Meet Athena: The Goddess Who Lost 40 Pounds

Athena Super HeroMeet 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

Athena - May to August

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.”

Then, after googling, “how to do a chin up,” Bronwyn found Nerd Fitness (in May) and began the Beginner Body Weight Workout.

“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

Athena Deadlift

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’m very proud of how I’m doing after only 4 months lifting. I got the enthusiasm to start earlier than planned after being invited to go and watch an amateur powerlifting competition that another NF nerd (“Shiggles”) was competing in. Watching other women give it a go, even those who were new to it, made me keen to try that too!
  • 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.”

Athena Rises

Athena Final Before and After

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. T

he 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.”

How did you track your progress? How often did you weigh yourself?  Did you take any other measurements?  

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.

What would you tell somebody in your situation right now to help them? Somebody who’s tried and failed but ready to try again?

“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?  

“Powerlifting competitions!”

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

Why Bronwyn was successful

Athena Progress Pictures May through December

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 Nerd Fitness Academy, which has routines for body weight only, dumbbells, and barbells.

Athena - Biceps Nov

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?

Athena at Olympus

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 so we can share your epic heroism with the half a million visitors that visit Nerd Fitness each month!


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93 thoughts on “Meet Athena: The Goddess Who Lost 40 Pounds

  1. inspiring story indeed. I wish I could DL that much!

    I’m I guess it’s time I cut down on my cardio and up my weights. Been exercising (lifting and a lot of cardio) and dieting since the end of March, so far I’ve lost 107.4 (not bad for 9 months :P) but I think my progress from here on will be better if I concentrated on building more muscle.

    The thing is I kinda wanted to try a 5K and eventually the Great Aloha Run when I visit Hawaii again. So I need to find a balance in training for that and building up my strength.

  2. WOW, Athena you’re incredible! I’ve never seen someone make such drastic improvements in such short of a time. Look at you, not even a full year and not only are you in-shape, you’re built! An inspiration in the truest sense.

  3. This article is coming at a perfect time for me. I’d been tracking my food “just for a week” so I could make adjustments if I needed to, but this helps me understand that part of why I’ve been successful for a couple weeks is *because* I’ve been tracking. It’s good to understand that tracking my food is a way of keeping myself accountable (since I don’t have anyone), and that if I want to succeed I need to see the cold truth of what I’m doing.
    Thank you!

  4. Good work! The consistent progress photos were definitely a good idea. I might have to take that up myself! Sometimes I feel like I haven’t come very far, but even when I’m looking at something as unreliable as the scale, progress has definitely happened.

  5. And I thought all of your help and tips on the forums were something. Your story is awesome and completely motivating and inspiring! 🙂

  6. I’m glad to see you living up to your name Athena goddess of wisdom and war, those who take up that name are transformed into living breathing embodiments of Athena.

  7. This is so awesome and inspiring. Goes to show you there is no magic pill or diet that will curb unhealthy habits. But lots of hard work and discipline will! Congrats Athena!

  8. This is so cool! Congrats to you, Athena on your dedication and perserverence. You make this 55 year-old feel like it’s time to stop putting things off and get my self in gear.

  9. Athena, you are an inspiration. I’m showing this article to my mom. If I was motivated this week to change once and for all, now I’m doubly so. Hope you don’t mind, but you just became my role model!

  10. Hi Athena – WOW! I have 2 Questions…

    I’ve been Nerd-fitnessing for about 1 month and here are my questions:

    1. My Diet: I’ve been quasi-Paleo-ing for a few months. My Carb (2 slices of Toast) intake is just during breakfast and I stick to fish, chicken and meat with Veges pretty much daily. I cheat x1 per week with a beer and small serving of pasta. I am not seeing much results yet. Can you dive more deeply into your daily diet than what was mentioned in the Article?

    2. Your deadlift and Squat #’s are incredible. In the month that I’ve been lifting my Squats are ~110lbs and Deadlifts yesterday was ~180lbs as my current max. Can you share advice on how you trainined to those high weights?

    thank you,

  11. I went in a powerlifting competition last Saturday, and good as my lifts were (80kg squat, 37.5kg bench, 95kg deadlift), I still got beaten on all of them by a 51 year old woman! So you see it’s never too late to get fit. Go for it!

  12. I follow the Weight Watchers system that was in use about 10 years ago (that’s what I have the cookbooks for, and the “points” values memorised). It’s basically a form of calorie counting, with low fat and high fibre foods given better ratings. Sugar and all sugary foods (inc. honey, maple syrup etc), and alcohol, are strictly limited, to 2 “points” a day, which is like 1 cookie, 20g plain chocolate, 2 tbsp jam, or a homemade mini muffin. I track *everything*.
    I’m not a paleo expert by any means, but if you’re not seeing results, I’d advise looking at areas like reducing nut consumption, cutting out honey/maple syrup, and cooking with less fat. Vegies should be multiple times a day, on any diet, so consider increasing them to 4-5 serves a day.

  13. Well done on your weight loss, that’s fantastic!
    The top photo in the article (where I’m dressed as Ms. Marvel, with my daughter as Songbird) is me going in my first ever 5K (it had a superhero theme). I’d only been dieting and exercising for a few weeks, but went for it anyway. I walked most of the distance, but was so glad I just got in it and gave it a go! Find a family friendly 5K if you’re worried about not being up for running the whole distance.

  14. Lots of people IRL have asked “how did you do it?”. The answer is kind of anticlimatic for them; diet and exercise. It’s not a secret. It just takes persistence.

  15. Thank you so much everyone for your kind words! I’m super excited to see my success story up in lights! I’m so proud to be able to show off my progress, and help motivate others to get fit!

  16. It’s hilarious and awesome how many people, like myself, found this site by googling how to do a chinup.

  17. I LOVE hearing about lifting women!! 🙂 Amazing progress; amazing journey; amazing everything!!! Love your biceps.. I don’t want to say they look great because they got smaller, but you have so much more definition.
    Congrats, lady!!!

  18. Australian nerds. Are the best. Any questions, ladies and gentlemen?


  19. Wicked inspiring. GO ATHENA.

    I think I found this site by googling “how to do parkour,” but I’m pretty sure I decided to stick around after finding it again through “how to do a chin-up.” On the road to that goal myself. I look forward to the day when I can do one with the 33-pound barnacle attached.

  20. I would say that my upper arms got smaller, but the bicep muscle itself gained a little size. I think they look much better without that thicker layer of fat concealing the definition! It’s hard to gain muscle and lose weight at the same time, but I think I did gain a little muscle, here and there.

  21. I’m in Brisbane. I’m mostly self-taught with lifts, from the “Starting Strength” book. I’ve had a couple of personal training sessions, by far the best was at PTC Brisbane. There’s PTC (Performance Training Centre) gyms in multiple states, so check out your local one in Sydney, if you’re after a strength-focused gym.

  22. Oh, sorry, missed your other question. I follow the “Starting Strength” lifting program by Rippetoe, and lift twice a week, and do bodyweight exercises for a third strength focused workout for the week. A warmup with increasing weights, then high weights for sets of 5.

  23. Thanks for replying and for your kind words :D! Yeah I’m going to try The Color Run in March, which seems quite relaxed. But I also want to push myself and see what kind of time I can get either there or at another 5K. I can get about 2 miles in 23ish minutes right now non-stop. I think I just need to continue jogging on my off days, and cut out my post lifting 30 minutes on the eliptical because I know that’s eating away at my strength gains.

  24. Congratulations!  Great results and it’s always good to see women who aren’t afraid to move beyond the cardio equipment and start lifting weights!

  25. sooo great to see a positive female role model, thanks for sharing. Also thanks for there only being POSITIVE comments, makes such a difference 

  26. I already suspected your awesomeness from the forums… now I know its totally true! Very inspiring!

    And you just raised the bar for me. I really want to be able to do pull-ups or chin-ups. Hadn’t considered doing them with my daughters hanging on. I am sure they’d love that! They already love climbing on for a ride whenever I am doing push ups. 🙂

    Well done! 

  27. Thanks! My kids like to join in when they can, though I don’t always appreciate it! For a while, my daughter thought my inspirational motto (for my sig) should be: “Don’t climb on Mummy’s back when she’s exercising”.

    As well as being chin-up weights, small kids can help out by sitting on your feet while you do sit-ups (poke their back to make them giggle, at the top of the sit-up), and for various exercises, counting reps in your set. If you can get them to lie still and straight, you can also lie on the ground and bench press them up. 🙂 They also love to copy! I have some tiny pink dumbbells (the 0.5kg/1lb ones they use for stuff like aerobics) for the kids to play with.

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  29. Incredible! We also have the same nickname 😛 (Athena is my favorite mythological character). I’m planning to lose 55 pounds this year and you have been a great inspiration! 😀

  30. Just came across this entry – absolutely fantastic and motivating! I will start today!!!

  31. Hey I’m from newyork and I’m trying to lose 40 pounds,and yesterday my boyfriend brought me a scale 🙁 how can get started?

  32. Well Done Bronwyn!! Really enjoyed lifting in the same comp as you in December. Looks like you’re getting stronger and stronger as the days go by! Hope to see you at another comp this year

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