In my early-to mid-teen years, I used to model, which meant two things: I swore by cardio, fearing weights would make me “too bulky,” and I had a lot of body-image issues.
My personal modelling experience broke me — it magnified my pre-existing insecurities, making me feel weak and worthless. By the time I was nearing 17, I was tired of hating my body. I felt down all the time and had such an unhealthy relationship with food. I wanted to feel in control of something for once and rebel against the stick-thin standards of the industry.
Everything really changed when I started coming across influencers on Instagram like Tammy Hembrow, who had started off very skinny like me. I saw how lifting transformed her body to make her curvier—and confident. That's what I really wanted: to build confidence and feel strong again.
Because I had never lifted a single weight in my life, I had a huge gym phobia, so I started working out at home doing exercises that involved very light dumbbells, resistance bands, and ankle weights. I purchased Tammy’s beginner program, which involved five to six booty moves that you’d do three times a week for a month, then you'd start a new routine the next month.
It was simple but I felt like I learned a lot of the basics — bridges, barbell squats, dumbbell split squats. I also started exploring other fitness influencers like Gabby Scheyen, Grace Fit, and Linn Lowes and learned new exercises and tips.
Almost instantly, I noticed mental changes. Working out made me feel good and gave me a huge sense of accomplishment. It became my reliable mood-booster.
And three months in, a lot started to change: I noticed my legs had more shape and definition, my glutes were more plump and perky. I went from a pancake booty to finally having a little something — and it was amazing. I was amazed at how much your body can change with hard work, consistency, and patience.
Once I started seeing the physical results, I started to become more confident. Seeing results really hooks you since you're that much closer to reaching your goals.
I decided to get a gym membership so I could lift heavier weights and make use of machines to see more significant growth — and I became truly hooked.
I followed Tammy’s guide for about six months, but after learning the foundations from her and building on that with information from other fitness influencers, now I’m doing my own thing at the gym.
My workouts usually consist of two glute/leg days, an arm/abs day, and a back/shoulders day. Glute days are my favorite — a typical workout might look like: a circuit of activation exercises with donkey kicks with ankle weights, resistance-band glute bridges, and resistance-band clamshells; then leg-cable kickbacks, resistance-band barbell hip thrusts, resistance-band leg press, leg-barbell split squats, Smith machine curtsy lunges, and back extensions.
The only cardio I really do anymore is my cooldown, which is five minutes on the elliptical or stair-master.
The biggest struggle with my fitness journey was getting myself to eat more. When you are trying to grow your muscles, you need to eat a calorie surplus, because food is fuel and necessary for growth. But it was very difficult for me to do this, since I was in the habit of eating very little from my modelling days.
I tackled it one day at a time — I would slowly increase my calorie intake until I could successfully eat the proper amount to help me achieve my goals.
I don't really have a set meal plan now, but I usually eat three meals a day with a protein source, plus a protein shake/smoothie after my workout and BCAAS during my workout. Some of my favourite meals include chicken or beef stir-fry, brown rice pasta with tuna, and quinoa salads. I also love to snack on tortilla chips or carrots with hummus, trail mix, and avocado on toast.
In one year I went from weighing 49kg, eating a 1,200-calorie diet, and being a cardio bunny to 58kg on a 2,300-calorie diet, and weightlifting with pretty much no cardio.
I’m excited to finally have a booty, but that’s really just the plus. My real gain has been confidence and feeling comfortable in my body. Lifting is a never-ending challenge to my physical strength, which makes me feel mentally stronger each day. The only thing I really ask myself today is: "Why didn't I start earlier?!"
SORA’S NUMBER-ONE TIP
Be patient — and persistent. Results will come with time. Everyone's body is different so everyone sees results at different points in their journey. Although it may be frustrating if you aren't seeing progress as soon as you'd like, physical fitness isn't the only thing that's important. Focus on the mental gains, which come a lot faster. If you can go from feeling down to happy, or from lazy to feeling energized just from working out, I'd say that's some pretty awesome progress too!
Follow Sora’s fitness journey @soradavidson.
As told to Rachael Schultz. This article originally appeared on Women's Health US.