Body Transformation: Iron Will

Elizabeth set a goal to compete that drove her into a fitness frenzy. She lifted mean, got lean, and proudly took her spot atop the podium!

Name: Elizabeth Stewart
BodySpace: Elizabeth0247

Elizabeth Stewart Elizabeth Stewart
AGE 26
144 lbs
AGE 27
124 lbs

Why I Decided to Transform

I went to college, gained the dreaded "freshman 15," and struggled for years to get my weight under control. I met my husband, Scott, in 2008, and he introduced me to running and triathlons. I thought it would be an easy to get into shape and loose the excess college weight. I was confident that hours of endurance training was what I needed to achieve the physique I saw in fitness magazines. I saw improvements in my fitness level, but not in my body. I considered my diet "clean" and ate 5-6 small meals per day, but didn't realize I was consuming hidden sugars. I had no strict limit on cheat meals.

I got engaged in 2012 and thought wedding planning would provide extra motivation to lose weight and get lean. I added boot camps to my training and lost a few more pounds. Everyone told me I looked great on my wedding day, but I knew I could push harder and that my diet needed to change to see results I wanted.

Fed up with failed attempts, I came across transformation stories on about women who experienced what I had. They had greater obstacles to overcome than I, so I decided it was time to stop making excuses and start holding myself accountable.

On December 30, 2012, I decided to compete in a fitness competition within six months as my New Year's resolution. Unlike triathlons I entered in the past, I wanted this more than any event prior. I knew if I signed up for a competition I would be less likely to stray from my diet and training. I found online nutrition plans from fitness professionals like Jamie Eason and started my journey. After six weeks, I lost five pounds and decided to hire a coach to push me to the next level. I signed up to compete in the bikini division at the "The Natural" Championship within the Natural Muscle Association because it ensured I competed in a drug-free contest.

The training wasn't easy, even as a former triathlete used to several hours of steady-state cardio per day, but I made every workout count. I woke up early before work to get my cardio done then spent evenings after work doing more cardio and/or weight training—My husband was extremely supportive and understood that we couldn't eat out like we used to. I spent lots of time prepping food to support my nutrition plan. Not everyone in my life was supportive or understanding and I received criticism occasionally. It was hurtful, but I never let it get in the way of my end goal. It made me want to persevere.

After months of hard training, I competed in my first bikini competition on June 1, 2013. I took first in the beginner bikini division and second overall. My hard work paid off and I was pleased with how I looked at the show. I can proudly say the journey was one of the most rewarding accomplishments of my life. I discovered I had willpower, strength, and discipline. I'm using my newfound knowledge to fuel a clean, healthy lifestyle.

How I Accomplished My Goals

Having a coach was crucial to my training and provided the support I needed to hold me accountable. He laid out my custom nutrition and training plan with 5-6 clean meals per day. I immediately noticed my previous diet lacked portion control and I consumed too many calories late at night.

My training included six days of HIIT and steady-state cardio per week and 3-4 days of weight training per week. Taking progress pictures once per week provided the motivation I needed to keep going. I saw my body improve every week which helped me indentify areas that needed work.

There were days I thought about quitting, but always focused on small achievements I already made to stay motivated. Nobody told me it would be easy. My coach reassured that I was on track and making solid progress.

What Aspect Challenged Me the Most

The most challenging part of the transformation was the diet when I attended family parties and traveled for business. I always said no to food that I previously would've eaten. By planning ahead and prepping my food in advance, I resisted cravings and it became easier to say no to junk food.

I attended a bridal shower two weeks before my show and brought my own food when there was an entire buffet of food. I got strange stares, but knew I would leave without any regrets. Willpower is a muscle too. The more you use it, the stronger it gets!

Now that I'm out of contest-prep mode, I eat a weekly cheat meal and try to save dessert splurges for holidays, parties, and special occasions. Eating clean 95 percent of the time helps my body physically and contributes to my positive self image.

My Future Fitness Plans

I plan to continue my clean diet and training regimen and will compete again. In the meantime, I'm working on a clean-eating blog to inspire others to make healthy choices and share my love of cooking and training.

Suggestions for Aspiring Transformers
  • Plan ahead. Always pack clean food and snacks to fight hunger and cravings.
  • Set big and small goals along the way.
  • Don't be anyone but yourself.
  • Find balance in your life. Fitness should come after your family, friends, and faith.
How Helped Me Reach My Goals opened my eyes to my true potential. I always look forward to the latest recipes and motivational articles. The app helped me watch my weight and body fat level drop.

Now that my contest is finished, my favorite part of is the Fitness 360 articles where I see how my favorite pros train and eat. I love using this information to enhance my training routines.


I want to thank my husband, Scott, for his constant support, love, and continued inspiration to be the healthiest, fittest version of myself. I want to credit my coach, Joe Christiano, for the help, encouragement, and training support.

A huge thanks goes to my family and friends who provided needed support during the process and continue to motivate me every day.

Photography credit: Cathryn Lahm and April Wilkowski

Elizabeth's Top 5 Gym Tracks

  1. "Can't Hold Us" by Macklemore
  2. "Part Of Me" by Katy Perry
  3. "Glad You Came" by The Wanted
  4. "We Found Love" by Rihanna
  5. "Light Em Up" by Fall Out Boy