by Julienne Gilbo

The Face Behind The Weight

I am a 30-year-old Filipina living in Virginia. I am a military wife and a mom to a 3-year-old boy. Growing up, I was overweight and was always made fun of because of my weight. I was the “fat friend” or “fat sister.” I never really let the remarks about my weight bother me because I knew that I was more than just the fat girl.

Julienne Gilbo

Aside from playing basketball for a couple of years in high school, I was never the active type. No exercise. No visits to the gym. My lifestyle in college was all about partying, smoking, and drinking. I decided to do an internship in the U.S. after graduating from college and a couple of years later, I met my now husband who is on active duty in the U.S. Navy. In 2012, I got pregnant and married. It was the biggest year of my life. Shortly after, I moved to a different city. I gained 40 pounds during my pregnancy and for the first time in my life, I was over 200 pounds. We struggled surviving with one paycheck so we lived off of fast food and junk food for months. At the end of 2012, our baby boy arrived. My husband was then ordered to leave for an 8-month-long deployment in the Middle East.

Rock Bottom

I was struggling with postpartum depression and eating was the only outlet I had. With my JG3husband out at sea, I had to move to another state to live with my sister. At its all time high, I had an epiphany while we were hiking in the woods. I was so out of breath that I thought I was going to have a heart attack! That day, I decided to change my life, to lose the weight for my son and my husband. I also wanted to surprise my husband during his homecoming so I started a 25-minute home workout program called T25 by Shaun T of Beachbody. I did this with my sister for 4 months. To be honest, we picked that workout because it was the most convenient option for us as stay-at-home moms. I did not know what to expect. I can still remember the first day of our workout; I was so out of shape that I had to stop within the first 5 minutes of the video. I couldn’t even do one full push up and I always had to catch my breath! My sister was a big help and she was there to push me to complete our workouts every day. As a first time mom with a husband away, my day revolved around my son and there were a lot of late night workouts to accommodate his sleep schedules. As soon as I adjusted to working out, I had to work on my diet. I was so used to having my junk food stash and I had to force myself to throw everything away. I adopted the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. I started tracking my food with the app myfitnesspal and that also helped me lose the weight. I lost 50 lbs. in 5 months!


Getting Back On Track

As we all know, life happens. Sometimes, you have to set aside your goals to enjoy your time with the people you love. Having my husband home after 8 long months, I definitely struggled to keep my weight down but we tried our best to continue living healthy lifestyles. We also decided to join a gym together. That was a big move for me because the gym was one of the places that I tried so hard to avoid. I always thought it was a place where people got judged for how they look. With the help of my husband, I did my first workout at the gym. I was so insecure and I wasn’t confident enough to workout on my own. He was always there for support and he became my personal trainer. Since he was concentrating on Olympic weightlifting, one day, he showed me how to deadlift.

JG5It was my first time lifting weights and I was able to deadlift 226lbs on my own! The adrenaline rush and the excitement I felt was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. I did my research on lifting weights and found more women in the lifting world thanks to Instagram. Inspired by these women, I gave powerlifting a try and followed a workout plan. I realized that powerlifting required a lot of discipline and determination. The first 2 months were brutal. I dedicated a lot of my free time doing research and watching videos about powerlifting. I had to understand and learn each move, each muscle, each lift. My numbers were going up slowly and I saw what lifting was doing to my body. Not only was it making me stronger, but also my body composition was also changing.

For the first time, I finally loved what I was seeing in the mirror. Growing up overweight, I wanted to be skinny. After lifting weights, what I actually wanted was to be strong. It gave me a new passion in life. I knew I wanted do try competitive powerlifting but I also knew I wasn’t ready so I set new personal records for my lifts and promised myself that I would compete as soon as I hit those records.

Non-Scale Victory

In less than a year, I could squat 275 pounds, deadlift 290 pounds, and bench press 110 pounds. I did my first powerlifting competition last July 2015 and won first place in my weight division. I was also awarded best lifter for finishing with a 280-pound squat, a 310-pound deadlift, and a 115-pound bench press. I am one of the top 10 lifters in Virginia in my federation and weight class.


I have motivated a lot of my mommy friends and girlfriends with my weight loss journey. I started a fitness Instagram account for my progress and weight loss journey. Through the years, I have posted about my success and struggles. The support I get from everyone keeps me motivated every day. In the Philippines, it is still taboo for Filipinos to see girls lifting weights. I want women to realize that lifting does not make you look manly; it makes you strong. And you are not strong for a girl, you are just strong! I am in my best shape post-baby and I have showed all the people who used to make fun of me that anything is possible. You can always make time for your health. It does not matter how busy your life is. A 25-minute workout is better than nothing. Do not be afraid of lifting weights. In fact, do not be afraid of trying new things. Set a goal, have fun, and you will definitely surprise yourself when you see how strong you really are.

About the Author

Julienne is a first-time mom and a Filipina military wife living in Virginia, USA. She is an advocate for women empowerment. She enjoys powerlifting during free time. You can reach her at and for fitness-related posts, feel free to check out @pizzasquatsdonuts on Instagram.


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