She used to be a party girl but after a complete 360, Tauranga bodybuilder Maria Evans has found success under the bright lights.
The 33-year-old will compete in the Pro Night of Champions competition at this weekend's Fitness Show Melbourne event. Born in the Philippines, Evans' parents moved to Tauranga when she was 8 and her bodybuilding journey began when she was living in Sydney in 2017.
"Bodybuilding was a bucket list thing for me," Evans said. "I used to be a party girl, but I have made a complete 360. I don't drink and nutrition is a big part of it.
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"There is a difference between 'I am going to stop drinking' and having a goal. It gave me a wake-up call. I would go out and put all those calories on then have to work them off. I thought 'what was the point in drinking?'.
"I have learned how to eat better and how to balance everything. Bodybuilding was sort of a by-product of the education you get from finding that stuff out."
While she has been able to avoid the murky side of the sport – it could have been easy to take that path.
"I wanted to do bodybuilding as natural. Steroids are bad. I just followed the women that I wanted to look like and did some research. It was amazing, at big competitions it was that you would have to take something. I didn't want to go down that path no matter how good I looked.
"Before I started, I was surrounded by meat-heads. I had to decide which path and why am I doing this. I had to ask myself if I am doing it purely for aesthetic reasons or more than that. I went to personal development conferences on how to break through."
The competition in Melbourne is run by the I Compete Natural Federation.
"They do a drug test straight after and there is also random drug testing at registration. That is pretty cool. I respect people who work really hard and they don't feel like they have to cheat."
Evans will compete in the fitness category this weekend, a step up from where she started in the bikini class, which requires the look to be a little harder. She will also compete in the more muscle-orientated sports category.
Nutrition is as much a part of training as time in the gym, which requires Evans to eat six meals each day.
"At the moment I am not training as much, but it is automatic. I have done four seasons back to back. Even going shopping and reading the labels was time consuming, but I am quite quick now. I have to do research before I go out there. The only things I cook are my proteins and I eat my veggies raw."
Evans' journey has also prompted her to run fitness psychology workshops as well as doing promotional and motivational speaking.
The event in Melbourne will include exhibitors from the fitness industry as well as competitions in powerlifting and Crossfit. Fitness Show director Shaun Krenz said there was a record number of entries for the event.
"The event is set to be the world's pre-eminent annual gathering for the Natural Bodybuilding and Sports Modelling community. For this event we have set a new world record with over 700 amateur competitors set to grace the stage and more than 70 professionals from more than 20 countries."
Pro Night of Champions