When Victoria Arnold awoke at her home in Doylestown on November 5, 2015, she didn't know her life was about to change. What she did know, though, is that she was ready for one. But she also knew that she needed support.
Back in June 2015, Bucks Happening launched the first ever Bucks County Ultimate Makeover Contest, a head-to-toe makeover valued at over $5,000 in goods and services from some of Bucks County's leading health, wellness, & beauty professionals. Over 200 women entered to win. Victoria's entry struck a chord; this makeover would give her an opportunity to gain a fresh start after a tumultuous few years coming out of an abusive relationship:
“I would like to win the contest because a makeover would really be a game changer in my life. I know we all have setbacks, and I have had mine. The setback had cost me my self esteem, some confidence along with clothes and other personal affects I had to leave behind. Physical scars sometimes heal faster than the inner scars that are left from unkind words and actions. This makeover would really help me gain the esteem and self confidence I had lost. In the past I considered myself stylish and put together. I believe this makeover could help me make the outside of me match the inside of me.”
After making it through the first round, Victoria relied on the support of her friends and family to take home the grand prize, competing against more than 20 finalists.
It all came to a head on November 5, 2015 at the 2015 Happenistas Night Out. Victoria anxiously awaited in the audience for the big announcement:
Here's what Victoria won in her makeover prize package:
- A custom consultation and services from Buinewicz Plastic Surgery & Med Spa
- Classes from the fitness experts at Pilates Bodies by Patty Witt
- Medical Weight Loss Program with Dr. Luciano from Healthy Solutions by Dr. Luciano Weight Loss & Aesthetic Services.
- Clothing & fashion consultation from Intrigue Fine Apparel
- Hair cut and coloring by Me Salon of New Hope
- Make up by Stars di Prinzi
It was a thrilling, rewarding evening as Victoria recalls:
“Winning this contest was more than getting called on stage and being announced the winner. It told me not only did I earn it but also I deserved it. The happiness, I deserve. The confidence, I earned it. My self esteem, like a favorite jacket pushed to the back of a closet, is now pulled out and worn on a daily basis. This opportunity of a lifetime was the catalyst my life needed to help me change for the better, the healthier, and the happier. Not only am I a winner, but also I am blessed.”
After the celebration, it was time to get to work. Victoria's enthusiasm was palpable! She immediately began working with Healthy Solutions by Dr. Luciano to improve her diet and nutrition. They provided her with the tools and support to lose over fifty pounds in five months. Dr. Luciano explains the process,
“For Victoria’s initial meeting with Dr. Luciano, she received a comprehensive physical, a body composition test, metabolic test, as well as a weight loss analysis. The Dr. discussed various weight loss options and goals. Victoria started on our all inclusive weight loss program. On this program she came to the office weekly for weight checks and B12 injections. In addition to her weight checks and injections, Victoria was also given vitamins, protein supplements and a healthy detailed meal plan. Every week Victoria would step onto the scale and see she was losing weight. You could see the happiness in her eyes and hear the enthusiasm in her voice each week she would come in for her weight checks. The diet was working and Victoria felt a sense of pride and accomplishment. This to her was a dream come to true, and for us here at Healthy Solutions made us feel overjoyed to be helping her on her weight loss journey.”
After being on the all-inclusive program, Dr. Luciano introduced and guided Victoria through the HCG diet. The HCG diet is a low calorie diet that is combined with an appetite suppressant. During her first week on the HCG diet, Victoria lost nine pounds! Victoria worked hard to keep a positive attitude as she followed her diet plans, even through the challenging holiday season. For more information on nutritional consulting, Coolsculpting (non-invasive fat reduction), and Venus Freeze (skin tightening) treatments, visit Healthy Solutions by Dr. Luciano.
Soon after getting her diet underway, Victoria began her fitness regimen at Pilates Bodies by Patty Witt in Yardey, where started with private lessons from Patty Witt herself and soon began to participate in their range of fitness classes like Pilates, Yoga, and Spin.
With her health drastically improving, Victoria went to visit Buinewicz Cosmetic Surgery & Med Spa. The husband and wife duo, Dr. Brian Buinewicz and Dr. Annie Buinewicz, helped Victoria to improve her skincare regimen, provided laser hair removal, and helped treat fine lines through Botox.
After five months of hard work, it was time for Victoria to enter the next phase of her makeover process. First, she headed over to her clothing consultation at Intrigue Fine Apparel in Buckingham. It was an emotional time when Victoria saw herself in the mirror in a fitted dress. She would never have picked this fitted style dress in the past. For the first time, Victoria saw how far she has come with her accomplishments. The fashion experts behind Intrigue Fine Apparel, sisters and co-owners Deborah Matczak Ruth and Annette Tymoski, helped Victoria to shed the over-sized clothing, show off her beautiful curves, and choose a versatile outfit that could be used for everything from a night out to a job interview. Deborah shares,
“Intrigue is about having the guest feel great and confident in what they are wearing. We are so happy to be part of Victories healthy journey, inspiration and future. Our hope for Victoria when she completes her transformation is that she sees both her inner and outer beauty.”
With the perfect outfit picked out, it was time for hair and make-up. On March 22, 2015, Victoria first visited Me Salon & Spa in New Hope, where she said goodbye to grey and hello to a fresh cut, color, and style from owner Gina Henning.
Then it was off to Stars Di Prinzi in Warrington for make-up. There, Victoria was treated to full make-up, eye lash extensions, and even a special gift from owner Vincent Prinzi, his inspirational book Breakthrough Journey.
It was time for the big reveal. Victory headed over the beautiful offices of Buinewicz Plastic Surgery and Med Spa, where a small group of her family and friends would see Victoria for the first time since she had undergone her transformation.
Since winning Bucks County's Ultimate Makeover, Victoria has shared her emotional experience with Bucks Happening readers. Take a look back at her journal entries in December, January, and February, and hear her final thoughts on the Ultimate Makeover experience below:
BH: At the moment of your final reveal, what was going through your head?
Victoria: At that very moment when I was about to walk through the door? All kinds of crazy things were going through my head: Will they like it? Will they notice the difference? Oh my goodness what have I done and gotten myself into? Am I happy with the results? The last question was the most important and then all the other questions faded into the background very quickly because I was happy and proud of myself.
BH: What was the response like from your family and friends?
Victoria: I can’t lie. For the majority of the makeover I kept myself away. I wanted to make a big statement when I popped up looking new and improved me. I saw my bestie Chryle on the regular, but I even tried to duck my father for a couple months so I could surprise him. He finally hunted me down at work and was stunned when he saw me. People are happy and proud of the progress I have made.
BH: You shared during the nomination period that you've recently come out of an abusive relationship. What did it mean to you to win the makeover at this time in your life?
Victoria: It meant a lot!! It gave me the power to change. It gave me the opportunity to be who I wanted to be. When I used to look in the mirror I would see the person who was down. The person who I used to be under all that unhappiness. Now I see a rejuvenated person with a new sense of hope. I have a new outlook on my future; my present may not be what I want it to be right now. But I know if I was able to go through this makeover and make my dreams come true, I am definite I can get my life in order and live happily. I am for the first time in years proud of myself and I know I can do anything.
BH: What advice would you share with others who may be going through a rough patch?
Victoria: First, forgive yourself. Do not fall back into destructive habits that may have gotten you into this patch. Now, if you’re in an abusive situation: RUN!! Run as fast as your pretty legs can carry you. I worried about my things and my possessions, but I ran. I left my stuff or the majority of it, grabbed some clothes, my cat, and a couple of mementos, and I left. A good friend told me, “God would provide,” and He did. I found a job, a place, and I made new friends and kept a few old ones. This would not have happened if I had not told someone about my situation. You must put yourself out there. How is help going to find you if you don’t light a fire signaling your SOS?
Now, I'm just not talking about an abusive situation, I'm talking about anything in your life that is causing you unhappiness, an unhealthy way of living, TELL SOMEONE. I know it can feel embarrassing and humiliating telling someone this but if you do you will not regret it. Any friend worth their salt will help you, will encourage you and pray for and with you. My last warning is to not keep it to yourself. There is help out there. You can do it!!
BH: If you could give one piece of advise to Victoria just after you found out that you won the makeover, what would you say?
Victoria: Be open-minded. Be open to new ideas and new concepts. Remember that what you were doing wasn’t working. Be grateful for all the advice people will give you along the way. They only want to see your success. Be easy going. Not everyone will be as happy as you are about winning this contest. Some people are scared of change, things that are new and different. Keep in mind not everyone has had this opportunity so they may be apprehensive or skeptical. That’s ok. Those doubts belong to them; you don’t have to own them. Just smile and keep on keeping on.
BH: What are your biggest take-a-ways from the experience?
Victoria: My first take-a-way was I can really do it!! Put your mind to it and you can do anything. Never in my wildest dreams before this contest did I think I could do something like this. Always have faith in yourself. Faith in us brings results
Learn to forgive. Not everyone has had the same experiences as you. They may not understand your journey, and that’s ok. Forgiveness is probably the biggest weight loss aid out there. It will take years of guilt away. It will bring understanding and clarity to a situation that could get you mad and frustrated because people aren’t seeing things your way. Even more important, learn to forgive yourself. THIS will feel like a weight was taken off your heart, add years to your life, and bring peace to your life. Learn to forgive. I am not a holy roller. But I believe the power of forgiveness is of superhero strength that everyone could benefit.
My last take-a-way would be how I have learned to control food and not let it control me. Going through a month of only eating 500 calories a day was kind of brutal especially in the midst of the Christmas season. But I did it. Food does not define me. It will not control me anymore. I guess I took its power away when I broke up with it and let it know you will not have that kind of grip on me anymore. I still love food. But I'm just not in love with it anymore.
BH: What was your favorite part of the makeover and why?
Victoria: Oh my goodness!! This question is Impossible to answer. All of it. Every single minute. The visits to Patty Witt at Pilates Bodies Studio helped me be strong, not only physically but also mentally. Seeing Dr. Luciano for weight loss helped me see that mountain that I thought was soooo big, really wasn’t. He understood my love affair and helped me break it up. Dr Annie Buinewicz not only helped me with some areas of my face that I was unhappy with but encouraged me to stay strong and look into other avenues I could find happiness like writing. Annette and Debbie at Intrigue found the perfect dress for me that made me feel sexy, new and shiny. Gina at Me Salon washed that entire gray out of my hair that were remnants of a bad time of my life. Totally impossible to narrow it down to one. Oh!!! Ok!! Wait I got it! My favorite part of the makeover was watching my body change and get smaller. It was finally going shopping and not buying a size 22 but a size 14. It was noticing out of nowhere I walk a little taller, my chin is up a little higher. It was being able to say, “Nah, I'll skip the cake today. I think I'll have a salad or a protein bar”. It was my newfound self control. It was when I would run into a friend or family member and their mind would be blown by how different I look now. All of it, every single second of that makeover was my favorite part.
BH What did you learn about yourself during the process?
Victoria: I learned I am stronger than I lead myself to believe. I am able to do something to do the end if I put my mind to it. We are all stronger and more resilient than we lead ourselves to believe. I learned that its ok when people do not agree with me or see eye to eye with me, it alright. Lets pray they get an opportunity in their future to do something totally out of their comfort zone so they can enjoy the happiness and pride of that moment. I learned how to control my food and increase my activity to bring the results that I want and desire. I still have a lot of learning to do but I am grateful I learned these lessons. I hope I am able to pass them on to others. It’s a lesson worth sharing.
BH: Can you share some ways that you stayed motivated?
- I kept a picture of the fat me the more unattractive picture on the fridge, but a picture of the thin me of the past in my bedroom door.
- I would go to Intrigue in Buckingham and just window shop and keep in mind at one point I could fit into something fabulous.
- I told my friends and family to help me and don’t offer me things that will not fit into my plan, like cookies cake, fried foods, and pasta.
- I tried not to get caught up in the number on the scale but how I was feeling and looking, how my clothes were not fitting.
BH: What is a habit that you've picked up during the makeover that you'll stick with?
Victoria: Exercising. It made me feel good like I was moving toward success. Food control. Practicing saying no to things that are bad for me. Speaking out. Letting my intentions be known so others can and encourage you towards success.
BH: What has been the biggest adjustment?
Victoria: My biggest adjustment? I think it may be receiving compliments. I'm not really used to it and it IS something very different. To me its something I have wanted to do for years. In a way, I feel I don’t deserve the compliment; its something I should have been doing. I understand that they are excited and enthused that I did it, and they’re proud of me but a piece of me ask what took you do long!!! Some have told me that I'm their role model or hero. I'm flattered. No one has never really looked up to me. My biggest adjustment I guess would be all the positive attention and feedback I have received. I will adjust!!!
Photography by Dana Isley