While most people gained the COVID kilos in 2020, some people used their time to lose weight and transform their life for the better. Here, we’ve rounded up the best real-life transformations to help inspire you.

2020 hasn’t been the most motivating year to accomplish all those health goals we set ourselves back in January. Hello, COVID kilos!

But as discouraging as this year has been for our mental and physical health, there have been people who have managed to make the most of this year and actually lose weight. Yes, really.

So, how have they accomplished what seemed like the impossible?

Here we’ve rounded up the best real-life transformations of 2020 – and all their weight loss secrets – so you can feel inspired to get moving and transform your life for the better, too.

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Best real life weight loss transformations of 2020

Sara Bennett signed up to Chris Hemsworth’s health app Centr, and in six months lost a whopping 35kg and immensely improved her mental health.

Sara’s diet

Sara completely overhauled her unhealthy diet and learnt how to cook healthy, satisfying and delicious meals.

“I searched the meals in Centr, found what I liked and just cooked an entire month’s worth of food because I knew if I had it in the fridge and I had prepared it, I would eat it.”

She didn’t deprive herself from her favourite foods such as pasta, but she simply ensured she added more vegetables to her meals and found a healthy balance.

Here’s what a typical day on a plate looks like to her:

Breakfast: An egg or a ciabatta toast.

Lunch: Protein and vegetables such as honey glazed chicken.

Dinner: Pasta or noodles.

Dessert: Centr protein cookie.

Sara’s workout routine

Sara traded in her sedentary lifestyle for a daily morning workout which she does at-home in front of the TV, followed by a walk to cool down and stretch, then a yoga session in the afternoon.

“I have really come to enjoy being active and keep moving,” she explains. “I almost feel guilty now when I have a day off!”

At the beginning of 2020, Leah Itsines was stuck in a rut.

Recovering from an injury, she turned to food to work through pain and avoided all exercise.

Although the founder of BARE guide meals was eating healthy foods, she had lost control of her portion sizes.

“The weight gain wasn’t sudden and it was overtime. It was due to overeating – yes, you can eat absolutely healthy, but for weight loss, gain or maintenance, your portions matter,” the 25-year-old tells Body+Soul. “It was lack of activity and mindless eating.”

It wasn’t until one day back in May when she saw her reflection in the mirror and decided she needed to take action.

“One day I looked in the mirror and just said to myself, ‘I’m not happy, but I don’t hate myself. I want better for myself, I want to feel good again’”.

Leah then took to her Instagram stories to tell her 570k followers that she wanted to seek healthy change “because I loved myself, not because I hated myself.

Leah’s diet

Leah’s approach to ‘dieting’ involved decreasing her soft drink intake, stopping her mindless snacking habit and becoming more aware of her food intake.

Working with her company’s dietitian, she worked out a guide on how to ensure her intake of energy was in a deficit, without the need for calorie counting.

Here’s what a typical day on a plate looks like to Leah:

Breakfast: Peanut butter, strawberries, coconut flakes and honey on toast

Snack: A healthy birthday cake slice from her BARE Lean guide OR protein balls

Lunch: Pasta salad OR a chicken/tuna wrap loaded with vegetables

Dinner: Chicken pesto pizza OR home-made burgers OR Yiros (a recipe Leah is famous for)

Dessert: Hot chocolate

Leah’s exercise routine

If you follow Leah on Instagram, you’ll know she’s up early every morning to go for a walk and in the gym working out whenever she finds the time in her busy schedule.

“Now that I’m able to exercise, I’m doing anything and everything I can to find a rhythm. I am currently walking 45-minutes a day and doing Pilates twice a week, and strength training three times a week.”

Natalie Sarah gave up her unhealthy snaking habits, signed up to fitness program 28 by Sam Wood and lost 12kg in lockdown.

Natalie’s diet

Natalie has learnt to eat “all the colours of the rainbow, lots of fruit and vegetables, and healthy proteins.”

Here’s what a typical day on a plate looks like…

Morning tea: Greek yoghurt and berries.

Lunch: Homemade leftovers OR a salad.

Dinner: A meal from the 28 by Sam Wood program.

She has found that with the right foods, she doesn’t actually need to snack.

“My snacking has also stopped as my healthier eating habits keep me full and satisfied until dinner. I never go hungry.”

When she goes out with friends, she’ll opt for the healthiest choice and watch her portion sizes. For Natalie, it’s all about moderation.

“I’ll have a cocktail or a glass of wine on the weekends – again, I’m only human – but in moderation. Sam Wood’s program allows me to be healthy while also enjoying myself.”

Natalie’s exercise routine

Natalie tries to move her body every day. On Mondays through to Fridays, she’ll do a 28-minute workout at home.

On the weekends she’ll take her active minutes outdoors.

“On the weekends I go for a fast-paced walk or run with my partner or friends, either at Sydney Park or a coastal walk by the beach or National Park. Exercise with a view!

“I have also taken part in a few charity fun runs, something I wouldn’t have done before.”

Alanna Rumble

Alanna Rumble let 2020 get the better of her.

A combination of the stress brought forth by the global pandemic and the death of her grandma caused the mother-of-two to spiral into a “dark path” and put on 10kg in the space of six months.

“I got to the point where I wasn’t trying anymore, staying in bed all day when I could and only got out of bed because I knew I had to for my two daughters,” the 31-year-old told Body+Soul.

“I was eating badly and as a type one diabetic my insulin needs increased, which attributed to the fast weight gain.”

Weighing in at 76.8kg, Alanna was ashamed of her body to the point where she admits she “loathed what [she] saw in the mirror and didn’t even want to look in the mirror”.

“I was depressed and even struggled to shower daily. None of my clothes fit, and I found myself living in the same couple of leggings and jumpers that I had ordered two sizes bigger then all my clothes. I was unhappy, and had no energy. I had no patience with my kids or husband and I think my mood rubbed off on everyone.”

It wasn’t until she came across an ad for the 28 by Sam Wood 8-week Challenge on Facebook that she decided she had “nothing to lose and everything to gain” if she signed up – especially because there was prize money involved.

Fast forward 70 days later and Alanna has lost an impressive 8kg – all still during lockdown – and is sitting at 68.9kg.

Alanna’s diet

Here’s what Alanna’s day on a plate looks like:

Breakfast: Chocolate protein smoothie

Lunch: Toast with avocado and cherry tomatoes OR a salad

Afternoon snack: Two pieces of 95 per cent dark chocolate and 1-2 tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter

Dinner: Bun-less burger OR a Mexican bowl or Spaghetti with zoodles OR a homemade pizza.

Dessert: Liquorice tea

She would also have three coffees a day but only with a dash of unsweetened almond milk.

Alanna’s exercise routine

Alanna hasn’t missed one day of working out over the past 70 days since she embarked on her health journey.

“At the start of the challenge I did the 28 by Sam Wood workouts plus 10 extra minutes of cardio for five days and two active recovery days of 28 minutes of Fartlek training on the treadmill. Then, I slowly built up from there,” she explains.

“At about the three-week mark I was doing the 28 workout and 30-minutes on the treadmill, and 60-minutes on the treadmill for active recovery days. The last three weeks of the challenge I was doing the same plus adding one long run a week. The week the challenge finished I ran 18km and I am currently aiming for a half marathon in November.”

Walking six days a week and managing her portion control at meals helped Michele lose 117kg.

Michele’s diet

Here’s what a typical day on a plate looks like to her:

Breakfast: Cereal, toast, fruit and yogurt.

Lunch: Salad and then snack fruit, nuts, and fruit cake.

Dinner: Penne or beef korma and a cake and cream for dessert. I am really enjoying the Lite N Easy vegetarian menu. Makes life easy while in lockdown.

Shannon lost 40kg by hitting 10k steps a day, sleeping more and signing up to F45. She also dropped a whopping 10 dress sizes.

Shannon’s diet

While Shannon admits she still loves and indulges in food, she now has a better understanding about calories, macros and portion sizes.

“My meals and snacks are a lot cleaner than they used to be, I’m not eating as many empty calories and my portion sizes are smaller,” she explains. “I don’t snack as much and I’m eating a lot more protein to keep me fuller for longer.”

Here’s what a typical day on a plate looks like to her:

Breakfast: 150g plain Greek yoghurt, 20g vanilla protein powder, 30g oats and around 60g of fruit (berries and banana) or a smoothie.

Lunch: Leftovers from the night before.

Dinner: Meat and vegetables, either as a stir fry or as grilled meat with a salad.

Snacks: Ranges from protein shakes, protein balls, muesli bars, carrots, fruit and yoghurt.

Dessert: Current obsession is protein custard with fresh fruit.

Moderation is everything to Shannon: “My diet isn’t perfect, I enjoy eating out and socialising. I just rein it in a bit during the week if I have something on, balancing my calories over the week rather than each day.”

Shannon’s exercise routine

Shannon said goodbye to her sedentary lifestyle once and for all.

“I’m up at 3:50am Monday to Friday to train in the 4:40am F45 classes. Quite often after class I’ll try get in a 3km walk before work. If I don’t get a walk in before work, I’ll go when I get home. I like to get in at least 10,000 steps a day.”

She also includes a mix of other exercise classes for variety.

“Tuesday nights I often do a step class with a few friends from F45, I’m super un-coordinated so it’s good for a laugh.”

Weekends include an F45 Saturday morning session followed by a walk. She’ll also sometimes play golf with friends.

Melanie Cjepa

Melanie lost a large 30kg and dropped 10 dress sizes by intermittent fasting.

“My food choices had always been relatively good but my portion sizes were way out of control, or I would snack on whatever I could find in the cupboard, which was either chocolate, lollies, chips or biscuits,” Melanie recalls.

“I used to jump on the weight loss bandwagon on and off, and hit the gym hard but I would lose interest because I wasn’t seeing results as quick as I wanted to as I was too impatient.”

After months of trying to regain her health back after her second pregnancy, Melanie decided to take further action and jump on the Lite n’ Easy Jump Start program.

“Within the first week a kilo had gone, and each week another kilo had gone.” In the first five months, Melanie had lost a whopping 25kg. A few weeks later and she lost another 5kg, bringing her weight down to a low 67kg, and she finally fit into size 10 clothing.

Melanie’s diet

Melanie started off on Lite n’ Easy’s 1200 calorie program, which included breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, with two intermittent fasting days.

“It allowed me to have control of my food but still enjoy the foods I loved like pasta, bread, burgers, and even a sweet treat at afternoon tea. It didn’t feel like just another fad diet where I thought I’d have to cut carbs and leave the food I loved.”

Here’s what a day on a plate looks like to her now:

Breakfast: A slice of toast with cereal OR eggs benedict OR baked beans on toast OR a zucchini slice with a poached egg.

Morning tea: Fresh piece of fruit OR a fruit cup.

Lunch: Chicken burger OR pasta OR soup with bread OR chicken salad OR nachos.

Afternoon tea: Muffin OR chocolate slice OR mixed nuts OR yoghurt OR fruit.

Dinner: Slow cooked meals OR fresh salads OR pasta.

Melanie’s exercise routine

Melanie trains five days a week at a gym, doing a combination of “booty training, HIIT and weight training.”

“I also walk the lake nearby, which is 4km and it’s a perfect way to get my kids out in the fresh air as my eldest will ride his bike whilst I push the pram and we play tag to get ourselves around the lake.”

Molly Sprocket

Molly lost 24kg and over 12 per cent body fat by walking 30-minutes a day and following a strict diet.

Molly’s diet

Following the Optislim VLCD program, Molly initially replaced her breakfast, lunch and dinner with the program’s shakes or soups. She would also eat a salad or non-starchy vegetables before dinner.

Here’s what her day on a plate looks like now:

Breakfast: Shake

Lunch: A shake or soup

Afternoon tea: Piece of fruit or veggies

Dinner: 200g of chicken/ beef or fish, with salad or vegetables

Dessert: Low fat yogurt or fresh fruit

She also ensures to drink a minimum of 2 litres of water each day.

Molly’s exercise routine

Molly replaced her sedentary lifestyle with daily activity and a non-negotiable 30-minute walk.

“The first two weeks were challenging, adjusting to the changes in my food intake and exercise was tough, however to my surprise weight loss results where instant and only fuelled my focus and commitment to work towards achieving my desired weight loss goal,” she explains.