A champion Manakau bodybuilder has celebrated winning major New Zealand titles recently by eating jars of peanut butter.
Paula Signal, 52, admitted her guilty pleasure was crunchy peanut butter. Not with toast. Not with butter. Just with a spoon straight from the jar.
"I'm a real peanut butter addict. I could go through a one kilogram jar in three days," she said.
The diet of a bodybuilder leading into competition had to be strict. Every athlete was different, but this time around Signal had stuck to steak, salmon, kiwifruit, kumara and rice in the weeks beforehand.
"I train all year round to make improvement on my shape and try to keep a good clean diet, but that is not always achievable as I love food."
Now that competition was over, her other vice was hot potato chips with salt and tomato sauce.
"I do gain a bit of weight and it does make it a bit harder for myself, but that's just the way I have done it. I'm a sucker for punishment."
Signal won the figure event for athletes aged 50-55 years last month at the National Amateur Bodybuilding Association (NABBA) championships in Palmerston North, taking the stage against nine other athletes from around New Zealand.
Then, as a complete after-thought, she entered a new competition called ICN (I Compete Natural) last week and duly won her division there, too.
"I would normally do at least two competitions in a year ... when I saw ICN was holding their NZ Nationals, that was me. I was ready to go," she said.
"To come away with a win was both mind-blowing and a great feeling of accomplishment."
Signal competed in the figure class in a division with weight and height restrictions - under 52kg and 1.64 metres.
By the time she took the stage she weighed 51kg after a final week of fluid hydration and cutting the carbohydrates ahead of competition "which helps with making the body tighter", she said.
Signal admitted the NABBA win felt strangely surreal, as it was the scene of her very first bodybuilding competition 16 years ago.
She originally began bodybuilding in 2005. In her first competition that same year, she was surprised to win the novice athlete category at the NABBA event in Palmerston North.
Since then she had competed at events runs by different New Zealand federations. There were six different federations running competitions. All up, she had now won 19 titles, with a few minor placings, too.
Her recent success was made sweeter given the challenges of training for competitions in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. Competitors would start training for events months in advance.
Signal herself had three competitions cancelled this year, so it was satisfying to come away with something to show for her hard work.
But she was at pains to point that in her chosen sport, she was never disappointed to "lose".
"It's not always about winning. As long as I am happy with how I present myself on stage - that to me is more important," she said.
Signal was showing no signs of slowing down and was looking to set goals for 2022.