Body Transformation: Lyss Remaly

It’s time for another body transformation interview!  I’ve had the privilege of talking with Lyss Remaly.  This incredible woman went from weight over 350 lb. to winning 1st place in a bodybuilding competition.  She’s also the first person I’ve interviewed who used bariatric surgery to help her reach her goals.
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MuscleReview: Lyss I’d first like to thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Please start things off by just telling us a little about yourself (where you live, family, occupation, etc.).

Lyss:  I currently live in Scottsdale, Arizona. I am originally from Chicago, Illinois and made the move out here a few weeks ago for a new work adventure. I am the Senior Catering and Event Manager for Hilton Worldwide so I get to plan weddings and big parties! It’s a blast!

My amazing family is in Chicago. I’ve lived with them my whole life.  Now that I’m on my own I find I’m naked a lot more than I used to be around the house!

MuscleReview: Based on the pictures I’ve seen you once weighed 350 lbs. Did you always struggle with your weight (since childhood) or was it a problem that developed later in your life?

Lyss: I was ALWAYS fat. When you’re a newborn and look like you have rubber bands on your arms and legs it’s cute.  But when you’re 18 and look like that…not so cute!

MuscleReview: What was the turning point for you? What made you decide to begin your body transformation journey?

Lyss: I had what I call my “click moment” when I was 21 (December 11th, 2010). I was getting on an airplane from Las Vegas where I went to college to New York (I was auditioning for an off-broadway play).  I literally could not fit into the airplane seat.  The airline made me buy the seat next to mine just so I could fit. To make matters even WORSE, I had to be given an extender for the seat belt because it didn’t fit.

I was a crying mess and decided then and there that I HAD to change. I had a whole life in front of me that I was sabotaging. I couldn’t even put on my own bra or walk up a flight of stairs.  Everything just clicked in my mind.

MuscleReview: You began with the help of bariatric surgery. I believe you are the first person I’ve interviewed that took this route (which makes me even more thankful to talk with you). What was that experience like? What advice would you give to those who are considering surgical intervention for their obesity?

Lyss: This can be a sensitive topic for some because some people are ignorant and just don’t understand the process.  Bariatric surgery is exactly what you said…help. It’s not a quick fix, a magic pill or even the be-all end-all to successful weight loss.

Yes, the surgery gave me a violent shove in the right direction.  But 5 months after surgery I had only lost 20 pounds.  I realized that while I was eating far less, I was still eating the same crap foods that got me into that condition to begin with.

That was when I had my second “click moment” and realized that the food wasn’t the problem.   It was just a symptom of the problem and it was up to me to really figure out what the problem was. THAT was when the real weight loss journey and transformation began because I had to work out my food demons.  I had to come to grips with the the “why’s” of what I was doing and fix the bad habits that I had formed over 21 years of life.

MuscleReview: Not everyone who does weight loss surgery gets into intense, bodybuilding style training. What made you decide to do it?

Lyss: I have always been strong. My dad was built like a brick outhouse and passed those genetics to me and my little brother (thanks daddy-o). I HATE cardio: I always say that I’ll only run if I’m being chased, and even then I would try to negotiate!

I walked into a gym after I had my second “click moment” and literally went from machine to machine, figuring out how it worked, what muscles it worked, and seeing how much weight I could move.  I FELL IN LOVE! I talked to all the “meat-heads” for advice, read everything I could get my hands on, and bought myself the Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding.  My life was totally changed!

When I got to my goal weight of 150 pounds in 2012 I looked at myself and said… “Okay…that was a fun challenge…what’s next? I’m going to compete in bodybuilding.” There it was. I put it in my mind and I didn’t stop.

MuscleReview: Did you experience any plateaus in your fat loss? How did you overcome them?

Lyss: Of course. Unfortunately, that’s the nature of the beast when training for anything I think. I had to keep pushing, keep consistent, and find other ways to track my progress. Some weeks my strength or endurance improved or my clothes fit better even though I didn’t see the numbers on the scale go down.  It was helpful to celebrate improvements in other aspects of fitness.

MuscleReview: What does your typical week like in terms of training and diet?

Lyss: I train 6 days a week and take one day of active rest.  I work out using a body part split and on the active rest day I might swim or go for a long walk or hit the stair climber. I do some form of cardio every day since my job is pretty sedentary. I keep my diet very low carb and high protein. I follow a paleo type lifestyle where I have cut out all artificial sweeteners.  I make my own condiments and spices and really focus on good quality fuel.

MuscleReview: What was it like for you to compete in a show?

Lyss: It was literally the GREATEST moment of my life. I loved every single minute of the process–from day ONE of prep to the moment I walked off that stage with a 1st place trophy in my hands.

MuscleReview: What’s next for you?

Lyss: I will be competing again in 2016 in August at the WBFF worlds in their transformation division. I may do a show before then here in Arizona since a year seems like a LIFETIME away! I am also focusing on finishing my book that I am writing about my entire journey. I’ve been working on it for two years and I’m DETERMINED to finish it by fall.

MuscleReview: Is there anything I haven’t covered that you’d like to say/share?

Lyss: I just want to take a second to thank you for the opportunity to share my story. It means more to me than you know to have the chance to share my journey with others. I promise…regular people are capable of doing incredible things…you just have to trust yourself, your body and be your own motivation.

MuscleReview: Thanks again for taking the time to do this interview!

Note:  You can check out Lyss’ blog here: From Bariatrics to Bodybuilding (FitnFabuLyss.com).

Body Transformation: Amanda “MandaFit” Olsen

It’s time for another body transformation interview!  A few days ago I ran across the Facebook profile of Amanda “MandaFit” Olsen.  I contacted her, and she agreed to take time out of her very busy schedule to do an interview.

Amanda struggled with her weight from childhood into her young adult life.  But she became an unstoppable force once she set her mind to losing weight and changing her lifestyle.  Manda transformed from a softbody into an elite soldier–one who has the highest physical training scores in her unit!

Check out this interview and be inspired!

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MuscleReview: Why don’t you tell my readers a little bit about yourself (age, where you live, your profession, etc).

Manda: My name is Manda Olsen, 27 and will be a very wise 28 in November. I currently reside in Orange City, Florida–a small city east of Downtown Orlando. I am the owner of a small Personal Training business and studio gym called Mandatory Fitness, LLC. I started my fitness career after being approached many times in the gyms and asked if I were a personal trainer, or what my diet consisted of. I always considered working as a personal trainer and coach but never thought I had what it took or confidence in myself knowing my flaws.

MuscleReview: Let’s talk about your “before” body. What was your heaviest weight? What got you to that point (were you always overweight or did you gain a lot of weight as an adult)?

Manda: I grew up not knowing a thing about nutrition or how to properly train in order to start seeing the results. I had ALWAYS been overweight growing as a kid and into my teenage years.

Being overweight really takes a toll on everything.  My relationships with my family suffered, and I also felt ugly and uncomfortable all the time. I felt silly working out and  I clung to anyone who showed me attention whether it was with good or bad intentions. That resulted in even worse relationships and friendships that stirred me in the wrong direction. I began going out every night, drinking and partying.  I wasn’t taking care of my health or body.

I always made time to run about 2-3 miles a couple of times a week and thought that was enough (now I realize it wasn’t). So one day I think I had just had enough of being uncomfortable in my own skin. I knew what I had to do if I wanted to reach my goals of being “fit.” I stopped drinking and smoking and made it a priority to wake up at 5am and hit the gym. I didn’t know exactly what I was doing but because I was there, I felt accountable to make a change.

I’ve lost a lot of “friends” along the way because they weren’t into my new lifestyle. But I gained self motivated and positive friendships and they’ve taught me everything I know today!

My heaviest weight was 240lbs and a size 18 pants. I didn’t own shorts till I was 21 and never once went to the beach or the pool with my friends. Changing my lifestyle and prioritizing my life has allowed me to create my own happiness, find out who I really am and my capabilities. I am now 138 and in a size 3. It is still a struggle everyday because I spent 20+ years eating whatever I wanted and my metabolism still needs work. It is something I will be working on for the rest of my life because to me, success is never final.

MuscleReview: What was the “breaking point” for you—what motivated you to transform your physique?

Manda: I’d say my breaking point was not EVER feeling comfortable. I am 5’3 and at my heaviest, it took my breath away to tie my shoes.  I knew I was an attractive girl but I didn’t feel like it on the inside.  I had no confidence.

MuscleReview: How long did your transformation take?

Manda: It took me 3-4 years to drop down to the 140’s. Like I said, it’s still an everyday struggle.  But once you see the results, it almost becomes an addiction to be better everyday. It’s an amazing feeling to look back at where you’ve come from and see what is really possible when you put your mind to it.  It has been a learning process of putting in the work day in and day out.  I’ve been drawn to more motivating and inspirational people with goals and they have taught me a lot.  Now I want to teach and share it what I’ve learned.
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MuscleReview: Did you ever hit any plateaus in losing body fat? How did you get through them?

Manda: There were times I felt uncomfortable being “thinner” and it was like an out-of- body experience when my clothes that I had been wearing for so long no longer fit me. All I had known was an overweight body. I was tempted to think I could afford to gain some of the weight back and just lose it again.  This caused setbacks and plateaus but I just turned them into comebacks.

I also learned a lot about training through trial and error.  I started out doing 2-3 hours of cardio a day.  That’s how I lost my first 15-20 lb, but then I hit a plateau.  I eventually realized the importance of lifting weights. I was introduced to weight training and bodybuilding by a good friend and mentor, Joey Diaz.  I developed a new passion for the gym and training and now I understand why women should lift weights.

MuscleReview: How has your new body affected your confidence?

Manda: I have so much more confidence now that people see me as a fitness enthusiast. I don’t look at my business as my job, but as my passion. I get to motivate and help push other people to reach their goals because I know it’s possible. People are always asking me  where I work out or when I’ll be competing. It feels good to be able to share my story with confidence and not be ashamed.

MuscleReview: Please give us a general description of your diet and training (how you typically eat and train—number of training days per week, resistance vs cardio, etc).

Manda: My days are GO-GO-GO from 5am-9:30pm. I don’t stop and I’d have it no other way. I wake up a 4:50am pretty much every day–either to do morning cardio or to train a client. I then eat breakfast no later then 7:30. My meals will remain on regimen every 3 hours until my last HumaPro shake at 9:00pm. I weight train 5-6 times a week, depending how busy my work schedule is or how sore I am. I make it a point to sweat EVERY DAY, therefore I run at least 4-5 miles, 7 days a week. My lifting schedule is split up into muscle groups allowing my body to heal properly and go even harder the following week.

As far as my diet, it’s clean 95% of the time. I stay pretty consistent with my meals and prepare them ahead of time every Sunday. I stay anabolic by eating my 1g of protein per pound of body weight daily and eating every 3 hours. If I am busy and cannot eat a meal, then I will supplement with a protein shake or BCAA’s. I ‘cheat’ every Saturday or Sunday, but my ‘cheats’ are not really cheats. I can’t get myself to gorge on food that I know will make me feel like garbage the rest of the day so I opt for sushi or I will eat high carbohydrates.

MuscleReview: Are you involved in any fitness competitions?

Manda: Currently I have not competed and it’s the number one question I am always asked. I have intentions to get up on the stage and I know it will happen eventually. But for now my main focus is my career and my clients. I have had the privilege of working and training a pro figure and other aspiring competitors, so I do know what it takes and I will gladly accept that challenge when the timing is right.

MuscleReview: What made you decide to get involved in personal training?

Manda: I decided to get involved with Personal Training in 2013 when I chose to surround myself with only inspiring, self-motivated people.  I noticed how many people looked up to me and believed in me.  Once I completed basic training for the Army I knew anything was possible, and this gave me that last bit of confidence needed to become a personal trainer.

MuscleReview: I did notice that you are in the military—God bless you for your service to our country!  What motivated you to join the armed forces? What role does fitness play in your life as a soldier?

Manda: I joined the US Army in Feb 2013. It’s an incredible feeling to know I’m part of an unbreakable force and have done something not everyone can do–earn the privilege of wearing the uniform. Being a soldier is a lifestyle even when you aren’t in uniform. I understand I have values and standards to live by and I’m now inspired to pass them on. I currently hold the highest physical training (PT) scores in my reserve unit and will be attending Master trainer school in the future to be able to instruct PT for my unit. I also have been asked to stand in front of my company and give a Nutritional class and hopefully raise our PT scores as a unit. It’s quite an honor!

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MuscleReview: What do you say to new trainees who are just starting their transformations?

Manda: Don’t stop. Be the force to inspire other people. You will get so much more than what you put into it. Don’t throw in the towel, just use it to wipe the sweat off your face.

MuscleReview: Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview!

Please check out Mandatory Fitness if you are looking for a personal trainer in the Orange City/Orlando area.

Body Transformation: Sara Gentry

I came across another remarkable transformation a few days ago.  The before/after picture below belongs to Sara Gentry, a personal trainer from Arizona.  She has graciously agreed to share her story with us, so here goes:

Sara Gentry (Before/After)
Sara Gentry (Before/After)

MuscleReview: Sara thanks you for taking the time to do this interview. Why don’t you tell my readers a little bit about yourself (education, work, etc.).

Sara: I currently work for Anytime Fitness as one of their Certified Personal Trainers, something I had wanted to become since about 6 months into my journey.

MuscleReview: Let’s talk about the “before” version of you. Did you always have weight issues (since childhood) or did you gain weight after you became an adult?

Sara: I had always been a bigger girl–I gained and lost here and there throughout my adult life.  It wasn’t until my last child that I became heavier than ever.   It lasted about two years before I finally said, “enough is enough.”

MuscleReview: What was the breaking point for you? What made you decide it was time to change your lifestyle and body?

Sara: The breaking point for me was the day I got married.  That day that was supposed to be the happiest day of my life, but instead I was miserable. I hated myself; I hated how I looked and couldn’t believe that I had let myself go so far. I didn’t like my wedding photos and told my husband, “just wait, one day we are going to have good pictures.” It’s been nearly three years since we were married and I’m hoping we can take some new pictures on our three-year anniversary.

MuscleReview: How much weight have you lost overall (you can also include measurements such as body composition if you want)?

Sara: I have lost a total of 103 lbs. I went from a size 28 jeans to a size 4/5. I never really went by other measurements during this journey, but plan to start using them for other purposes such as upcoming physique competitions.

MuscleReview: I noticed the before/after picture shows about a three-year span. How long did your transformation take? Where you tempted to give up?

Sara: It took 16 months for me to lose 103 lbs.  I maintained that loss for a year, then decided to study to be a Certified Personal Trainer. I received my certification this year in January.  Back in August (2013) I also decided that I wanted to try competing in a physique competition.   I started preparing and took the stage in March 15, 2014, where I won 4th place. What an awesome experience that was for me!

MuscleReview: Was there a particular dietary method you found to be most helpful (or the easiest to follow)?

Sara: I never followed a “diet”, I counted calories in the beginning for an entire year, then kind of knew how much I could eat and went off on my own. Once I started training for the competition, I had to start counting macro-nutrients.  This was much harder to learn than just regular calories. There is so much more to learn, every day learning something new about nutrition.

MuscleReview: What advice would you give to someone who wants to make a transformation like yours?

Sara: I would tell them to not give up!  I have found that the key to staying motivated is just doing it, over and over. Make yourself do it until it becomes habit. People around you can inspire you, but motivation has to come from within–you have to want this. You have to want it bad!  It’s going to suck at times and you will hate it, but do not let that stop you.

MuscleReview I see you are a personal trainer. Would you ever have imagined this before your transformation years ago?

Sara: The thought never crossed my mind. I actually wanted to be a chiropractor for a very long time. I absolutely LOVE helping people achieve their fitness goals and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else in this life.

MuscleReview: Do you plan to continue competing (fitness competitions)?

Sara: Yes, I did the NPC Natural Outlaw in Arizona on March 15, 2014. It was the most amazing experience to date and I plan on doing another in about a year.

MuscleReview: Please tell my readers about your diet and exercise regimen (in very general terms).

Sara: Currently I eat around 1800 calories a day, still counting macros:  protein, carbs and fats are the main things I count.   I also eat a ton of veggies and fruit. I weight train 6 days a week and do some type of cardio 6 days a week as well (kickboxing, HIITS, biking, hiking, walking, running, or the elliptical).

MuscleReview: What’s next for you?

Sara: My next goal is to do another competition in a year. I want to learn more about nutrition in the next year and step it up at the next competition. I would also like to get certified in cardio kickboxing and take a few nutrition classes.  Other than that, I will keep training at Anytime Fitness and keep moving forward.

MuscleReview: Is there anything else you’d like to say/share?

Sara: There are going to be many people who will belittle you and tell you that you can’t do this, that this is impossible. Do not listen to them. It is possible. It is very possible. There will be plenty of haters along the way, let them hate while you rise above!

MuscleReview: Thanks again for your time!

SaraGentryBodyTransformationNote: You can visit Sara’s Facebook Page: Gentry Reality Fitness if you’d like to follow her or inquire about personal training.