Body transformations are more than 'before' and 'after' pics. Behind those smiles and fresh gym kit, there's an inspiring story to be told about how they embarked on their journey to a healthier self.
If you're in need of a little motivation to tweak your lifestyle for the better, you're in exactly the right place.
We've searched high and low for the most empowering personal accounts of women who have got in the best shape of their lives – whether that has been losing fat, gaining weight, boosting their fitness or improving their diet.
Using different exercise and nutrition approaches and a positive mindset, these women prove that life-changing injuries, illnesses, low self-esteem and other huge life challenges like motherhood, heartbreak and grief, should be no barrier to feeling good about yourself.
Akanksha Gupta: Used exercise to transform her mindset – and her body
A inactive lifestyle and reliance on fast food and ready meals meant Akanksha started steadily gaining weight during uni. But when she set about trying to get healthy, she began restricting all ‘bad foods’ and developed an all-consuming obsession with her weight – to the point where she refused dessert at her own wedding. Eventually, she was exhausted from approaching weight-loss from that place of shame, and found a way to get healthy in a sustainable way. She's since lost 2.5 found stone – and gained strength and confidence.
Heather Bulumakau: Quit drinking and fell in love with exercise
Heather was drinking a bottle of wine and binging on junk food every day when her children started noticing how dependent she was on them - and it was the wake-up call she needed. 'I knew I had to change not only for myself but for them too,' she says. So Heather cut out alcohol completely and joined her local gym, slowly but surely figuring out her way around, eventually gaining the confidence to start exercising with weights. Within less than a year, she’s managed to turn her life around, and lost 2.7 stone.
Nakeshia Thompson: Embraced running and healthy food swaps
Nakeshia weighed over 17 stone when she broke her ankle and lost her mobility for months. It gave her a glimpse of how life might look if she continued down the path she was on, and lost her mobility for good. 'I vowed to myself that the minute I could stand on two feet again, I would begin to change my lifestyle and commit to losing weight,' she says - and so she did as soon as she was able, she started going to the gym and incorporating healthier meals and snacks into her diet. In her workouts, she gradually progressed from treadmill walks to runs, which she fell in love with. Since then, she's lost almost 7 stone.
Chiedza Nziramasanga: Used exercise to help her deal with the trauma of her daughter's premature birth
Chiedza, a first-time mum, gave birth to her miracle daughter at just 24 weeks. Her baby girl spent 4 months in Neonatal Intensive Care, a fraught time for Chiedza, in which she chose to return to work in order to maximise her time with her newborn when she was home. Between work and time spent in the NICU, she had little time to focus on my health. When little Fiona Pearl was finally safe and sound with her at home, Chiedza turned to exercise to help her deal with the trauma of the past few months. 'I knew that it would help me show up better for my daughter and our family,' Chiedza says.
Alicia Neave: Used home-cooked meals and Krissy Cela's Tone & Sculpt app to lose 3.5 stone
Alicia felt self-conscious and disconnected from her body in her early 20s, and fell into a cycle of self-criticism and unhealthy habits. Soon, her weight was within the obese category, and she realised she needed to make a change. She replaced her regular take-outs with home-cooked meals, and found the courage to join her university gym, where she used Krissy Cela's YouTube videos and her Tone & Sculpt app to get fit. She's since lose 3.5 stone, and discovered just how strong and capable she really is.
Anisha Joshi: Reached her goal weight by staying consistent over 2 years
Anisha may be an osteopath, but her own health was something she didn't devote much time to – until a minor surgery in 2017 made her realise just how important her own well-being was. When she had recovered she got herself a personal trainer, who guided her through 3 strength training sessions a week, and coaxed her into eating plenty of protein. Her progress was slow - but steady. In two years, she hit her 9 stone goal weight, and her newfound strength (mental and physical) has helped her take her business to new heights.
Jacqueline Tufino: Lost 7.5 stone with calorie counting and home workouts
Jacqueline had been overweight for most of her life, but it was only after she had her first child that she decided she was sick of living with weight-related health issues. She knew getting healthy would help her be a better mother to her son. She started counting her calories and planning her meals in advance. She also began walking around her neighbourhood every day, and eventually added in HIIT workouts she found online. Since then she's shed 7.5 stone, and no longer battles with the back pain, heart palpitations and other ailments that plagued her when she was at her heaviest.
Nissa Morris: Lost 5.7 stone with weight-lifting and an 80/20 diet
A routine doctor's visit a few years ago revealed that Nissa was facing health issues because of her weight. Shocked, she decided to change her diet and start working out consistently at the gym she worked at. For the former, she used an 80/20 approach - tracking her macros 80% of the time, and relaxing her diet for the other 20%. At the gym, it was only when she started following a consistent weight training programme that her body composition really began to shift. She's now lost - and kept off - 5.7 stone.
Beth Hope: Lost 2st through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Following sexual assault, Beth began cognitive behavioural therapy, in which her therapist helped her unpick how she had been subconsciously punishing her body for the attack with misplaced self-loathing. When she accepted that the assault wasn’t her fault, she started valuing herself again, she began to view exercise and nourishing to her body as ways to feel strong and reiterate her positive mindset. Leading to her body transformation.
Luciana Martinez: Began weight training to work with her body, not against it
Reflecting on her transformation, Luciana says: 'Not only physically – though I did become leaner and stronger – but in my mind, too. I felt like I wasn’t fighting with my body any more; I was working with it –and it was responding. I felt strong, and I looked it. I’d never felt so good about myself.'
Erika McGuire: Cemented a fitness routine with 20 minute workouts
Erika completes 20-minute workouts (using Jillian Michaels’ app or one of her DVDs)
on the living room floor once the 'kids were in bed and the house was clean'. Her workout strategy? 'There is always time in the day – we just don’t see it. If it’s important enough to you, there is time for it.'
Justine Traver: Started doing HIIT after coming out of a toxic relationship
After ending a toxic relationship, Justine decided to overhaul her unhealthy lifestyle. She joined Weight Watchers, started doing HIIT and zumba, and lost 65 lbs as a result.
Fiona Maher: Overcame grief with the help of personal training
Following the death of her dad, Fiona gained three stone. She got back in shape by getting her portions under control, working out with a personal trainer, and doing HIIT, weights and yoga classes.
Anna Page: Joined a netball team and mixed up her workouts
An ankle injury left Anna unable to train - leading her to reach a size 22. She got back on track by reducing snacking, taking up netball, and doing a mix of cardio and strength training in the gym.
Amanda Valentine: Swapped yo-yo dieting for boxing
After years of yo-yo dieting and no exercise, Amanda decided to achieve her fat loss goal once and for all. She introduced lean meats and veggies into her diet, started running with the Couch to 5k app, and now does everything from HIIT and strength training, to yoga and boxing. Within six years she lost - and kept off - 117 lbs.
Claire O'Hara: Joined Slimming World
To reverse pregnancy weight gain, Claire took up running, before graduating onto strength and conditioning sessions and home HIIT workouts, as well as changing up her diet with the help of Slimming World. The mum-of-one lost eight stone in 14 months.
Charlotte Harper: Discovered a love for CrossFit
Throughout her life, Charlotte had avoided fitness at all costs - then she found CrossFit, fell in love with the community and hasn't looked back.
Frankie Hill: Swapped cardio for weights in Evolve's 12-week transformation plan
As a cardio queen, Frankie never felt comfortable venturing into the weights area of the gym. However, after being guided through a beginner strength training routine she increased her power and shifted 7 kg of fat.
Johnelle Burnett: Did a 12 week body transformation programme at a local gym
After experiencing weight gain following the births of her two children, Johnelle craved her pre-pregnancy body confidence. She signed up to her local gym and took her diet back-to-basics in order to feel at home in her own skin again.
Julie Johnson: Found strength at the squat rack
Following the end of an unhappy relationship, Julie started measuring portion sizes and lifting weights. After sticking to a strict plan for 18 months, she now enjoys a more balanced lifestyle.
Nikki Paterson: Focused on lifting weights after she lost a leg
While working for the army, Nikki was left paralysed in a road accident and had a leg amputated two years later. She used the experience as motivation to become more powerful than ever, through strength training and swimming.
Jess Edwards: Signed up to the F45 8-Week Challenge
Spurred on by her upcoming wedding, Jess signed up to Australia's most-famous fitness export. By doing a mixture of cardio and resistance-based 45-minute classes, and upping the protein and veggie content in her diet, she was able to shift body fat and gain muscle in time for her big day.
Lauren Smith: Committed to Joe Wicks' The Body Coach 90 Day Plan
After paying £150 (and stocking up on Tupperware) to access the social media sensation's plan, Lauren embarked on a three-month journey of five 25-minute HIIT workouts a week and three lean meals a day (plus two snacks, and a post-workout protein shake). As a result, she slimmed down, toned up and gained confidence.
Nikki Charanin: Increased calories and started lifting
In an effort to shape up, Nikki stuck to a strict exercise and meal plan that ended up leaving her with anxiety if she veered off it - and caused her results to plateau. She upped her calorie intake by 800, learned about macros and swapped cardio for weights to get in the best shape of her life.
Sarah Foster: Signed up to a fitness challenge
As a group fitness instructor for over 28 years, Sarah found herself gaining weight due to external stresses in her life. Rather than eating light foods throughout the day and then binging at night - which meant that she didn’t have a lot of energy - she started to eat nutritious meals five or six times a day and do an eight-week Spartan training plan in preparation for a competition to regain her fitness.
Rebecca Chivers: Used the Couch to 5k app
As a mum-of-two, Rebecca didn't have time to go to fitness classes. Instead, she downloaded the Couch to 5k app and discovered that running was something she could easily fit in around her kids.
Chinae Alexander: Reduced cardio and stepped off the scales
A busy social life lead Chinae's weight to increase in her 20s to a point she was unhappy with - and which her one 20-minute cardio workout a week was doing nothing to help. But instead of obsessively hopping on the scales, she put them to one side and started strength training and focusing on small goals in order to shift 70 lbs.
Kellie Brotherton: Cut out junk food and started walking
Rather than drastically change her lifestyle, Kellie decided to take things slow and steady when she decided she wanted to get fit. Cutting out junk food and and going for a 40-minute walk were the beginning of her 135lb weight loss journey.
Karra Busch: Tracked her food intake on MyFitnessPal
When Karra realised she had become morbidly obese, she knew she needed to prioritise her health. She started tracking her food intake on MyFitnessPal and began running and doing HIIT workouts. Soon, she had shifted 110 lbs.
Mikaela Beauchamp: Reduced workouts and ate well 70% of time
In an effort to get strong, Mikaela embarked on a strict diet and training regime, which got her to her lowest ever body fat percentage but triggered body dysmorphia in the process. She decided to stop tracking her food (eating well 70% of the time) and ease up on her workouts - and she finally reached her healthy, 'happy' weight.
Katie Dunlop: Stopped labelling foods 'bad'
After years of yo-yo dieting, Katie finally lost 40lbs by making healthy swaps to her five meals a day and stopping labelling foods as 'good' and 'bad. She also gradually upped her workouts from twice to six times a week, and added in Pilates and hot yoga.
Caroline North: Took up spinning following heartbreak and a chronic illness
After romantic heartbreak and a bout of ME, Caroline decided that she wanted to take action to feel better about her body. She swapped takeaways for protein-rich dinners and started going to spin classes and introducing weight training to drop six stone.
Taylor Lee: Began running after becoming a mum
Following pregnancy weight gain, Taylor decided to start running through the Couch to 5k app. She has since shifted 70 lbs and wants to run a marathon.
Danielle French: Signed up to Slimming World
In the runup to her wedding, Danielle joined Slimming World and got active by walking her dog. Simple changes helped her lose five stone by the time she walked up the aisle.
Carli Jay: Kept a food diary to reduce calorie intake
Unable to go skydiving in Dubai because of her weight, Carli began doing 15 minutes a day on an indoor bike and kept a food diary (she had been consuming 4,000 calories a day) to instil better eating habits. She slowly worked her way up to 90-minute daily gym sessions, featuring a mix of weights, cardio (including rowing and swimming) and yoga.
Sabrina May - Swapped diet fads for strength training
At a size 22, Sabrina felt that she had so much weight to lose that it wasn’t even possible to slim down. But now, at a lean size 10, she explains how giving up faddy diets and taking up strength training helped her achieve her goal.
Katie Philpot: Took up weight training and HIIT
An unhealthy lifestyle caused by long hours working as a lawyer lead Katie to become unhappy with her shape. She started doing up to five 60-minute lifting and HIIT sessions per week and added more protein into her diet to tone up.
Emily Bridgers: Took up CrossFit
A long-standing back injury lead doctors to predict Emily would never run again at the age of 22. However, at the age of 29, she revealed herself to be more fit than ever after embarking on a CrossFit journey.
Chelsea Streifeneder: Worked out for 10 minutes a day
Opening up a Pilates studio to help people strengthen their bodies caused Chelsea to lose her own. But rather than using the long hours as an excuse to not exercise, she started squeezing in ten-minute HIIT workouts around clients.
Addi Merrill: Joined Virgin Active and used the Nike+ Training Club app
When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Addi felt as though she had lost control of her own body. She embarked on a fitness challenge to improve her health.
Jennifer Morin: Signed up to WW
Generous portions and no exercise meant Jennifer was eventually classed as obese. She turned to WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers) for guidance on how eat healthily and found a supportive community who helped motivate her through plateaus. She inspired the rest of her family, and collectively they lost 450lbs.