Leah Raynsford back shots - Bodyblitz winner - PICTURE - Women's Health & Fitness

On overcoming obstacles:
One of the biggest obstacles I faced was not seeing it myself. People would tell me I looked great and how far I had come, but I just couldn't see it. I worked hard in the gym every day and I watched what I ate but the mirror and I were two different stories. So one thing I have had to do is increase my positive self-talk, take photos and compare, and just overall work on telling myself that I am great, I’m awesome. I have been so used to being overweight that I still sometimes see myself that way, so convincing myself that I have done a great job is sometimes hard when you are used to having low self-esteem. I am now on my way to accepting that I am now fit and fabulous and fitter and strong than ever.
On mirrors:
I am now feeling positive when I look in the mirror. I see an energetic and happy person who can take on the world. I try and compliment myself every day and remind myself how far I have come. As I have IBS, sometimes I will have a flare-up and this will leave me bloated and looking like I used to. I have to remind myself this is temporary and that I now have a flat stomach and that I am amazing.
On lifestyle challenges:
I have started to manage my workplace stress and life stresses in general through working out. It’s so true what they say, no one regrets a workout and sometimes it can turn your whole mood around. I hit the gym in the afternoon, I start out with slow, steady cardio and if my mood turns around and I feel energised, I do a bit of HIIT. If I still feel flat or stressed, I continue with the steady cardio, knowing that I will feel proud of my attempt to turn things around.
On social eating:
At work we have a number of functions and morning teas, which can be tempting, but I have started to have an influence on what food we organise for these events. There have been more than a couple of fruit platters these last three months. I also try and be prepared for functions by eating a high-protein meal prior so I am not tempted, making sure to bring my own snacks (if it’s suitable).
On food swaps:
One of my old-time ways of dealing with stress is eating, so now if I feel like indulging, I whip up a chocolate mug cake and enjoy; they are delicious and indulgent while being low in calories and carbs and also contribute to muscle recovery through the high protein content. They’re delicious and really are a guilt free way to manage these harder times.
On fitness wisdom:
Prior to the challenge, I have suffered with back problems. Through weight loss and increasing my fitness I have managed to get this under control. I have learnt the right moves for my body and most importantly I have learnt how to listen to my body. Knowing when I haven’t spent enough time on the stretching mat and foam roller and also when to ease back is very important. I am fitter and stronger than ever and am really proud of what I can do. Not just physically but my self-control and determination have really developed and I feel I can take on any big challenges in the future. I am unstoppable!

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