#GirlsWhoLift – Meet the female bodybuilders who battled real-life health problems by lifting weights

23.4 million women are now using the #GirlsWhoLift hashtag on Instagram. Women are out there showing us that it’s sexy to be strong but also that keeping physically fit can have a big impact your mental wellbeing.

Bodybuilding and fitness expert Erny Peibst has put together a list of ten female bodybuilders who are using Instagram to share their stories and inspire others. From binge eating to alcohol addiction, each of these women has used lifting to help them overcome a personal struggle, showing that hard work and dedication pay off.

1. Aroosha Nekonam | 32K followers


Aroosha Nekonam is a Persian-Scottish bodybuilder who works as a personal trainer in Manchester. She hasn’t always had the awesome body you see in her Instagram posts and had to fight a long hard battle to get it.

She suffered from anorexia when she was younger and it got so severe that she ended up wheel-chair bound and in danger of losing her life. She used bodybuilding to aid her recovery, both physically and mentally and now has a much healthier relationship with food, using it to fuel her passion at the gym.

“You have got to be a beginner before you can be anything else. We all start somewhere!
Never look at someone further in their fitness journey and assume you will not be able to get there.”

Follow her for…
High-energy video workouts you can save for inspiration next time you hit the gym!

2. Melissa Alcantara | 509K followers


Melissa used to work as a waitress but today she trains one of the biggest names in Hollywood. During her pregnancy, she gained 70 pounds and she just couldn’t shift it. After months of procrastinating, she finally motivated herself to make a change and began hitting the gym.

She documented her journey on social media and it was so inspiring that Kim Kardashian approached her for help to get back into shape after her pregnancy. In a post earlier this year Kim even posted a number of bikini picks paying tribute to Melissa for her trim physique.

“I’ve gone through every diet, I went through the cardio bunny stage. I went through the starving myself stage, I went through the bingeing stage. I went through all of this because I was trying to find the secret, everyone is always looking for the secret. The secret is STOP looking for the secret cuz it doesn’t exist.”

Follow her for…
Before and after transformations that will motivate you to finally get off the couch and get to the gym

3. Krissy Mae Cagney | 405K followers


Entrepreneur and professional lifter, Krissy has established and built two successful businesses and now also runs a Reps for Recovery programme at her gym. The programme’s mission is to help other recovering addicts get their lives back on track through fitness.

Lifting is a therapy and escape for many people and for Krissy it helped her to get and stay sober. Today she seeks fulfillment through fitness and is a role model for anyone facing addiction, as she’s now celebrating over 4 years sober.

Follow her for…
Stunning landscapes from her wild adventures

4. Christmas Abbott | 696K followers


Christmas Abbott wasn’t always the person you see on her instagram, with elaborate tattoos and chiseled abs. At 22 she was malnourished from making poor lifestyle choices and taking hard drugs but now, at 35, she has turned her life around through cross fit training and is about to become a mother.

She used lifting and the gym to take back control of her life and learned about nutrition, understanding that she had to use food to fuel her body – she went through a complete transformation and used the discipline form bodybuilding to help her let go of bad habits.

“I became the leader of my change instead of the victim of my circumstance.”

Follow her for…
Her personal story – her transformation will inspire you to pack your bags for the gym.

5. Victoria Spence | 79.3K followers


23-year-old Manc and personal trainer, Victoria uses her Instagram platform to teach women of every shape, size, colour, and ethnicity to love their bodies.

From a young age, Vic knew she was destined to be a dancer, she even got into a professional dance college and signed with an agent at 16. But not long after this, she became hyper-aware of her body – she thought she had to have a six pack and get rid of the bulk in her thighs and ended up starving herself in the pursuit of perfection.

Her eating disorder took over rapidly but she eventually accepted help and started her recovery; she used working out and nutrition to build a healthy relationship with food again and documented her journey in the hopes of inspiring other women.

‘I lost myself in the pursuit of perfection’

Follow her for…
Happy vibes, lots of smiles and a reminder every day to love yourself.

6. Silvia Fascians | 134K followers


Silvia Fascians, 24, from Padua, Italy is now a running coach for Addidas Italia in Milan but has been through an ordeal to get there. When she was 18 she developed an eating disorder, it stemmed from feeling abandoned after losing touch with her former basketball teammates.

She skipped meals and purged, dropping to a life-threatening seven stone, but at this point she says Instagram saved her. It showed her real-life stories of what her doctors, friends, and family had been telling her, changing her perceptions.

She began weight training with her brother’s help and over the next few years her body recovered and she developed the toned muscles you see today.

“I had lost all contact with the world – it was just me and the monster sitting on my shoulder clapping me when I starved.”

Follow her for…
Inpsiration – her determination will get you inspired to start making healthier choices.


7. Sarah Ramadan | 168K followers


Sarah is a fitness icon in Canada but before she had the healthy lifestyle you see today, she suffered from anorexia. She was anorexic for over 5 years and eventually ended up in the intensive care unit when her weight dropped dangerously low.

After almost losing her life, Sarah began to fight back. She started training with her brother who was really into health and fitness and able to give her advice on workouts and nutrition. She began lifting weights and documented her story on both Instagram and Youtube, warning others of the dangers of eating disorders.

“In case ya didn’t know, life’s a lot better when you learn to love and respect yourself.”

Follow her for…
Workout inspiration – she has a ton of info that can help you on your fitness journey.

8. Nika | 85.7K followers


Nika, better known as fitnika, is a Crush Fit athlete and personal trainer. Before she was the toned bodybuilder you see today she went through a vicious cycle of bingeing and then running for hours on the treadmill or purging to compensate for her calorie intake.

She suffered from her eating disorder for 9 years before she was able to accept help and start her recovery and now she shares her story with her followers to show it’s never too late to make a change. Today she is not only in great shape but maintains a vegan diet, consuming no animal products, just proving that plants really do have protein.

Follow her for…
Inspiration reminding you every day not to give up on your goals

9. Julie | 17.4K followers


Julie was never an athletic person, she didn’t play sports, go to the gym or generally give her helath much thought. When she was younger she would binge eat, snacking on junk food constantly and ended up in very bad health.

Today she has gone through a massive transformation using bodybuilding to pull herself out of her binge eating. She became focused and maintained a regular routine at the gym and now she’s in such great shape she is even an IPE Pro Bikini Competitor.

“Whether you’re coming from a place of overeating or undereating, I promise you that you are worth happiness and a happy mind, body, and soul..”

Follow her for…
Bikini coaching training and advice – she can teach you everything you need to know about getting in shape to compete.

10. Molly Eledge | 58.8K followers


When Molly arrived at college she started struggling with her body image, she became insecure and developed an eating disorder. Over the years she fluctuated from purgining to binging and her weight changed dramatically.

CrossFit is what helped her to recover from her eating disorder, by allowing herself to focus on achieving new feats of strength she was able to let her body heal. Now she shares her inspiring story with her followers helping them to love and appreciate their bodies and all they can achieve.

“I’m happier than I’ve ever been. Food is no longer an obsession, or something I fear. ”

Follow her for…
Her stories of overcoming struggles and giving it your all even on your worst days will motivate you to meet your goals.

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