I’m Mexican, Irish and Italian, which means a few things… I come equipped with a temper, an affinity towards cocktails, and the appetite of a teenage boy. I’m not genetically or environmentally predisposed to be “jockey size”. Yes, I’m a mere 5’2” tall, but like Shakira sings…these hips don’t lie.
Weight is something that a very large percentage of jockeys struggle with. Many people assume that women are naturally lighter and don’t have to fight their weight as much as the men do. When I was an apprentice, “bug” weight was my biggest concern and issue.
Most states you start off with a 10 lb weight allowance until you win 5 races, then 7 lbs until you win 35 races and 5 lbs for the remainder of your apprentice year. In Louisiana and Oklahoma, you are only allowed 5 lbs no matter how many races you’ve ridden or won, which is one of the reasons I had wanted to start there initially. I knew my weight would be a problem and making a 10 lb bug would have been nearly, if not entirely, impossible for me.
There are a lot of different ways riders keep their weight down; everybody is different. The most common tricks are “flipping” or “heaving” their food, as well as sweating out weight in the sauna. I know some guys who will pull upwards of 7 or 8 lbs in a day. And there are those who don’t have to lose as much or choose to be very strict with their diet and fitness routines.
I had every intention of taking care of my body and making my weight the “right way”, and I used to work out every single day after galloping horses all morning and eat healthy. Unfortunately, that didn’t last and I started trying to take short cuts. I weighed around 112 pounds when I started riding and felt good and strong. At my lightest and unhealthiest, I was 108.
At some point, I had started taking Lasix, which is a very strong diuretic given to horses prior to racing – or to people who suffer from fluid retention caused by congestive heart failure, liver disease, or a kidney disorder. At no point in time had I been any of the aforementioned. I also kept up a steady routine of laxatives, diet pills and vodka… because, you know, I thought that had the least amount of calories in it.
March 16, 2011 is a day we’ve discussed before. It was the last day I rode a race as an apprentice, and it was also the day that I had passed out on the floor of the girl’s jocks room getting out of the sauna because I was so dehydrated and malnourished trying to pull weight. I went to see a doctor who basically told me if I kept up what I was doing, I’d die before I saw 30 years old.
One of the stipulations I put upon myself when I made the decision to start riding again was that if there ever came a point in time where I was killing myself to make the weight I would retire. I’ve been very conscientious the last couple of years with keeping to that promise and maintained a healthy, active lifestyle that allotted me the freedom to actually eat before I had to check my weight to ride in the afternoons. At one point, I actually decided I needed to GAIN a couple of pounds to become stronger.
All of this lasted until the last 6 months or so. Despite my childlike appearance, I am indeed getting older, and my metabolism has slowed down. Not to mention I am also an emotional eater (which I fully blame on the Italian side) and my weight had become a serious struggle again.
Two months ago, I made the decision to take a break from riding races. I had gotten to a point where I was pulling anywhere from 5-8 pounds, all but starving myself, and feeling terrible doing it. I was tired, weak, and my weight was fluctuating drastically from day to day. I’ve spent the last couple of months in Kentucky, galloping horses in the mornings and doing nothing. Literally. Haven’t gone running, haven’t done a sit up or a push up, and haven’t counted a single calorie. If I wanted the cupcake, I got the cupcake… and didn’t feel guilty about it one bit. Heck, maybe I’d even get two!
I’ve now happily made the decision to get back on the scale and work towards getting my weight down the healthy way that I know I’m capable of. Over the next couple of months, I will be chronicling the REAL journey of exercising and eating, and I will be seeking out tips and advice from other jockeys who have experience in this area. I don’t have a specific date in mind, but I do know the end goal is to be back in the winner’s circle.
Because, come on, we all know how much I love getting my picture taken.
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