Lifestyle Prior To Change
What was your lifestyle prior to your transformation?
Until the age of 18 I was pretty active and lived in a very health conscience family. My dad was in the police and took great efforts to exercise and eat clean every single day. My Mom used to wake up every morning at 4.00 am to do her exercises and my brother was in the military as well. Thus I had a lot of positive influence when it came to living healthy and exercising.
However I got married at the age of 18 and moved to Canada and started University. The stress of moving to another country, coping with culture shock, and the hectic schedule as a software engineering student drove me to find comfort in food. However I always exercised, at home or at the gym, mostly cardio. But due to not controlling portion sizes and eating too much of good things I ended up gaining about 35 lbs after marriage and through out my schooling life.
Soon after I graduated in 2006 I got pregnant with my first son, and gained about 50 lbs during the course of my pregnancy. During my pregnancy in 2006/2007 I was going through a very rough time in my life and moved back to Sri Lanka for the duration of my pregnancy. Thus I didn’t care how I looked and took very little care of myself. I was only interested in giving the best to my baby and didn’t care if my skin stretched or ripped or I gained weight.
After having my baby in February, 2007, via emergency C-section I waited 6 months before I started to exercise. My mom who was very particular about her looks encouraged me to join a gym and start working out. September, 2007, I joined a gym near my home and started to do the elliptical trainer. I remember weighing 92Kgs (202 lbs) during my first weigh in.
However in February, 2008, I decided enough was enough and started training hardcore and lost nearly 30 lbs in 4 months. I maintained this weight loss for 10 months and got pregnant with my second child. I gained 80lbs during my second pregnancy. However I remained active throughout my pregnancy and immediately 2 months after delivery I started to workout. By November 2010 for my daughter’s first birthday I had lost all the baby weight.
What was your low point or turning point?
I had been working out for about 3 months and seemed to be losing a bit of weight. However because I was breastfeeding my son I did not make any dietary changes.
In January 2008 I had to attend a relative’s wedding and I remember everyone at the wedding commenting on how big I had got. I also took some photographs at this wedding and it shocked me to see how out of shape I had got. I am taller than the average Sri Lankan girl and with my weight it made me look very big compared to everybody else. That was the day I decided that I wanted to change how I look.
I told my mom, on the way back from the wedding that I was going to workout immediately I got back home, and I did exactly that. That same evening I did some research on the internet on how to lose weight and accidentally stumbled upon a bodybuilding website. I read a few transformations of ladies who had babies but yet made amazing transformations. I thought if they can do it then so can I.
Later I told my husband who was in Canada at the time, to send me some Fitness and Oxygen magazines. After about 2 or 3 weeks when I got the magazines I read them cover to cover and saw a picture of a model and wanted to look just like that. I took that picture and went and showed it to the trainer at my gym.
I was still very overweight and did only the elliptical machine. My trainer joked at me and said that I would have to take some magic pills to look like that. This was my turning point. This is when determination really hit my head and I really wanted to achieve that body.
So I mentally challenged him and asked him to tell me what to do and I followed his instructions to the core. My trainer was the most inspiring person to me in terms of fitness and he taught me everything about fitness and nutrition. He got me hooked onto bodybuilding and boxing style workouts. He worked with me tirelessly for 4 months and helped me to achieve more than what I expected before I left back to Canada.
Later after I had my second child I worked with the same trainer to get my body back into shape.
Were there any unique challenges or circumstances that made your transformation particularly difficult?
Both times I had to lose weight I had to take care of an infant and breast feed while I worked out. Thus it was difficult for me to cut too many calories. I also had to schedule workouts around my baby’s nap times. Also coming from a conservative cultural background, I had to explain to a lot of people around me why I had to go to the gym every day.
In my culture it was totally acceptable for women to get out of shape and remain that way after she got married and had children. Thus going to the gym everyday was something that most women didn’t do and not a lot of husbands allowed their wives to do. However I am thankful to God that my husband was very supportive of my weight loss goals.
Tell us about your transformation timeline:
- Transformation Start: 2008 February.
- Milestone: Achieved desired weight loss goal by 2008 May. Maintained for 10 months and became pregnant with second child
- Milestone: 2009 November had baby and had gained 80lbs during the pregnancy.
- Milestone: 2010 January started working out after having baby in November 2009.
- Milestone: 2010 November lost all 80lbs of baby weight.
- Transformation End: 2011 November lost another 10lbs and started to build muscle.
Shanika's Training And Cardio Approach
What was your weight training approach and split during your transformation?
My trainer changed up my routine all the time. It changed continuously as my strength and endurance improved. Initially at my highest weight he got me to do a lot of full body workouts and lots of dance cardio. He also got me into cardio kickboxing. This really helped me to lose a lot of weight. I did a lot of boxing style pad workouts. I also did a lot of circuit training and Crossfit style workouts.
- Monday - Upper body, supersets and drop sets.
- Tuesday - Lower body
- Wednesday - Cardio
- Thursday - Fullbody circuit
- Friday - Cardio and abs
- Saturday - Kickboxing with pads
- Sunday - Yoga and stretching
Please detail your cardio approach during your transformation?
Initially I did at least 30 minutes of cardio almost everyday.
Please list 3 things you learned about exercise, weight training and/or cardio during your transformation that helped you succeed:
- Weight training is what really makes a difference. No amount of cardio can do what weights do to your body.
- You don’t become big and bulky by lifting weights and you can really sculpt your body with weights.
- Eating clean is a lifestyle. It is not a diet. And you can exercise all you want but if you don’t watch your portions, even if what you are eating is totally healthy it eventually gets stored as extra fat.
How are you currently training, and has your training changed since the completion of your transformation?
Yes now I do a split body type routine. Now I want to build muscle. And I don’t do more than 20 minutes of cardio a day. However I do train pretty intensely for 60 minutes everyday.
- Monday - Upper Body. Deadlift, seated cable row, military press, lateral raise, incline dumbbell press, dumbbell flye, preacher curl, tricep extension.
- Tuesday - Lower Body. Squat, leg extension, still leg deadlift, calf raise, seated calf raise.
- Wednesday - Cardio and Abs
- Thursday - Back and Chest. Pull ups, barbell row, one arm dumbbell row, lat pull down, seated cable row, incline bench press, cable crossover.
- Friday - Legs. Leg press, leg extension, still leg deadlift, leg curl, calf raise, seated calf raise.
- Saturday - Shoulders and Arms. Military press, lateral raise, read delt raise, alternating dumbbell curl, preacher curl, overhead rope tricep extension, reverse grip tricep push down.
- Sunday - Yoga
Shanika's Diet And Nutrition Approach
What was your diet and nutrition approach during your transformation?
I cut down on my refined carbs. Occasionally indulged in my favorite foods. However as I was breast feeding both times I could not cut down too much on the calories. But I made sure I ate mostly fish, red rice, and veggies. However while losing the weight I made a lot of sacrifices. I remember going out for parties or going out on vacation with my family to resorts and I would stay away from the buffet tables or get room service because I did not want to overindulge.
Again my eating plan was a lot of trial and error to see what worked best for me. After a lot of research, and experimenting this is the plan that is helping me maintain my weight.
- Breakfast: ½ cup cooked oatmeal, ¾ cup egg whites + 1 whole egg. 1 cup fruit
- Mid morning snack: 1 cup veggies, or fruit + protein shake
- Lunch: About 2 cups of mixed veggies and greens with 4 oz of chicken breast or 5 oz Fish + Serving of fruit
- Mid-afternoon: Cottage cheese with unsweetened cocoa powder+ few almonds + 1 pack Stevia
- Dinner: Veggies and lean protein
- Before bed: Egg white blended with half orange
Were there any diet/nutrition mistakes you made that you learned from?
Portion sizes are very important. It is very easy to eat too much of anything. You really have to be watchful of hidden additives like sugar salt, fat that can harm your diet. I used to think since fruits is good you can eat as much as you want. However I realized that even fruit has to be enjoyed in moderation.
Did you allow yourself cheat meals?
I love sweets and baked goods. So I did indulge every now and then. But I never missed a workout and I worked out very intensely. Also I was very active at home, taking care of kids, breast feeding and keeping myself on the move all the time.
However I made sure the indulgences were occasional. I didn’t have strict cheat days. My policy was eat clean at least 80% of the time.
Please list 3 things you learned about diet and nutrition during your transformation?
- Limiting carbs, specifically not eating processed refined carbs really help me lose a lot of weight.
- Eating lots of veggies helped me to stay full longer.
- Drinking green tea had a lot of benefits.
What supplements did you use during your transformation?
Advice For Others
What are your best tips for someone looking to make their own transformation?
- Discipline – it took me a lot of discipline to get up everyday at 4.00 am to do my cardio and go to the gym by 6.30 in the morning.
- Consistency – You can't stop. This is a lifelong commitment.
How do you stay motivated? What advice would you give to someone who’s having trouble staying on track?
More From Shanika Mayadunne
What is your life like now that you’ve made a transformation?
To me the journey has just begun. Although I am very happy and proud of what I have achieved thus far, I always look at ways of improving myself. In terms of happiness and personal satisfaction I am at an all-time high now.
What motivates you currently to keep improving yourself?
I aspire to compete one day. Having this long term goal helps me to motivate myself every day to work out and eat clean. Also seeing how far I have come and seeing what I can do with my body with exercise and proper eating makes me want to keep going.
Anything else you would like to share?
This journey was not easy. However the experience and results were very rewarding. Never underestimate your powers to change. Don’t be constrained by what society makes you to believe. If you are not happy about a certain thing take steps to change it. It is never too late.