Snack stuff-up behind new bikini body
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Going to the gym was never about looking a certain way or losing a certain amount of weight for Anjuli Mack.
It was about feeling stronger, healthier and managing her stress levels at university.
She knew that if she wanted to lead a life reflective of her new goals, she needed to ditch her binge eating habits and focus on educating herself around nutrition.
The New Zealand fitness coach began her transformation eight years ago when she stumbled across a gym poster while studying accounting. She signed up and started her journey lifting weights - but even then she said she had "no idea" what she was doing.
"I thought that because I was training hard, I could eat whatever I wanted but unfortunately it doesn't quite work like that," Ms Mack told news.com.au
"Because of this thought process, I ended up gaining fat which hid the muscle."
She had a "university style diet" of hall foods and study snacks and slowly began to
feel like she wasn't progressing.
"I didn't have a lean core as seen on fitness magazines - not that it was about that when I started - but if you're going to the gym five-to-six times a week, it is natural to wonder why you don't have abs or a lean body like you see online and in movies."
It was during this time the 26-year-old heard fellow uni students question why she "doesn't even have abs" despite going to the gym "all the time".
This led her on a path of trying "quick fix type fad diets" including buying a detox tea.
"Words can really hurt you. I remember taking progress photos in the mirror with my phone hiding my face because I was embarrassed," she said.
However, the then 18-year-old didn't let it defeat her and instead allowed it to fuel her determination to build a healthy relationship with her body - abs or no abs.
In 2014, when she met her now fiance Ross in the gym, he changed her life completely after he taught her the benefits of nutrition and training.
"From here I started educating myself more, realising that there are no quick fixes."
She said it took her years to understand nutrition and exercise go hand-in-hand and if she could change one thing about her journey it would be to have someone's help from day one.
"This is why I am so passionate now about what I do because I never want anyone else to feel how I did when I started," the founder of Fit With Anjuli said.
"The absolute key for fat loss is nutrition. You can't outwork a bad diet. Learning how to track my food on My Fitness Pal was a game changer and I still do it to this day."
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Her diet today doesn't involve depriving herself of foods or binge eating - instead she focuses on eating about 2000 calories a day with 80-90 per cent whole foods and 10-20 per cent "soul" foods.
After educating herself on nutrition and developing a healthier, more confident relationship with her body, the 26-year-old then went on to complete in her first ever bikini-fitness competition in 2017.
"Once I figured out a bit more about nutrition and noticing my body change I felt (competing) could be a new way to challenge myself both physically and mentally," she said.
"I wanted to do it, to see if I could do it. I didn't care about placing or how I looked. I just always love to challenge myself."
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Ms Mack then did 16 weeks preparation for the World Beauty Fitness and Fashion (WBFF) competition which included a restricted meal plan and training most days.
While she didn't place, she said she loved the experience and competed again the following two years, coming second and third respectively.
"It was much better each time I did it as you get better at handling the nutrition and training, but it never gets easier," she said.
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The transformation coach, who boasts an Instagram following of 150,000, has taken a break from competing for the next two years to focus more on her passion - helping other women achieve their fitness goals through her personal training business which she launched at the end of 2018.
"I have learned to embrace my journey and body shape regardless of the number on the scale," Ms Mack said.
"I am so proud of my body and mind for never giving up. I am forever a work-in-progress but loving the journey.
If you've got a transformation story you'd like to share, get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org
Originally published as Snack stuff-up behind new bikini body