Sian Ryan was on a romantic summer holiday weekend with her longtime boyfriend almost two years ago when, “out of the blue,” she recounts, he broke up with her. She was heartbroken. “I literally could not stop crying,” she says.
And like so many people who have been in that situation, she looked for something — anything — to get her out of the house and out of her funk. So she joined a gym near her home in Northamptonshire, England. It was a 24-hour facility and she ended up there at all hours every time she “needed some air.”
Unlike many people in similar situations, though, this wasn’t a temporary Band-Aid for the 25-year-old. She kept at it in a big way, and her breakup turned into a whole new lifestyle. Fast-forward 18 months, and Ryan’s got a new job, a healthier lifestyle and she’s down about 85 pounds from her peak of 261. All that, she says, from “literally just using MyFitnessPal and weightlifting.”
This was something she couldn’t fathom during her relationship, she explains. She hated exercise, loved (and still loves) pizza and donuts and worked as a makeup artist, which she believes contributed to her focus on appearance. She knew she wanted to change her habits then, but her boyfriend would “let me stray a bit.” He’d drag her to the pub instead of the gym, and would discourage her desire to want to lose weight.
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As a newly single woman, Ryan was free to make headway. At first, she was just doing cardio at the gym and logging her food with MyFitnessPal by scanning labels. Soon, she began doing research on the MyFitnessPal forums. She was most intrigued by how other users kept talking about macros: carbs, protein and fat. She had never conceptualized her eating habits in that way before.
She also started doing more research into a physical activity she could get into. Cardio was OK, but it wasn’t her thing. Weightlifting, it turned out, was. It was fun — it let her throw big things around the gym. She threw herself into it and followed an online program for 12 weeks. When that ended right before Christmas, she had a revelation: “I’d been so focused on fitness that I hadn’t missed him.”
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She was starting to transform into a whole new person with a whole new life. As a makeup artist, she had always been perfectly made up. But she was anxious about people judging her and she struggled with body dysmorphia, a disorder that causes people to focus obsessively on what they perceive to be physical flaws, even when there are none. Trying to find a healthier body image was next on her to-do list, so she changed jobs, too, and became an administrator at a local hospital.
As she started losing weight, she also started following people who inspired her on Instagram, and decided to tell her own story on her account. She never figured she’d gain much interest. But she did, big time — especially after British tabloid The Sun ran a story about her this past January. She now has more than 28,000 followers on Instagram and runs her own blog, where she writes about how she lost the weight, her struggles with body dysmorphia and the realities of her life — including a frank discussion of her breast augmentation surgery. “I try to be as honest as I can,” she says.
Today, she still sticks to the same approach to her diet: tracking macros. “I don’t eat particularly clean,” she admits. What she does do, though, is track how many fats, carbs and proteins she’s putting into her body — even if she sometimes gets them from her dietary indulgences, like pizza and donuts. She continues to use MyFitnessPal to plug in all her numbers for the week, move them around and adjust to see where she can add some fun treats in, and then she preps her meals for the week. “I find myself really struggling without doing that,” she says.
At the gym, she’s still itching to get better. Her original goal was to deadlift 220 pounds, but she’d gotten as far as she could watching online videos. So she hired a trainer to improve her form. Quickly, she hit that goal and has set an ambitious new bar of deadlifting 330 pounds and bench-pressing 150. She also wants to try competing in powerlifting and perhaps become a personal trainer to help others achieve their own goals.
Ryan’s not quite to her target weight yet, and she hasn’t quite hit her new weightlifting goals either — but she’s a lot closer. And most important, she is “100% in a healthier place,” she beams.
Turns out that breakup was the best thing that ever happened to her.
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