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Transformation cheat sheet: 10 tips from real-life transformations that worked!

UpdatedV3_2020_transform_Fitness transformations FI

We’ve shared the weight-loss and transformation success stories from over 100 women over the past 15 years, and we’ve picked up a few insights along the way that can help you succeed.

Their approaches to diet and exercise have often been as varied as the women themselves, but the outcomes have always been the same – improved health, a new body, greater self-confidence and a new lease on life.

There’s obviously a lot we can learn from these real-world experiences to help you succeed. So use the nuggets of wisdom and insights shared by these inspiring women as the ultimate weight-loss and transformation cheat sheet. They’ve been through the process already and achieved their goals, and so can you!

Buddy up

Tip #1: Buddy up

Charmain, who lost 34kg during her transformation, got a training partner – a friend from work who was knowledgable about fitness and healthy eating.

“We trained together at gym in the morning at 05h00. During the day at work we would share healthy lunch options and she kept me accountable. She also helped me make healthy food choices for my grocery cupboard at home. She soon had me following a balanced meal plan of six meals a day, which all consisted of ‘clean’ food options such as fresh fruits, veggies, low GI carbs, good fats and lean protein.”

Sonia from Johannesburg and her sister-in-law Sam both had babies within two months of each other, so were on the same page in terms of getting back into shape.

“We started by running around the block together – it couldn’t have been more than 2km – and we could barely get through it. However, the next day we got up and did it again.”

That was the start of her transformation and she’s come a long way since then, even stepping on the competitive Bikini stage.

Get professional advice

Tip #2: Get professional advice

Bernise from Durban hired a knowledgable and experienced personal trainer, entered the Supashape 12-week transformation challenge to set herself a goal, and started following a moderate-carb, low-fat, high-protein meal plan.

At a maximum weight of 163kg, at the age of just 27, Madelein sought professional help. She joined Curves, a gym franchise dedicated to helping women achieve their weight-loss and body transformation goals, where she initially lost 31kg on the Sure Slim programme. With the help of her instructor, she lost a total of 76kg over a four-year period.

structured plan

Tip #3: Find a structured plan that works for you

Carien used the USN Body & Lifestyle Challenge to transform her life, not once, but twice, first to lose significant weight, which won her the competition in 2008, and again to recover from a skydiving accident.

After gaining 25kg following the birth of her first child, Carole from Durban signed up for the a 12-week transformation challenge at BodyGuru and had her ‘before’ photos taken. She subsequently lost 12kg in 12 weeks and won the category of best female transformation.

Irma entered the USN/94.7 12-week lifestyle challenge and used the guidelines provided in the starter pack as a blueprint to transform her lifestyle into one that includes regular exercise, a healthy, balanced diet that consists of six meals a day, and a comprehensive supplement regimen.

Train with weights

Tip #4: Train with weights

Stephanie attributes much of her fat loss to the high-intensity strength training with free weights that her trainer introduced her to. Her workouts now consist of upper and lower body training, as well as high-intensity cardio.

Like many women, Sophia felt intimidated by the weights room. “My trepidation had a lot to do with a lack of knowledge.” To overcome this, she decided to join a personal training group at my gym.

“That’s when I learnt that weights have the power to transform your body.” As she progressed to heavier weights, Sophia’s body started responding more rapidly. “To my surprise I didn’t bulk up, I tightened up.”

Overhaul your diet

Tip #5: Overhaul your diet

Spiralling weight gain, successive injuries and deteriorating health led Karin to her doctor’s room for a check-up. After numerous visits and tests, it was determined that she had hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), an under-active thyroid and rheumatoid arthritis, all at the age of just 28.

Karin began following an anti-inflammatory diet by eating more vegetables, complex carbs and lean protein, and cutting out sugar, milk, wheat and gluten, and anything else that was acid-forming.

When Zandy overhauled her diet she realised that her understanding of what constituted ‘bad carbs’ needed refinement. “I thought that excluding rice and mielie-meal from my diet would help me lose weight, yet I still consumed about 12 slices of whole-wheat bread a day, because, like most people, I thought low-GI, low-fat or fat-free food aided weight loss. I now know that this is false.”

Set yourself a goals

Tip #6: Set yourself a goal

To remain motivated to train and keep making progress, Scarlett set her sights on eventually competing in a Bikini competition. She went on to achieve her physique goals and competed in her first competition, winning the Novice category, and placing third in the senior line-up.

After pregnancy weight gain left personal trainer Jessi-Cairns overweight and out of shape, she set herself a few goals to reclaim her body.

I became determined to prove wrong everyone who said it couldn’t be done. More than that, though, I desperately wanted to feel and look healthy again, and to fit into my favourite body-tight Freddy pants, of course.”

Tip #7: Educate yourself

Signing up for a personal training course helped Sara Jane gain the knowledge she needed to plan her own training and dietary approach to ultimately achieve success. It was through this course that she learnt how to train properly and improve her fitness.

After extensive online research and reading fitness magazine, Janie discovered that the best way to boost her metabolism and burn more calories was by doing full-body workouts that combine high-intensity cardio and resistance training. This helped her lose 20kg.

Reward your efforts

Tip #8: Reward your efforts, just not always with food

Knowing that Marlene responds well to extrinsic motivators, her husband gave her some extra incentive by promising her a trip to Zanzibar if she achieved her goals, which she duly did.

After tipping the scales at 116kg, Tarien lost in excess of 45kg with the help of her trainer Craig Brown from CSB Body Fusion.I now love going shopping and taking a smaller size each time I buy a new outfit.”

maintain your motivation

Tip #9: Find ways to maintain your motivation

Belinda spent time on Facebook browsing various fitness pages for motivation. One day, she came across the Beastly Fit Facebook page, which is dedicated to an incredible and highly inspirational transformation. This gave her the motivation to start her journey.

To stay on track, Lauren used vision boards, which she still uses today, as they proved to be powerful motivational tools. “At the start of my transformation I made a big one with things I wanted to achieve and bring into my life.”

The support and compliments that came from my wonderful husband and my precious daughters ensured that my weight kept heading in the right direction as I desperately wanted to be a healthy, fit mom and a role model to them,” explains Lucy, who lost 42kg.

When Shawna took up a transformation challenge, she created social media pages on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to track and share her journey. “Constantly seeing my before photos alongside my progress pics also motivated me and kept me on the right track.”

Do the prep work

Tip #10: Do the prep work

Lee-Anne, who successfully used the USN Body Makeover Challenge to transform her lifestyle, says that learning to be prepared is an essential skill needed to be successful in any transformation or makeover.

“If you aren’t prepared, it’s easy to give in to temptation. Little things, like learning how to prepare and store meals, can make a big difference in our already busy lives.”

Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

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