babysitting two kids, 3 and 5, and I could not catch them as they ran up the road. I decided it was time to do something about my weight and general fitness level- I was 145 at 5’1” at that time. I decided to go out for cross-country and track the following year. By my junior year of high school, I cut my mile time nearly in half, did six pull-ups and was the first leg on the 400M X 4 relay.
My mother finished community college and was accepted to Cornell University to finish her bachelor’s. After that, she attended Cornell Law School. She went from being a high school drop-out to an Ivy League lawyer in less than 10 years— she has been a huge source of motivation and inspiration for me. To follow her lead, I was matriculated into Cornell University as an undergraduate.
Phase 4- The Freshman 30
I started fairly strong at college, but some unfortunate events made me depressed; I gained 30 lbs and my grade point average plummeted after my second semester of college. When I returned home for the summer, I realized how unhealthy I was and worked out at the YMCA several days a week. When I returned to college in the fall, I changed my major to nutrition and dietetics.
At first, I lifted weights to kill time when all the cardio machines were taken; however, weight-lifting became the focus of my work-outs over time. I bought Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Modern Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding and designed training programs for myself-- I constantly re-read the book to make sure that I was using proper form. When I was a senior, I worked at the gym on campus and saw posters for a bench press competition and decided to give it a shot- I was the best female lifter. I continued to compete in bench press for a year.
Phase 5- Good Times
After graduating from Cornell, I completed my dietetic internship and Master of Science in Nutrition at SUNY Buffalo. I started training for a full powerlifting meet (bench, squat and dead lift); I injured my left shoulder so badly that I couldn’t push a door open without excruciating pain. After that several bodybuilders encouraged me to compete their sport. I was hesitant at first but eventually competed in my first bodybuilding competition in September of 2005- I won my class, took the overall title, and qualified for nationals.
As I looked into national level bodybuilding competition, I realized I was only a fraction of the size and muscularity of the women who place well at national events, so I decided to try figure competition. I competed in several competitions in 2006, the highlights were a class A win at a national qualifier and a 14th place in class A at Figure Nationals. Even though I wasn’t terrible at figure, bodybuilding appeals to me more. When preparing for bodybuilding competition, you have some kind of clue what you need to do to compete at your best. I like shaping my body and seeing in detail what I’ve worked for; I value the opportunity have 90 seconds to display my hard-earned and sculpted physique. For me, bodybuilding doesn’t have to be exclusively about guessing what the judges are looking for that minute; I enjoy the process of reaching my physiological maximum of proportion, symmetry, and muscularity while presenting myself as an individual.