‘I gained 4kg of muscle and have never looked better’

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Further proof that the number on the scales isn’t always the full picture. 

Photos: Instagram @got.it.girl

Jessica O’Brien started out her fitness journey like the rest of us, looking to tone up, assuming that along the way she'd see the numbers on the scale drop – even though she didn't actually need to lose any weight.

When a low-calorie diet, running and yoga weren’t effective in reaching her health and fitness goals, O’Brien turned to Kayla Itsines’ Bikini Body Guide (BBG).

“As I read some of the girls' [BBG] stories online, I knew it was something I had to try,” she said. “I literally woke up the next morning and bought Kayla’s guide. I thought that if all these other girls could do it, there was no reason I couldn't.”

But, over the course of her workout regime, O’Brien actually gained weight, moving from 57kg to 61kg.

O’Brien had actually gained muscle and lost any excess fat weight, and credits getting into the best shape of her life to Kayla’s hugely popular BBG.

Recently, she shared her journey on Instagram @got.it.girl to the general ‘gasps’ and ‘oohs’ of her rapt followers.

So, how did she do it?

“I just realised I was not eating enough calories or protein to support the exercise I was doing. I slowly started incorporating more protein rich food into my diet. This is when I started seeing better results, and my body started toning up.”

That’s right, eating more (of the right things) helped O’Brien reach her health goals.

These days, she’s is a whole-hearted supporter of the ‘intuitive’ or ‘mindful’ eating philosophy. Its basis is that nothing is off-limits, but that you must be conscious of what you’re eating and what your body wants to ensure you don’t over or under do it.

“I eat all foods,” says O’Brien. “I do try to eat enough veggies, fruit, wholegrains, and of course protein, but I have treats, too. I want to feel fit and healthy but not at the cost of any mental happiness.”

If you’re looking to see what this seemingly boundless food code entails for O’Brien, it’s pretty simple.

“I just try to eat the way mum taught me to eat when I was little. I usually start the day with toast or cereal and a protein shake. I eat things like fruit, tuna and yoghurt as snacks. Lunch is usually leftovers and dinner is usually meat, veggies and some form of carbohydrate like rice, pasta, bread or couscous.”

The other part of O’Brien’s physical transformation that might shock you (just as much as not being on a diet) is that she incorporated regular LIIS (low intensity interval training) workouts into her schedule.

“When I researched how to do LISS (low intensity steady state cardio) correctly, which Kayla prescribes in her guide, I realised that walking was actually a very valuable form of exercise. I feel like this really helped me start looking more toned,” she says.

“I also enjoyed my walks and found them very relaxing rather than feeling like I always had to be running and working up a massive sweat. This was a big change in perspective for me!”

O’Brien’s fitness regime involves three walks a week, and three of Kayla’s resistance workouts usually focusing on legs, arms or abs. The crowning glory of these workouts is that they’re only 28 minutes of intense workout, so you can fit them in, however busy your schedule might be.

If you were to tell someone that you got the best body of your life by walking, not dieting and gaining weight, they’d probably tell you you’re crazy. However for O’Brien it’s precisely the case. Her transformation pictures are astounding.

“I did gain weight during my journey and it actually helped me tone up a lot. I gained it because I added muscle to my frame and at the same time lost fat. That is why I actually look more toned now, even though I weight more,” she explains.

“Basically this process taught me that putting too much importance on what the scale says is ridiculous because it isn’t necessarily an indication or how fit or healthy you are. I feel the best I have ever felt, and it would be so silly to disregard that just because of the number on a piece of machinery.”

The lesson in O’Brien’s story is poignant in a weight-focused world. A more holistic approach to health in a level-headed manner is the best way to go about it.

Exercise, eat well and drink water, but relax, too. No one can be perfect all the time – and O’Brien has some sound advice for anyone at the start of their wellness journey.

“My message is to make small, achievable goals. For example, if someone’s goal is to look good in a bikini, that’s fine, but it doesn’t give much direction as to how to get there. I would focus more on the goal for the week. Maybe I’ll go for a walk every morning one week, and once I have completed that, continue my walks as well as aiming to have a healthy breakfast every day that week. Continuing like this ultimately leads to a healthier lifestyle. I think it is so important to not underestimate the power or small goals in being able to make lasting change.”

Well said.

For more from Jessica O'Brien check out her Instagram page.

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fitness | body+soul

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