Meet Bronwyn (AKA Athena): Rebel, powerlifter, and mother of two (four and six years old).
Bronwyn’s story starts at a familiar place for many Rebels: Stuck in an unhealthy, sedentary routine, struggling to enact permanent changes.
“Breakfast was usually some toast with freenut butter (sunflower seed butter), or maybe a couple of cookies grabbed on the way out the door because, “I didn’t have time to make something healthy”.
After doing a lot of walking, I’d often treat myself to an ice-cream or a mini tiramisu “because I deserve it” And maybe another one. And another.
Today (as evidenced by this badass video), Bronwyn has joined the ranks of Rebel Superheroes, with a robust workout routine and a meticulously tracked healthy diet (losing over 40 lb/18kg), she has become a true hero for her entire family to look up to. Let’s find out how she did it.
Bronwyn finds the Beginner Body Weight Workout
Bronwyn started 2012 with a commitment to get healthy. Starting from a sedentary lifestyle, she decided to start walking – a lot (at least two hours a day.)
She lost some weight, but she gained it back quickly:
“The extra cardio made me hungry, and I also felt like I ‘deserved’ an ice cream. Or two.”
“I was so sure I couldn’t afford to go to the gym, and had no time to do so anyway. Turns out I could, I just had to want it enough. I think the Beginner Bodyweight Workout was really helpful for kicking in the butt my plaintive whine that I didn’t have time or money to exercise.
To start out, I began with the Beginner Bodyweight Workout, which I could do at home at night after the kids had gone to bed. I did that 3 times a week. The accountability of reporting in on my progress in NF’s 6 week challenge threads really helped me stay on target, especially in the first couple of months when I was getting started.”
What’s was your diet strategy? Healthy eating? Paleo?
“My diet is like the forbidden love child of Paleo and Weight Watchers. I count my “points” every day, which is basically calorie counting with an anti-fat, anti-sugar, pro-fibre bias. I have a limited amount of sugary foods I can have each week, so I have a small rationed amount of sweet treats daily, like tea with a tsp of sugar, a cookie, or a dozen jellybeans.
It helps me stay on track with my diet, because I’m not tempted to binge on “forbidden” foods, I can have them if I want them enough. My carb intake is pretty limited (maybe one slice of toast or a potato daily), and I eat a lot of vegies, meat and eggs. I also have dairy very rarely, as my son’s anaphylactic to cow’s milk (and nuts, too), so we don’t keep it in the house as a rule.”
No longer a handful of cookies on your way out?
“Breakfast is likely to be a couple of pieces of shortcut bacon and some vegies (mushrooms, onion, and zucchini, fried up with a 1/2 tsp of olive oil). Lunch has often been a big bowl of baked cubed vegies and bacon, or a meat and salad sandwich. Dinners have always been pretty good, meat and three vegetables but now have less fatty food like chicken nuggets, and more lean meat (plus a massive pile of veggies). I still snack on cookies and sweets, but it’s a carefully rationed indulgence, like one cookie a day, not half a packet.
I have three tips that work well to help keep me on track:
1. I have standby emergency meal supplies, for when I’m too tired/busy/stressed to cook. Snacks like beef jerky or fruit are great to grab quickly on my way out the door. Tins of baked beans, tuna and soup in the cupboard, and fish fingers in the freezer, for when I’m too tired to cook or forgot to defrost something. You’ve got to plan ahead, if you’re the type of person that will resort to junk food when you’re tired or busy.
2. I track my food every single day. I have a spreadsheet printed out that I keep on the fridge, and every time I eat something, I write down the “points” for it.
3. I don’t let one mistake snowball into more. There have been a few days where I’ve eaten too much for a whole day, let alone a single meal. If I slip up, I write down an asterisk on my chart for that meal, and I get back to eating healthy *the very next meal*. The problem with diets failing is not one slip up. It’s when one mistake is used as an excuse to eat rubbish for the rest of the day. Or week. Or month.”
What kind of support system did you have? Friends and family? NF Community Boards? Nobody?
“My husband was supportive of changing our diet, and he’s lost 22kg (48lb) just from dieting along with me these past 6 months (with more slip ups than me, and not a lick of exercise). Diet really is 80% of weight loss. My kids were initially whiny, but have adjusted to the changed diet, and to see them embrace more exercise has been really great. My daughter said to me one day, “When I grow up, I want to be fit like *you*, Mummy.”
The NF community boards have been a massive support to me and I’ve really loved participating in the 6 week challenges. It’s great to be encouraged along, and to be able to offer support to others. My RPG gaming group has also been supportive, and we’ve all stopped putting out bowls of junk food.”
Have you tried and failed to get healthy before in the past? What made this time different?
“Sure, I’ve yo-yoed a bit like most women do. The biggest difference has definitely been incorporating strength building exercises, and also that when I’ve reached “good enough”, when most of my old clothes fit again, I didn’t quit and let old habits slide back in. Having a community of supportive nerds encouraging each other to keep trying, keep improving every day, has definitely made a big difference for me. “
Bronwyn begins strength training
Wow, you had some great results in those first few months. Love that you kept moving forward and leveling up. So what did your new routine look like?
“After a couple of months, with some weight loss and growing strength and confidence, I started barbell training, which I really enjoy.
- I do a “Starting Strength” style workout. My workout currently includes the (for sets of 5 reps): squat, bench press, deadlift, power clean, and overhead press. My squat has moved from 65 lbs to 175lbs (30kg – 80kg), and my deadlift has improved from 65lbs to 209lbs (30kg – 95kg).
- After last challenge where I focused on training sit-ups for six weeks, I went from being able to do none, to being able to do 91 military-standard sit-ups in a row.
- In May I couldn’t do a single chin-up. Now I can do 14 in a row, or 2 reps with 17.6kg of koala-daughter.“
What kind of results did you see after making the dive into full strength training?
“In clothing sizes, I’ve gone from an Australian size 14-16 to a size 8-10 (US 10-12 to 4-6). It is *so weird* that some of my newly purchased size 10 (US 6) clothes that I bought only a month or two ago are now a little too lose.
A lot of women seem to worry about looking too muscular, and just want to look “toned”. I *want* to look muscular. What you see is the result of me doing my best for 7 months to get as strong as possible, while simultaneously trying to make fat loss my primary goal. Though, unless I’m flexing, you don’t see any muscle. All I get is compliments on how much better, thinner and younger I look.”
Your weighted daughter chin ups sound awesome (and hilarious) – do you do most of your workouts at a gym? Do you occasionally work out at home?
“I used to do all my workouts at home for the first couple of months of my journey (three times a week), then gradually eased into barbell training (once, then twice a week). I still do a bodyweight workout once a week, plus regular training on a chin-up bar that hangs in my kitchen doorway. For about $10 it’s my absolute best investment in equipment for fitness that I’ve made.”
What was the toughest change for you to make?
“The toughest part is getting started in the first place. I didn’t want to give up my tiramisu snacks, nor my lunch of an entire packet of bacon with some ice cream for dessert. Cooking for the family was hard enough already with my son’s food allergies (dairy and nuts), and two picky young kids to feed. I didn’t want to exercise more; I was so tired already, I had no time for more, and besides, I have asthma. The biggest battle was running through my excuses not to start, and telling myself that they were rubbish excuses, and that if I wanted it badly enough, I’d find ways to get fit anyway.”
I weighed myself weekly before breakfast, and took body measurements monthly (waist, hips, thigh, forearm, upper arm, wrist). I also take monthly progress photos, clothed and in my underwear.
“Start today. Not Monday. Not once you’ve researched diet options some more. Not after Christmas. Christmas is only one day. Even if you’re planning to pig out on turkey and pudding, you can eat healthy up until then, have your day of indulgence, then get back to it. And if you’re not ready for living on salad and lifting weights, that’s OK. Pick somewhere small and easy to start – cut out junk food, or soda. Start walking or stretching. Every tiny step forward brings you closer to your goals.”
What’s next for you?
Your physical appearance has changed…what else has changed about you?
“I’ve never gone to the gym this often in my life! I haven’t been this strong and fit since my late teens. I’m wearing tight clothes again without feeling ashamed and embarrassed about my appearance.”
All right, on to the important stuff: Star Wars or Lord of the Rings?
“Star Wars – original trilogy only. And Han shot first.”
Do you have any nerdy passions or pursuits?
“I play a superhero roleplaying game with friends every Sunday, we do occasional playtests for 5th ed D&D, and I read a lot of fantasy and fanfics.”
Quote to live by?
“I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it for I shall not pass this way again.” – Stephen Grellet
Tell us something interesting about you!
“I gave birth to both my children at home, in planned homebirths with a midwife in attendance.”
Why Bronwyn was successful
She wasn’t afraid to dive into strength training – When lots of cardio didn’t work, Bronwyn wasn’t afraid to dive into the Beginner Body Weight Workout. When that became too easy, she understood rule #2, that she joined for life, and a little bit of success wasn’t good enough. She was dedicated to leveling up, always moving forward. She began barbell strength training by following “Starting Strength,” and made some incredible progress towards her level 50. If you want more beginner strength routines to follow, check out the Rebel Strength Guide, which has routines for body weight only, dumbbells, and barbells.
Support – If you’re a part of the NF Community, chances are you know Athena. She has been extremely active and an important part of the community over the last eight months. In addition to immersing herself in our Rebel community, she brought her family on board, passing on the benefits of health and fitness to them, and in returning building rock solid support systems at every turn.
Consistent Tracking – As you can tell from the many progress photos, Bronwyn was remarkably consistent in taking photos and measurements. She didn’t suck in her gut to make herself feel good after a workout or two, but understood that consistent hard work pays off. She remained committed to a plan, day after day, and was able to make small adjustments from her progress data.
Purpose – Bronwyn has truly become a force for positive change in her household. Not only has her husband lost a ton of weight from simply getting on board with her new healthy diet, but she has inspired her children to become fit “like her.”
Questions for Bronwyn?
If a mother of two can find time to reform her diet (not to mention the whole family’s), end her sedentary lifestyle, and begin powerlifting competitively, you can too!
Remember, it’s not what you say is a priority, but what you DO that’s a priority.
If you have a question for Bronwyn, leave a comment and she’ll answer ya!
Now go pick up something heavy
PS – Have a great Nerd Fitness success story and the pictures to prove? Share it with us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can share your epic heroism with the half a million visitors that visit Nerd Fitness each month!