Before the Transformation
“I, like most women, tried doing the heavy cardio route with elliptical or treadmills, but after several months of this I saw zero results”
What was your lifestyle prior to your transformation?
Being a full-time Ph.D. student really took its toll on my lifestyle. You’d think being involved in research would keep me moving about in the lab, but the honest truth is that I spent more of my time doing data analysis, writing papers/proposals, responding to emails, and going to meetings, all of which kept me seated for most of the day. I didn’t really keep track of what I was eating, although I always packed lunch for myself, so I figured I was being healthier this way.
When & why did you decide to make a change?
I was having a conversation with a male friend of mine. He told me how much he weighed (he’s 6’1″) and my heart plummeted when I realized I weighed more than he did at 5’4″. I knew I had put on weight, I just didn’t realize how much. (Tweet this). It was then that I needed to make a drastic change in my life.
What diet or exercise programs did you try in the past? What were your results?
I, like most women, tried doing the heavy cardio route with elliptical or treadmills, but after several months of this I saw zero results. It was very frustrating.
What goals did you set for yourself?
At first, it was just about getting my body back to a place where I felt better. I wanted to be able to look in the mirror and be happy with what I saw.
During the Transformation
“It’s amazing to look back on where I started from and where I am now; it makes me realize what I am truly capable of”
What diet did you follow during your transformation?
I started by significantly increasing my protein intake and cutting carbs to a large degree. I started by doing Jamie Eason’s LiveFit Trainer, so I was following the diet from her program, including a ton of recipes from there as well. When bulking, I aim for about 2500 calories (40% protein, 30% carbs, 30% fat). I also tried out a cutting phase recently; I was aiming for around 1600 calories (50% protein, 30% fat, 20% carbs).
A typical meal plan for me while bulking is:
- Breakfast: Spinach Peanut Butter Protein shake (1.5 scoops of protein and sweetened almond milk), coffee (1 cup)
- Mid-morning meal: 1 serving of ground turkey, spinach, tomato quiche and 1 banana, 1 serving of pumpkin protein oatmeal
- Post-workout shake: 1.5 scoops mixed with water
- Post-workout meal: 2 cups of Jamie Eason’s 3 bean turkey chili and 1 slice of ezekiel bread
- Snack: 4 oz baby carrots
- Dinner: egg scramble with ground turkey and various vegetables
- Bedtime snack: Chocolate protein peanut butter cups with PB topping (made with cottage cheese and/or casein protein)
A typical meal plan while cutting is:
- Breakfast: Spinach or Strawberry Almond Butter Protein Shake (1 scoop of protein, greek yogurt and unsweetened almond milk used) and 1 cup of coffee
- Mid-morning meal: 1 slice of crustless quiche and 4 oz carrots
- Post-workout shake: 1.5 scoops mixed with water
- Lunch: 1 cup of Jamie Eason’s reduced carb chili and 1 slice of ezekiel bread
- Dinner: 2 servings Jamie Eason’s Low-carb Monster Meatloaf and 1-2 cups of fresh veggies
- Bedtime snack: Low-fat greek yogurt (or cottage cheese) and strawberries OR Optimum Nutrition Chocolate Casein power as a shake with strawberries and water (blended)
What was your exercise regimen during your transformation?
Lifting heavy! The first 3 months were following Jamie Eason’s program, although I found the last 4-week phase to be too time consuming. After this, I made my own program inspired by Laura Bailey’s Muscle Building Program. I started doing 5-6 days a week of heavy lifting with everything supersetted to really exhaust the muscles. I’m quite focused on building muscle, so I only really added in cardio when I was doing my cutting phase.
What obstacles did you face during your transformation?
It’s definitely challenging keeping up my routine while being in a Ph.D. program; my boss isn’t exactly the most understanding person about wanting to workout and stay healthy. My labmates are the people I see most often and I got a lot of questions and criticisms about what I do and eating so often. Some examples include:
- “You shouldn’t be lifting cause you’re gonna look like one of those gross bodybuilders.”
- “Why don’t you do yoga or pilates instead?”
- “No you shouldn’t be doing heavy weights and low reps, you should be doing low weight and high reps so you can tone.”
It was discouraging after awhile and made me question if I really wanted to keep going down this path.
How did you stay motivated?
I found a lifting buddy who really helped me greatly, mostly with making sure that I go to the gym, especially on those days when I didn’t have the mental motivation to. She also kept me motivated in the gym and always pushes me to try heavier weights, just to see if I can. I really owe her a ton of thanks for all of the help, I don’t think I’d be where I am today without her.
The second half of my motivation comes from seeing the physical changes in my body. It’s amazing to look back on where I started from and where I am now; it makes me realize what I am truly capable of. I also feel much better about the way I look and I have more energy. On top of that, getting compliments about how great I look doesn’t hurt either!
After the Transformation
“The pictures tell a much better story than my words can”
What are your results? How long did they take?
I started in August of 2011 at 174 lbs and 37.2% bodyfat. Currently, I weigh in around 145 lbs and less than 20% bodyfat! The bulk of my transformation took place over about 8 months and I have just been maintaining since then.
The pictures tell a much better story than my words can. (Related: Take a Before Picture) It’s really easy to see the drastic changes in my body, particularly my stomach and legs are much slimmer than when I started. One of the biggest changes is probably the amount of upper body muscle I have and I’m really happy with that.
How do you feel compared to before?
I am much happier with myself overall and I have a ton more energy than I used to. I’m much more likely to go out and do stuff than I was previously. I have a much more positive image of myself, which makes me have a more positive outlook on life! I feel healthier and am much stronger than when I started, which is kind of just like icing on the cake!
What advice do you have for others?
Don’t be afraid to pick up the weights! If you’re frustrated that you aren’t seeing results from cardio like I was, really consider weightlifting. I know many women think they are going to get bulky, but the truth is that our bodies just don’t produce enough testosterone for us to look that way. Once you start to see the results that weightlifting will give you, you will be hooked like I am.
Don’t neglect your diet either. Diet is 90% of what you do. You need to make sure that you’re properly feeding your body what it needs in order for you to get the results you want. Don’t starve yourself!
And remember, strong is the new sexy! (Tweet this)
What’s next for you?
My long term goal is to compete in an NPC physique show some day. It goes hand in hand with the type of body I want for myself. I’m definitely happy with my results thus far, but I know my journey isn’t finished. It’s now about challenging myself, to see what I’m truly capable of doing!
Is there anything else we should know?
One of the best things to happen to me over my journey was attending an MHP-sponsored fitness camp. I was able to meet my inspiration, Dana Linn Bailey. To be honest, I thought I’d be intimidated by her, but she was one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met and she had tons of information and helpful tips on diet and training routines. More than that, she took the time to teach the handful of us interested in physique how to do the posing properly. I learned so much from attending that camp that it inspired me even more to keep pushing myself. I highly recommend attending some fitness camps, it gives you a new perspective on being a part of the bodybuilding world and you’ll learn priceless information!
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