Aimee Barnes is an exceptional woman. She is an entrepreneur, athlete, mentor, wife, coach, champion bodybuilder, recovered from alcohol dependence and depression, dog-lover, distance runner and a fierce advocate for women’s wellness. She has lived in Singapore for nearly 5 years and started her company Tangram Wellness in 2013, teaching the holistic aspects of exercise, self-care, nutrition, and decision-making.
In 2013 Aimee began bodybuilding with an eye on competing, eventually enlisting the help of Singapore-based NPC competitor and coach, Roz Alexander for her first three competitions. I started following her on her new journey and was inspired repeatedly by her determination, focus and ultimate success. In September she took 1st place in the Singapore National Physique and Bodybuilding Championship. In October, Aimee placed third in her category at the IFBB/NPC Ft. Lauderdale cup competition in Florida USA, qualifying her for the Nationals this September.
I had the privilege of meeting Aimee recently to get to know her better. Here’s what we discussed….
Your life has taken a few turns, going through highs and lows, changing career and moving country. What is your mission: personal and corporate?
My business, Tangram Wellness, is going through a transition right now but the mission will always be the same: I want to assist women in living their best lives through athletics, mindfulness, self-care and the development of total strength – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. I’d like to offer more coaching to women who wish to explore their relationship with alcohol and/or food. It is something I am called to, and it’s a journey that I understand.
My personal mission at this point in my life is to work on my spiritual strength – my faith – and to go with my gut more often.
How does your business positively affect the way women see themselves?
So many fitness and wellness businesses are focused on helping women get skinny. I’m trying to shift the entire focus away from that aspect of fitness and towards integrative health and self-care as a pathway of healing and strength and confidence. Sure, weight loss may be a nice side effect, but I don’t think it should be the primary aim.
You worked in journalism before starting body-building; both these industries must view female beauty very differently. How do you define female beauty?
To me, it’s a woman who is at peace with herself, someone who allows her uniqueness to shine through, a woman who is strong enough not to let the opinions of others change her. You can be a physically gorgeous woman by society’s standards, but if you have no confidence or if you’re constantly conforming to society’s ideal, that beauty disappears quickly.
Patti Smith, Ana Forrest, Missy Elliott, Erin Stern, Pema Chodron, Margaret Atwood, Gloria Steinem, Marianne Williamson, Ernestine Shepherd, Padma Lakshmi- all stunning women. I actually have a Pinterest board of women I find beautiful and inspiring. Some are younger, others are older, some have plastic surgery, some do not, some are artists, others are athletes, some are politicians and others are writers. There is no “one” age or body type or look. The common thread is that they all march to the beat of their own drum. They are unapologetically themselves. That is female beauty.
Since arriving in Singapore in 2010 you have successfully built your own wellness and coaching business Tangram Wellness. What have you learnt about yourself through the business challenges that you have faced?
I have been reminded again and again that I cannot do it all, and the message is finally sticking. Being more introverted, quiet time is a necessity – going to networking events every evening and being fully booked every day just isn’t for me. Previous to this business, I worked as a writer, and I’m returning to that as part of my company. I need time for introspection in order to best serve the people I work with. And, I’m learning that if I’m going to assist others in learning to love themselves, I have to consistently practice what I preach. Being a business owner has really magnified this.
What’s your secret to juggling work, family, friends, your fitness schedule and staying healthy?
I’ll tell you when I find it! It’s a work in progress for sure. Meditation and prayer helps a lot, as does journaling, and having a few great friends that I can just let it all hang loose with. I definitely struggle with maintaining a balance and keeping to the mission. When I’m preparing for a competition, the training is very demanding on many things: marriage, hormones, finances, diet, travel and my workout schedule. My husband is incredibly supportive and patient with me, and I’ve just hired a business coach to help me keep everything more balanced.
Are there any causes that are close to your heart?
Raising awareness on addiction and depression and assisting in the effort to remove the stigma – that occupies a large portion of my heart and will likely become a big part of my work as well – I see it going that way. Helping other women escape the crab bucket and become their best selves is also very important to me, although I’ve not heard of a NGO that specializes in crab bucket escapes.
I was so inspired by all that you achieved last year, and look forward to watching where this year will take you. What are your plans in 2015?
I’m shifting my business to focus more on health and addiction recovery coaching in Singapore and abroad – athletics will play a major supporting role though. I’ve changed my company name from Tangram Fitness to ‘Tangram Wellness’ to reflect the more integrative approach to health apart from fitness. I’m also aiming to do more advocacy work through writing and public speaking and am trying to carve out time for that.
I’d like to compete in the NPC US Nationals at the end of the year, but it will all depend on if I’ve put on enough size. I’ll see what my coach says and go from there – I’m in no rush.