The incredible Jackie Lou ‘Ferrigno’
BODY MATTERS - Kathy Moran () - January 22, 2002 - 12:00am
I wanted to do something for myself," says Jackie Lou Blanco (who spells her first name as Jacquilou in real life), 38-year-old actress and winner of the Slimmers World Great Bodies Competition held last Dec. 21 at the Rizal Ballroom of the Makati Shangri-La Hotel. "I wanted to test the limits of my body. I wanted to find out just how far I could take it."

But don’t think for a minute that Jackie developed her well-defined body overnight. Living a healthy life and working out has been a part of her life since she was 21.

But it was only in the last three years that she seriously got into weight training. "In the past, when I was in my 20s, people did not really look too positively on women who did weights. But things have changed," she shares.

What made the victory sweeter for Jackie was that she accomplished this feat now that she’s a mother of three – Kenneth 12, Rikki Mae, 8 and Arbella, 4 – and that she was competing with women in their early 20s.

When she decided to enter the competition last year, she knew it was something she had to do, win or lose. "I wanted to know like how far I can take my body. I wanted to know how well I could condition my body," she emphasizes.

Jackie says that she was a fat kid and only lost all that baby fat in her teens. But she only started working out at Slimmers’ World when she was 21 and she has been at it ever since.
The Diet Road Less Traveled
The road to victory did not come easy. "I had to go on a strict diet," she says. And the last four months before the competition were particularly tough. Jackie says that it was at that time that she had to do away with food that had "taste." This meant that her meals consisted of fish, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower or camote which was broiled, boiled or steamed – minus the salt or any other spice. "I really got to love the taste of balsamic vinegar which became the sauce for everything I ate," asserts Jackie.

She would eat at least six small meals a day. Jackie says she would have such a hard time eating tuna in brine for breakfast, but it was her focus on her goal that kept her going. "A meal would consist of a can of tuna in brine and perhaps a boiled potato. If the potato were big I could only eat half of it," she laughs. "I had to force myself to eat even if I felt like throwing up, or that I was starting to grow scales. I knew I had to stick to my diet because it was necessary."

Jackie, however, points out that she didn’t really have a lot of weight to lose when she made up her mind to join the competition. She weighed only 105 lbs. On competition day, she had brought her weight down to 94 lbs.

But it was not just a matter of bringing down her weight. In body building, it is a must that all salt be eliminated from a person’s diet because salt causes water retention, which is a no-no if she wanted the muscles she had worked so hard to develop to show through her skin.

"I tried to shift to drinking protein drinks for breakfast, but I found that because my metabolism had speeded up so much, I would get hungry after an hour. That was not good for me. So I remained a good girl and stuck to my fish and vegetables diet," she shares.

Did she cheat on her diet? "Once in a while I did. After all it was the Christmas season and people were eating all the food that comes with the season," she says. But Jackie laughs when she recalls what her cheating consisted of. "I would take a little piece of chicken, no skin and not fried. Just so I could have a little taste of food with taste. That was already cheating for me," she says. To supplement her diet, Jackie continued to load up on her vitamins E and C and lecithin, which she says helped in keeping her body fat down.
Work Out To Death
"I would be at the gym six days a week," recalls Jackie. Her routine was definitely a killer especially as the competition drew near.

Here’s a peek into just how hard Jackie prepared: "I would have to do 45 minutes on the transport machine in the morning. That was after I had practiced for two hours on my aerobic dance routine for the competition and worked out with weights for an hour. When I got home, I would ride my stationary bike for another 45 minutes," she says.

In the Great Bodies Competition, aside from the standard five bodybuilding poses (abdominals, side chest, double bicep, lateral spread and back lateral spread), she had to come up with a one-minute aerobic number. Jackie admits that she had not joined any aerobic classes in the past year because she preferred to use the treadmill or the transport machine. "It was so difficult for me to get the routine perfected and I needed to practice on it for at least two hours," says Jackie.

Jackie is grateful that she had a very supportive family. She is quick to add that she is not too strict with the diets of her children. She’s also proud that her husband, Ricky Davao, has lost 20 lbs. "My husband has to watch his weight because he has blood pressure problems. But he prefers to play badminton rather than to work out at the gym," she says. She tells us that her daughter Rikki Mae takes after her father who has a sweet tooth. "Ricky cannot resist eating chocolates," says Jackie.
Competition Day
"One of the most difficult decisions I had to make was to wear a posing bikini that bodybuilders wear," says Jackie. She says that her trainer Kristine Yu left to her the decision about what to wear for the competition. But Kristine pointed out to Jackie that it would be better if she wore a bikini.

Jackie realized the same for herself, but chose to design her own bikini. "We made three suits. I guess it was also easier for me to put on the bikini because everyone else was wearing one and I had three layers of skin darkening on," she says. (Bodybuilders darken the color of their skin so that "cuts" in their muscles become more visible.)

"There were 37 competitors at the start of the competiton – all members of different branches of Slimmers World Fitness Centers. The group was whittled down to 24 and then to 10," says Jackie.

She admits to being nervous during the competition, but she knew that she had prepared for the day the best she could. It helped that she had a cheering squad from the Megamall Slimmers World. Her family was there, too. "I can recall looking towards the direction of my son Kenneth and I could hear him shouting, "Go, Mom, go," says a proud Jackie.

Jackie says that her being in showbiz (her last soap opera was Saan Ka Man Naroroon and she still does singing engagements with her mom Pilita Corrales overseas) was both good and bad.

But what she wanted to be sure of was that she won because she deserved to win, and not because she had a showbiz background. "I felt that the decision of who the winner would be could have gone either way – but I felt that the other mom who was a finalist was my biggest competition," she adds.

One of the judges in the competition was Evangeline Pascual, who had co-starred with Ricky Davao in one TV soap. "I was so happy to hear that she told my husband that she voted for me because I deserved to win, not for any other reason," Jackie reveals.

So what did Jackie do right after the competition? Since she had deprived herself of salt for such a long time, it would have been wrong to take something salty after the competition, because she could get cramps. She opted for half a cinnamon roll from Cinnzeo – her first sweet indulgence in four months.
Next Muscle Move
"I know that I would like to be able to compete in one more competition, but I am not yet sure what that would be," says Jackie. But, indeed, she feels that fitness is her second career. It is a direction that she hopes to pursue – and she wants to find out where it will take her.

"All I know is that fitness is my way of life now and if I can help other people get into it, that would be wonderful," she opines. Jackie believes that anyone can get into fitness, but thankfully, they don’t have to go through what she has gone through.

Jackie is flattered when people who have heard of her accomplishments tell her that she has inspired them to go back into working out, or at least to start working out.

"If a person wants to work out, they don’t have to do it at the gym. They can get into sports, they can climb the stairs in their office or home or they can even try to do tummy tucks while they wash the dishes," she advises.

Jackie knows that people will always think of an excuse not to work out, but she says that the decision is theirs to make and once they do make the decision for a healthier life, they are sure to be happier.

"I want to be able to continue working out for as long as I am capable of doing so. I am a happier person because I work out. I think that this is the best thing that I have ever done for myself. After all, fitness is like the air I breathe, I cannot live without it," Jackie points out.

Today, Jackie watches what she eats, but she is no longer on a "tasteless" diet. But this does not mean that she eats everything in sight. "I eat almost everything, but I do so in moderation."

That’s certainly a relief for her mom Pilita, who actually walks a lot and eats healthy, too, but became quite concerned about her daughter’s weight loss and the grueling regimen that she had to go through to prepare for the December competition. Jackie shares: "On the night I won, I was so happy and there I was, floating and savoring the moment. Mom approached me and as she embraced me, she whispered, ‘I am so proud of you. I love you. Please anak, eat ka na.’"

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