“When consulting with the judges, they offered me some advice, ‘do a few cycles and you will win every show.’ I walked away and from that day forward, I chose to enter only drug tested competitions.”
Debbie Baigrie embodies strength inside and out, and utilizes bodybuilding as a vehicle to self-cultivation.
A few months ago Debbie and I connected because she liked what we’re doing here at VegetarianBodybuilding.com and wanted to publish some of my work.
Through this exchange, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know her, and was pleased to discover we share an affinity for bodybuilding that focuses on vibrancy and longevity.
Debbie is a mother, daughter, dog owner, former vegetarian bodybuilder, and the owner of “Natural Muscle Magazine.”
Her journey is wonderfully admirable (and at times, shocking), and I’m pleased to present this interview with you today.
Q: Tell us the story of how “Natural Muscle Magazine” came about, and how you acquired your passion for bodybuilding.
Back in the early 90s, I wanted to be a personal trainer. My daughters were in preschool, and I thought it would be something fun to do part-time. I took the exam, and to add credibility to my business, I entered a bodybuilding competition. A title would enhance my credentials, I thought, and the preparation would teach me hands-on training and diet.
“My plan was to enter one contest, but after winning the overall title, I caught the bug.”
I continued competing for four more years. A year into my competitive “career,” I entered a national qualifier and won my class, but not the overall.
When consulting with the judges, they offered me some advice: “Do a few cycles and you will win every show.” I walked away, and from that day forward, I chose to enter only drug-tested competitions.
We were being touted in a Florida-based magazine, “Florida Muscle News,” as the best bodybuilding shows in Florida.
Then one day, I got a phone call from their editor telling me that they are not allowed to give us any more coverage.
The NPC had come down hard on them for promoting an event that was not sanctioned by them. So there we were with no coverage and no advertising.
All of our amazing natural athletes needed a platform, and we needed somewhere to advertise our events, so “Natural Muscle Magazine” was born.
“Florida Muscle News” now had competition in Florida, and they were not happy about it.
I was banned from covering any NPC events and escorted out of the events I tried attending.
That was twenty years ago, and we are still going strong.
Q: Who most influenced your trajectory at a young age?
Three people who had the most influence on my career were my maternal grandfather, my paternal grandmother, and my high school principal.
“My grandfather emigrated from Poland with only a fourth grade education and became a very successful businessman using common sense and hard work.”
He could build a house from scratch, and he built several. He could basically do anything. I loved watching him build and still love the smell of sawdust. My grandmother owned businesses dating back to the thirties, something unheard of for a woman back then. She owned a hat business in Europe and made the beautiful hats herself.
She was an honest, outspoken, and driven woman, and lived until she was 96. I like to think I got my drive from her.
Then there is my high school principal, Mrs. Naymark, whose words still drive me to succeed every day to be the best person I can be: “Debbie, you will never amount to anything.” I went to a very small private school, and did not fit into the mold or take my education very seriously.
Q: What advice would you tell your 18-year-old self?
I would advise her to become highly educated in a field she loves. If I could go back to 18, my life might look a lot different now. Back then, nothing was expected of me. I was simply put on this earth to be pretty and marry a man who will take care of me. My Jewish mother used to say, “If you play your cards right and marry a doctor, you will be set for life.”
So I married an engineer and told my daughters, “if you play your cards right and become a doctor, you will be set for life.” Last week, I watched my oldest daughter graduate medical school! Another piece of advice I would give myself is not to listen to Mrs. Naymark!
Q: Why is compassion so important to you, and how has it made you a stronger woman?
It often takes strength to have compassion. I was shot in the face 25 years ago by a 13-year-old boy. It opened up an entire new world of forgiveness and compassion. To me, he wasn’t an assailant, he was a child who really didn’t comprehend the magnitude of what he had done. Ironically, I was one of the very few people who believed that.
The judge handed down a sentence of life without parole. At 13 years old, Ian was going to spend the rest of his life behind bars. Everyone was happy. Ian got what he deserved.
“However, I was not happy. I believed they were throwing away a human being. I was not going to let Ian fade away. We all matter!”
What family he had were gone within a few years. I was the only person who cared. I encouraged him to write, so he wrote and wrote, and is still writing. He also earned his GED with very high scores because someone (me) was expecting that. I shared his story anywhere I could, and along the way, others jumped onboard to help him.
Recently, an amazing law firm took his case and got Ian’s sentence reduced. He now has a chance to live. I’m not sure if having compassion has made me a stronger woman, but it has made me a better parent, friend, sibling, and daughter.
Q: What does the first hour of your day look like?
My first hour looks pretty much like the rest of my day. My office is in my home, so I grab my coffee, let the dogs out, and sit down at my desk to begin my day. I feel blessed that I don’t have to do all the prep work (shower, make-up, clothes, and commute) to get to the office.
If you visit my office before noon, I am probably still in my jammies. I like to jump right in because I have so much to do every day.
Q: Tell us about your experience with being a vegetarian and competing in natural bodybuilding contests back in the early 90s.
When I began competing, I was a vegetarian, so I just followed diet plans geared toward that.
“I juiced a few times a day and knew that really helped build quality muscle. I ate plenty of egg whites and plant-based protein shakes. With that diet, I was able to stay close to contest-ready throughout my career and do very well on stage.”
Q: I feel it’s important for vegetarians (especially vegans) to stay open to the fact that not all people can safely eat a vegetarian diet due to their genetics, blood type, etc. What was the reason you decided to incorporate meat back into your diet?
I enjoyed my vegetarian diet but slowly integrated meat back into my diet because my body seemed to want it. I go back and forth depending on what my body craves. Since I started visiting your website and publishing your great recipes and articles in “Natural Muscle,” I have enjoyed so many vegetarian meals that are easy to make!
Q: If you had to choose only three exercises, what would they be?
- Lunge/squat superset
My three “favorites” are hyperextensions, lat pulldown, and leg press.
Q: If you had to choose only three supplements, what would they be?
- Food-based multivitamin
Q: What are the biggest trends happening in bodybuilding right now?
The biggest trend is the expansion of the competitive arena for both men and woman. There are now many more options available. We can choose a stage where we belong. We don’t have to fit into the bodybuilder mold to compete in the fitness arena. That’s a great thing.
There are, however, three trends that baffle me:
- The first is the growth hormone gut. I believe it is making a mockery of the sport.
- The second one is the long and baggy board shorts worn in Men’s Physique contests. My word, it is not Men’s Upper Body contest, let’s see some lower body!
- The third, and by far the most disturbing trend, is the “rear shot” in the Bikini contests. Who started that one, and why has it continued? It has no place on an athletic stage.
Q: Thoughts on CrossFit training?
I believe that whatever motivates people to get up and moving is a great training method. There are so many training modalities, and they are growing every day. If people are passionate about CrossFit, they are going to get results. The same goes for Zumba or Pure Bar. Just get up and move!
Q: How do you foster inner peace and balance?
I take my dogs for two long walks every day without a cell phone. It is peaceful and energizing at the same time.
“I have three dogs, and they truly ground me.”
I am a Reiki Practitioner, and although I have not practiced this healing modality on anyone in a while, I find it very useful to keep myself in balance.
Q: Three favorite books?
My favorite all-time favorite books are:
- “The Four Agreements” by Miguel Ruiz
- “Living, Loving, and Laughing” by Leo Buscaglia
- “Knight in Shining Armour” by Jude Deveraux
Q: What are you currently working on?
We just completed the June 2015 issue (which you [Chris] are in again). We also recently started the BUFF Box, a box of several supplement samples shipped out monthly to subscribers. It is a great way for individuals to try different products. There are so many on the market right now, choosing can become overwhelming.
We often leave trade shows with hundreds of different single serving products, which can be even more confusing. This plan allows the athlete to try out 4-5 different products for a week. Every box sold benefits fit2survive.org, a wonderful organization that supports and empowers individuals who have lost limbs.
Fit2survive.org helps these individuals reach their fitness and athletic goals by providing education, assistance, and equipment. I look forward to seeing how much we can raise on a monthly basis for this worthy cause.
A dream of mine down the road is to open a neighborhood high-end pet supply store that will carry only natural products. My business plan is done, and when the right time presents itself, it will be an exciting new adventure.