Body Transformation: Sandi Holder Joined A Gym And Lost A Whopping 80lbs!

Before Stats
  • Age
  • Weight
    197 lbs
  • Height
  • Body Fat
  • Waist
  • Hips
  • Arms
After Stats
  • Age
  • Weight
    115 lbs
  • Height
  • Body Fat
  • Waist
  • Hips
  • Arms
Editor's Note: Everyone is different and these results may not be typical for the average person. To achieve these results you need to be willing to put in the work both in the gym and in the kitchen. Use this transformation for motivation for you to make the changes you want!
Sandi Holder never stepped foot into a gym until the age of 47. Today she is in the best shape of her life, having lost over 80 pounds!

Lifestyle Prior To Change

What was your lifestyle prior to your transformation?

I had absolutely no knowledge on nutrition or fitness. I lost my brother Larry at age 49 due to a heart virus. He did not have a good nutrition program and feel that his poor eating habits attributed to his demise. I have three children who needed a mom and realized that was my moment. I was over 80 lbs. overweight and realized I didn’t need to make a change rather I HAD to, for ME and my children. I never walked into a gym until I was 47 years old. I had a lot to learn and was determined and not giving up.

Sandi HolderWhat was your low point or turning point?

My low point was losing my brother and realizing that I could be next if I don’t embrace a healthy lifestyle. We were only three years apart. Knowing well the pain caused by leaving so many family and friends behind when a life is lost prematurely, I was forced to take a hard look at myself, realizing that I wasn’t in the best physical shape I could be. I couldn’t stand the thought of my children having to cope with my life being cut short.

Were there any unique challenges or circumstances that made your transformation particularly difficult?

I feel that my weight was a huge challenge and visually seeing  myself struggling was hard. I have been overweight my entire life, and I know how it was growing up the fat girl in high school, never selected for any teams and not being able to wear in fashions was a wall in my mind that needed to come down. I had to realize that the fear of success was my goal and the fear of failure had to take a back seat.

Can you tell us about your transformation timeline:

  • Transformation Start: January 2004.
  • Milestone: June, 2004 = 53 lbs. down.
  • Milestone: December, 2004 = 29 lbs. down.
  • Transformation End: Still going at it, it will never end!

Sandi's Training And Cardio Approach

What was your weight training approach and split during your transformation?

When I take on a task I give it 100% and this was no different. I had a goal in mind and with my brother’s presence always in my heart, I set out to break the walls and conquer what was preventing me from achieving that. I did plyometric training and incorporated a little bit of cardio in the beginning. Cardio was the hardest, being so large and having horrible memories of growing up hating to run because it took so much out of me. I finally got the cardio down and found the balance, as people have to incorporate weights and cardio for a good balance.

Please add a workout that worked best for you:

  • Monday - Biceps and Triceps. 3 x 12 on all, usually I use 15-20 lb dumbbells.
  • Tuesday - Cardio. 7 miles – 1 hour 2 minutes (now).
  • Wednesday - Chest and Back. 3 x 12-15 – I use a 30 lb. kettlebell and on some reps of push-ups I have a 20 lb plate on my back.
  • Thursday - Cardio. 6-7 miles.
  • Friday - Legs. 3 x 12-15 – using 15 lb weights on step-ups, 25 to 30 lb on barbell.
  • Saturday - Cardio. 5-6 miles.
  • Sunday - Rest and recover.

Sandi Holder transformation

Please detail your cardio approach during your transformation?

Cardio was a cement wall, as I never felt comfortable running with life long memories of not being able to run. I would admire those who could run and during the later part of my transformation I was bound and determined to be a runner. Summer of 2010 I decided I have procrastinated long enough. I bought a Nike+ Sportsband hit the road and each run, gained more and more distance and better time. I was diligent to make sure I had the proper shoes, insoles, hydration and mindset to do this as my personal goal was to run a half. Long story short, I can run a half on my cardio days, entered a local marathon and received my first medal – a gold with a blue ribbon, I placed first.

Please list 3 things you learned about exercise, weight training and/or cardio during your transformation that helped you succeed:

  1. Being serious about the hour or so that I devote to this and clearing my mind of all distractions. 
  2. Being consistent in training, eating, sleep and vitamins. People need to understand spending an hour hitting the gym and then going to the Taco truck for lunch is not considered serious. 
  3. I am not on a diet. This is a lifestyle change that I am dedicated to 24-7, all year long. There are days that I may not be as diligent, but that is what tomorrow is for. I do not deprive myself, I enjoy feeling good both inside and out.

How are you currently training, and has your training changed since the completion of your transformation?

I am still on the same training schedule; I almost feel that my body is so accustomed to this I feel off if I miss a day or two. I continue to challenge myself be it with weights or cardio. I am very focused when I am training as I take this seriously and pay attention to form. I am always looking at magazines, websites, etc. for idea to incorporate to my routines.

Sandi's Diet And Nutrition Approach

Sandi HolderWhat was your diet/nutrition approach during your transformation?

I did a lot of research prior, as I knew this was not a short term diet I needed, this was a total lifestyle change. First I cut out anything white in my diet (flour, sugar, salt) and replaced that with whole grains and wheat. I eliminated all sugar free sodas and caffeine. I de-toxed by body basically and replaced my eating with a very clean and healthy diet.

Portion control was something I had to learn, it might be healthy but how much is healthy?  I learned the concept that portions are as big as the palm of your hand or a tennis ball. I eat small meals throughout the day and drink LOTS of water, so that I don’t feel any hunger pains. I eat three small meals and two to three snacks, such as handful or raw unsalted almonds, banana, veggies or dark fruit.

Can you provide us with a sample eating plan (please be specific):

Again PORTION control is so important. My diet is basically the same:

  • Breakfast – Cup of Fiber One cereal, 1/2c blueberries mixed in – cup of skim milk, vitamins.
  • Lunch – Grilled chicken breast salad with lots of different veggies is one of my favorites, vinaigrette dressing (2 tablespoons), or I might splurge on a Subway veggie sandwich on wheat (bread hollowed out), mustard only and lots of great veggies. I also make soups that I microwave (chicken with brown rice and lots of veggies – I feel the more colorful the better). I tend to prepare all my own food as I am very strict on sodium intake as it makes me feel very bloated and many food incorporate more sodium that we need.
  • Dinner – Grilled salmon and green veggies or grilled chicken breast and veggie.
  • Snack (pick one) – Handful raw almonds, 100 calorie yogurt, dark red apple, kale chips (bake kale in over, light olive oil and bake). I do not eat after 7PM and get at least 8 hours of sleep.
  • Protein shake - After workouts. Whey protein, three ice cubes and skim milk in blender.

Were there any diet/nutrition mistakes you made that you learned from?

I learned NOT to be afraid to eat after losing all my weight for fear of gaining. In order to do this successfully you can’t just exercise and drink protein shakes or starve yourself and get caught up in the latest and greatest diet fad or pill. You have to fuel your body with the proper food in order to get definition and get the results you want to see from all your hard work. If you are out with friends, I learned that is was OK to ask the wait staff for your food to be prepared without salt and butter and that it was OK to ask.

Please list 3 things you learned about diet & nutrition during your transformation that helped you succeed:

  1. Having faith in yourself that you CAN do this.
  2. Read, read, read. I always try and learn something new each day and even after 7 years, I am still a work in progress and eager to learn every day. I love attending the Fitness Expos, not only do I get to see many old friends, but I gain so much knowledge and get new inspiring ideas!
  3. Don’t be hard on yourself if you have an off day, that is why there is a tomorrow. You get to start fresh each and every day.

Sandi Holder

Did you allow yourself cheat meals?

No, and I still don’t because I look at it this way. I ate like crud the first half of my life, I know what a pizza, hot flaming Cheetos or chocolate cake tastes like. My second half is going to be different. I have absolutely no problem passing these up. It is not about willpower, more that I have a mindset that processed, fatty foods full of sugar don’t belong in my body. Even after all these years, I don’t miss the junk food. My only treat that I do allow myself is a daily sugarless Red Bull.

What supplements did you use during your transformation?

I am on the excessive side, but this all works for me:

Advice For Others

What are your best tips for someone looking to make their own transformation?

  1. Remember how LONG it took you to get to where you are, it is not going to come off overnight. Like anything else in life, losing weight takes effort. No magic pill will make you lose weight. I also learned that exercise was only part of a fine tuned combination of many things. It takes more than just exercise to achieve success. You have to have a clean diet, good sleeping habits and drink lots of water.
  2. Keep in mind that hour or so you spend at the gym is only a small part of the equation. What is more important is what you do outside the gym, the choices you make and the path you follow.
  3. This is not a competition. This is for you, and there is no need to lift heavier that you feel comfortable and risk injury. Take your time and fine tune what works best for YOU.

How do you stay motivated? What advice would you give to someone who’s having trouble staying on track?

Truly wanting to live a healthy lifestyle is all about dedication and keeping yourself motivated. You have to really want it. Other can wish give you all kinds of encouragement, and want you to live a healthy life but you have to want it more.

More From Sandi Holder

What is your life like now that you’ve made a transformation?

I love inspiring others, sharing my long path to where I am and really getting through to others that this does ot come easy, I have to work at this each and every day just like they do. I have met the most incredible people because of my love of fitness and knowing that I have helped others change their life is truly the most rewarding gift I could ever receive.

What motivates you currently to keep improving yourself?

Me. I am my own worst critic, but as I shared, this is about gaining years to spend with my children and grandchildren. I want to set the bar high for them, so they have an example of how a healthy lifestyle is so critical in everyday life. Childhood obesity is the highest we have ever seen, and I love reaching out to mid 20 year olds who have a hard time keeping up with me, that they need to do this now and not wait until you might lose a brother or sister in your late 40’s to realize how important eating and fitness is in your life.

Anything else you would like to share?

In the end, it is my sincere hope that my story inspires others and helps them realize that healthy living not only brings personal happiness but an overall pride in your body that perpetuates the desire to maintain a healthy lifestyle. In my wildest dreams, I never imagined I would be submitting a story a fitness site, but I am living proof of a dream that has become a reality as the result of a lot of hard work, inspiration, and love. Winning the lottery sometimes comes in ways we don't expect. For me, going from a size 14 to a size 0, and reaping all of the lifelong benefits that come with this achievement, has been the greatest "jackpot" of all.

It is one thing to be proud of one's own accomplishments, but far more than that, it is my hope that seeing my story and photos could change another person's life. This experience has left such a positive, lasting impact on my life, knowing that I've helped give someone else the push they need in the right direction in taking charge of their health would be the biggest accomplishment of all.

How can people contact you?


Posted on: Mon, 05/02/2016 - 11:29 inspired to start now.Been procrastinating.
Thanks a million.

Lisa E
Posted on: Thu, 09/25/2014 - 16:56

I am a 49 year old gramma about to turn 50. You are so inspiriring. I just read your article twice. Way to go. You look amazing!

Helen Fisher
Posted on: Sun, 07/27/2014 - 02:30

Im 39, 4'11 (and 3/4). I'm a mother of four amazing kids and have an amazing, very suportive husband. I have been trying to lose this weight and have just lost motivation. Diabetes runs in my family and I know what I'm in for if I don't make some very important lifestyle changes. I have to say, after reading your inspiring story, I know I can do this! Reading this is just what I needed! Thanks!!

Melissa Munoz
Posted on: Wed, 05/14/2014 - 23:54

What a fantastic transformation!! Inspirational and motivating. I am bookmarking this page because I have FINALLY found a "success story" that speaks to me. I'm not 25 anymore but that doesn't mean I can't be in superb shape!! Thanks for this story:)

Sam Wade
Posted on: Sat, 03/15/2014 - 16:20

I am a 51 year old woman who is around 80lb overweight thinking I will never be able to look good again, then I saw your story. I cannot believe how amazing you look and it's made me realise that with work I can look like that too.

I've bookmarked this page and every time I feel weak, want to overeat or not exercise I'm going to look at it. You are an absolute inspiration for women who don't try because they believe they cannot have an fantastic body due to their age. You are proof that with work you can.

Posted on: Wed, 12/30/2015 - 11:34

Hi Sam,
I read your response to Sandi's article and I was wondering what you've done since 03/15/2014?
I got the impression that you were ready to make changes and she inspired you to do so. Did you lose the weight? Reading your comments I would say yes, and I believe you can look good at any age :-)
If you didn't, I hope my communication inspires you to get started today....You can do it :-)

devyani singh
Posted on: Fri, 02/07/2014 - 05:09

I am 45 yrs old n have 4 kids n my weight is 84kg earlier i did not do anything but u have inspired me to do exercises thanx u for inspiring me n tell me a few exercises which r sutible for me coz i have regular pain in my left knee so plz help me n thanx again..

Kari Blackwood
Posted on: Fri, 12/27/2013 - 14:38

Thanks Sandi for the motivation! I at one time had lost 90 lbs. in less than a year by going to the gym 6 times a week and totally cutting out the refined, high carb and processed foods. I drank a lot of water and where I work I am on my feet for 12 hrs so that was even more exercise. I just turned 47 and made a promise to myself to get healthy and stay that way forever. Your story just gave me the kick in the pants to get me going again! You look awesome!

Posted on: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 05:31

truly inspiring

Sandi Holder
Posted on: Sun, 09/22/2013 - 18:58

Hi everyone - I wanted to share my update with you and also thank you for all the nice emails :)

Posted on: Wed, 08/21/2013 - 11:12

Thanks so much for sharing your story! I relate to so much of it and am inspired by your transformation!

Posted on: Sat, 05/11/2013 - 00:13

I loved reading your article. You are an inspiration to me and give me hope. I am 56 and have always been good at cardio but I need to tone, so I am just beginning to use weights. Thank you!

Posted on: Fri, 05/03/2013 - 12:14

Thank you so much for the advice and encouragement for women that are over the age of 40. Sometimes at 40 or older you start to see things going downhill as the stereotype does not help either. You look awesome and have definitely proven that you are a strong female that's not willing to fall to the pattern of excuses. Great job!!

Posted on: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 08:22

I am 50 and I've lost 40 pounds since March. I am now working on incorporating more fitness. You look great! You are an inspiration!

Posted on: Fri, 12/28/2012 - 17:47

Wow...Okay, I guess I can't use age as an excuse anymore. The comment that inspired me the most is that you "know what pizza, Hot flaming cheetos and Chocolate Cake taste like" My mental attitude has always been that I will feel cheated if I have to give up those things forever, but I am actualy cheating myself by continuing to eat them. I have adopted a Vegan diet in October because of a cholesterol of 404. I have lost 5 lbs, because Portion Control is a big you have said. Just because it is healthy I feel like I can eat tons and tons. I do so many things wrong...I know what is the right thing with diet and exercise but laziness, excuses and basically being a brat at 56, not wanting to have to do anything but what I want to do, has kept this weight on. Thanks so much for the inspiration...for the openness of what has to change in me with attitude concerning these things. I have saved to favorites your story so I can read it over when I am struggling and to see the pictures of how great you look to encourage me that it can be done, it just takes work...and faithfulness to keep at it.

Posted on: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 07:48

your pics here are gonna be my inspiration and motivation to achieve my goal!
you are incredible! You have worked very hard to get to where you are and i am truly inspired

Denise C
Posted on: Mon, 07/30/2012 - 19:40

What an inspiration you are and to know that it is never too late. I have quit smoking almost a year ago so I could breath better which was the toughest thing I have ever done in my life (after many attempts. That motivated me to finally leave a bad relationship. Two down, 1 to go. I need to transform the rest of me for my health as well. I am about 80lbs overweight and little to no muscle left. I want to do this, I need to do this. My question is...what happens to your excess skin after you lose the weight?

Posted on: Sun, 02/19/2012 - 08:43

I am so inspired by your article. I, my self lost over 80lbs but I am struggling with the last 10 lbs! I read this article for motivation and I must say that I am really motivated now. Also YOU ARE THE HOTTEST 54 year old I have seen and I would like to be like you when I am your age!:-))

sandi holder
Posted on: Fri, 03/02/2012 - 00:53

Many thanks and keep up the good work. Currently, I have switched up my training and have been doing CrossFit for over a year, in addition to running and hot yoga. Cross training is the best! I am glad you enjoyed the article :)

sandi holder
Posted on: Sun, 09/11/2011 - 01:06

I am so glad you have enjoyed my article and if you need any help, feel free to email me. I am currently training for the SF Nike Run and train at Cross Fit. Fitness will always be a part of my life, this journey never stops -- it just keeps getting better :)

Cindy LaMirande
Posted on: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 22:47

You look AMAZING, thanks for all of the great information. I am so inspired to keep up with my future sucess story after reading all of your info! Thanks for trying to help all of us that want to be in your shoes someday! 14 pounds down 50 to go, 46 years old.

Posted on: Thu, 07/28/2011 - 01:25

Wow! What an incredible transformation! You look fabulous and I enjoyed reading your story. You are an inspiration.

Posted on: Tue, 07/05/2011 - 12:03

Very...very inspirational and girl you look incredible. You have challenged me and I'm going to try your workout plan

Posted on: Fri, 07/01/2011 - 07:05

Inspirational story! Many thanks for sharing it :-)

Posted on: Thu, 05/26/2011 - 13:02

I'm truly happy for you and you will be my role model as I take on my lifestyle change to have the best body I can have. I lost my brother also to an untimely death but he was always exercising and eating healthy so I really want to honor him by taking care of myself so I've taken those steps to do so. I thank you so much for sharing because you never know when someone else needs to be inspired and that is what you have done for me. Thank you so much!!!

Posted on: Wed, 05/25/2011 - 13:11

Your an inspiration! I'm currently on a weight loss mossion too. I started at 67kg and one month later i'm 64kgs, so i'm making good progress. I'm 5 foot 4.

Posted on: Wed, 04/27/2011 - 08:08


Posted on: Tue, 04/26/2011 - 06:15

Wow, this is really what I need it. To continue with my jouurney, no more excuses. Thank you soooo much for the inspiration.

Melissa Puckett
Posted on: Mon, 04/25/2011 - 17:48

Incredible, inspiring story!!