Sam: 7 Amazing Things I Learned on My Transformation

What I learned when I completed my 11-week transformation (nope, one of them isn’t ‘running is the best way to burn fat’).

I’d seen the transformation pictures, longed for the results, read every testimonial, talked myself into and out of the idea of it, and now, we’re here. The end of the beginning.

Eleven weeks is over; my body fat is way down, energy levels are way up. 

My mind is cleared of negativity, body dysmorphia is a distant memory and the future is now brighter and more exciting than ever before.

There have been tears of joy, and of pain, my toys have been in and out of the pram more times than…I’ll leave that one there, keeping this nice and 'PC'.

I’ve had weeks of 'pedal to the metal' and days of total burn-out that had me picking out the best wood for my coffin.

But….“I MADE IT, MA! TOP OF THE WORLD!’ and I couldn’t feel any better – apart from the dull ache taking hold of my entire body after my first week back training after plenty of festive frolics.

Read the full transformation story of how Sam overcame an eating disorder to get happy, healthy and in shape again.

Thinking back to when I started, walking into (the cleanest, coolest, most well-equipped) UP Manchester, dressed in all the gear with a little bit of an idea, I didn’t really know what to expect.

I'd seen the transformation pictures of the Goddesses and Adonises before me and only dreamt to look the same – little did I know I was about to become one of the said Goddesses.

I’ve reached the end of what started out as just a superficial transformation but what has actually turned into a complete life overhaul.

The past three months have taught me how to enjoy life without the worry that I’ll undo my hard work or I’ll gain 10 stone if I miss a workout.

I’ve spent the past 84 days, 288 hours (yes, I even dream about Ultimate Performance) growing, exploring, trusting, believing, laughing and learning.

I’ve grown glutes, hamstrings, shoulders, biceps, abs – the lot! But I’ve also grown as a person, explored new training and foods suited to my body, trusted the process and most importantly, my trainer.

I believed in myself for the first time in… well, forever! I laughed (and swore) my way through training sessions, and I learned. I learned about training, nutrition, the body, and my body, about my mind and that actually, I’m not so crazy after all.

I learned what works best for me and that a hell of a lot of the information we read about the fitness industry should be taken with an entire ocean of salt.

Here are the seven most profound things I learned…



1. Stress = Bloat!

Years wasted with doctors visits, self-diagnosis, severe pain and avoiding fitted dresses because of the big round 'air baby' sitting in my stomach.

I lived my life through ‘trial and error’ slowly eradicating different food groups from my diet to try and banish the bloat.

I tried it all – ginger tea by the gallon, slathering castor oil across my belly and even chowing down on charcoal.

I came to terms with the idea that maybe I was destined for the pot-bellied life – cue James, the wise oracle and fountain of fitness knowledge that is my UP trainer.

Through regular venting and analysing areas of my life together, we concluded that for a young, apparently-carefree 25-year-old, I’d been stressing out over A LOT of things.

Having someone who cares about me and my goals and genuinely wants me to feel good has been paramount in achieving the best possible results.

Having someone who cares about me and my goals and genuinely wants me to feel good has been paramount in achieving the best possible results.

The main stress in my life was, as vain as it sounds, the way I looked.

Every second of every day my mind was in overdrive counting every single calorie, working out at what point I was going to fit in my training, how long my training would need to be in order to 'earn' the food I was eating.

I had anxiety about most things and allowed myself to be consumed by the desire to look ‘perfect’ – whatever that is!

James and I spent hours talking things through (more me talking at him, in all honesty) and actually, hearing things from someone else’s point of view was the best way of clearing my mind.

As my attitude towards food and training quickly changed, so did my body. By the end of my first week, my stomach was flatter, tighter and clothes sat sexily and comfortably over my now bloat-free belly.



2. What works for somebody else WON’T work for me

Instagram. The 'online PT' for anyone and everyone. I went into training a semi-novice doing the typical programme of cardio, cardio and a little bit more cardio.

I looked on and longed to get into the wondrous world of weights; I wanted to be where the muscles were!

So, in keeping with today’s unsociable, smartphone-controlled society, I turned to social media! God forbid I spoke to a real-life person! Instagram became my fitness bible.

Don’t know what to do with a dumbbell? ‘Gram it!

What do I need to do to grow a bicep? ‘Gram it!

How do I get rock hard abs, a tiny waist and a big juicy booty? Buy it – sorry, ‘Gram it!

I’ve reached the end of what started out as just a superficial transformation but what has actually turned into a complete life overhaul.

I copied anything and everything I read and saw on the ‘Gram; I bought training plans from airbrushed Australians, I followed the exact macros of ‘one week out’ bikini girls and I mastered every ‘booty building’ workout you could throw at me – all because Instagram said that was the right thing to do.   

Over the past 11 weeks, my Instagram has been cleansed of unachievable, unrealistic, unhealthy accounts as I learnt to be my own motivation.

I train in the best way for my body; I nourish my temple with the right foods for me and, if the substantial drop in body fat is anything to go by, what works for me most definitely works for me. 



3. The only thing fat burners burn is brain cells

Fat. What a word. Is there any context when the word ‘fat’ is a positive? Since an age I’m afraid to count back to, I’ve used the word ‘fat’ to refer to my body.

My poor body that’s never done me wrong; a body I’m lucky to have and to be healthy in. To me, I’m sorry, from me.

Pre-Ultimate Performance, my ‘diet’ was mainly fat-burner based – T5, T6, The Ripper, Hydroxycut, Clenbuterol. WTF!

I’m the girl that the women poised with perfumes in Selfridges love! A few words I can’t pronounce and the promise my life will be changed with the swipe of my credit card and I’m sold.

A pill I only need to take once a day and fat will melt off my body like ice cream on a hot day, you say? Where do I sign?

I would start my day with one magic little tablet (sometimes two if I was feeling extra wobbly) fully believing that this was the door to the body of my dreams.

With my newly increased metabolism, the only door I was heading for was the toilet one. I was left feeling jittery, anxious, sweating like a pig and actually, due to the effects they were having on my hormones, I felt fatter than ever before.

Needless to say, I’m no longer a sucker for good marketing, and I’ve replaced tablets for good, healthy, nutritious, real, chewable, enjoyable food.



4. Food! There’s a time and a place for that


Ah, timing. Now, as one of those annoying types who is always late (blame my mother), I’m often reminded that timing is everything – ugh, the voices of my teachers are ringing in my ears.

As I embarked on my whole new adventure of actually eating, I also had to learn when to actually eat!

From the hours I’d put in on Instagram, to the diet plans I’d been sent by Insta-strangers, to the regular Google search ‘what to eat to get skinny,’ I really thought I was well on my way to my Masters in nutrition.

I’d read so much online about what I should and shouldn’t be eating, and stalked the sh*t out of my Insta-crushes to find out their exact diet plans, that I managed to create my very own mismatched: ‘Super nutrition plan that will make you look like the girls on Instagram who don’t even look like the girls on Instagram.’

Pre-UP, I’d have oats for breakfast around 8 am (I’d fallen into the trap that this would build me a booty), by 10 am I was feeling sluggish and by 11 am I was asleep again!

I’ve learned that I don’t need to sweat out every calorie of the day and I only need to train three times a week!

I also struggled with an eating disorder (yes, I was a mess!).

I'd deprive myself of all my favourite foods, binge on them then bring them back up again.

I opened up for the first time ever about this on Day One of my journey; James was nipping it right in the bud.

We swapped morning carbs for salmon and asparagus; every meal was rich in protein and greens, and as soon as day two, I was feeling more alive than ever!

My mid-morning slumps were a bittersweet memory and the desire to devour the entire fridge was no more!

Having the Steven Hawking of the fitness world as my trainer has been a huge advantage – I don't think there’s been a question he hasn’t been able to answer… yet!

James created my nutrition plan around my training, making sure I was fuelling my body with the right foods at the right times and low and behold, the booty I’d been binging for has FINALLY made its a-rear-rance!



5. Stop comparing your goddamn self!


“Comparison is the thief of joy” – Theodore Roosevelt. Wise words Theo, wise, wise words.

Thanks to goofy teeth, a head brace and the boy I fancied at 11 choosing my best friend over me – wishing I looked like someone else has been something I’ve struggled with most of my life.

Comparing myself to everyone else has robbed me of precious hours, caused me to miss out on opportunities and contributed to low self-esteem.

On Day One at UP, James asked who my ‘Insta-crush’ was – JUST ONE?! I had a list of far too many girls I desperately wanted to look like … no, not look like, who I actually wanted to be.

After gushing over the tightest tums, longest legs and peachiest bums I was quickly dragged back into reality with the questions: ‘Which one of those girls is your height?’ ‘Which one has your exact body shape?’ ‘Which one has your lifestyle?’ ‘Which one follows the same training and nutrition plan as you?’ NONE OF THEM!

The only individual who each question related to was me. I am my height, I am my body shape, I have my lifestyle, and I am following my training and nutrition plan. Over the past 11 weeks, I’ve learned to love and appreciate myself and my successes, compete less and appreciate more and, if there’s anyone to compare with, compare with myself.


6. The key to success – a trainer who cares

Sergeant James. The man who brings out the suppressed potty-mouthed, Rochdale girl within me.

The one who has taken a severe verbal beating over the past 11 weeks. The one who listens to my incessant moaning like he’s not heard it a million times before.

The one who cares wholeheartedly about my wellbeing, my progress and my happiness and the one who has taken my life in the past three months and completely changed it.

At UP, it's more than just a ‘PT.’ They put the ‘personal’ in Personal Trainer. I’ve wasted plenty of money on ‘PT’s’ who are about just that – the money; with Ultimate Performance, it couldn’t be further from that.

I finally understand the phrase ‘less is more.’

Having someone who cares about me and my goals and genuinely wants me to feel good has been paramount in achieving the best possible results.

Not only has he been the one telling me what to eat and what to do in the gym, but he has also been a motivator, an advice-giver and most importantly, a listener.

To work alongside someone who will happily lend an ear and do their very best to understand everything that’s going on in my crazy mind has helped more than any dumbbell or diet plan.


7. Enjoying life won’t stop you getting results

Balance. Something I’ve never quite grasped. From being asked to leave gymnastics club aged eight because I just wasn’t very good then going on to be banned from the big slope at Chill Factor due to ‘being a danger to myself and others.’

The struggle continued when I discovered exercise… but this was a different kind of balance.

I wasn’t bailing off the bike or tumbling off the treadmill, but I was working my ass off and completely restricting myself from any sort of happiness in life.

Just 11 weeks ago, a simple task like going out for dinner meant being wracked with guilt and heading straight to the gym as the waiter printed out the receipt.

One of the main reasons I sought out UP was because I was scared – scared to live the rest of my days being dictated by what time I needed to go to the gym, how long I should be there for and what I can/can’t eat.

I was training and trying and training, but doing zero gaining. In fact, I was losing/losing touch with the real reason I started hitting the gym.

Could I have been any further away from the healthy lifestyle I set out to get?

My workouts have been smarter and harder. I have been pushed to my limits, and I’ve never felt better!

During my first week training with James he came out with something that has stuck with me throughout my 12 weeks, no, not “shut up and get on with it,” he hit me with:

“You’ve probably heard of over-training, right? Well, what about under-recovering?”

Well, was that my epiphany or what!? There I go again, abusing my poor body, putting it under so much stress that it was just fighting against everything I was doing just to protect itself. How strangely selfish of me!

The past three months have taught me how to enjoy life without the worry that I’ll undo my hard work or I’ll gain 10 stone if I miss a workout.

The only gaining I’ve done during this new-found life of mine is the best memories and my smile back…and a fantastic booty.

I’ve learned that I don’t need to sweat out every calorie of the day and I only need to train three times a week!

I finally understand the phrase ‘less is more.’

My workouts have been smarter and harder. I have been pushed to my limits, and I’ve never felt better!

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