It struck me this morning as I was walking into my office building struggling to maneuver my way through the 3 very heavy doors carrying my backpack, 6 pack bag, gallon of water, and shaker cup, that I would be walking onto an brightly lit stage in 5″ heels and some extremely small pieces of sparkly fabric in a SEVEN days. All I could think was “oh shit, what have I done?” It’s put me in a state of silent panic and reflection for most of the day.

Just three short years ago, I finally decided it was time to stop feeling like crap, feeling old, and feeling overly squishy. It’s hard to believe how far I’ve come, how much has changed, and how much better I feel physically and mentally. It hasn’t been easy, and there were times, when I was just going through the motions, but I can say with certainty that these last 23 weeks I have been a game changer. 

Old Me

I have my husband to thank for getting me into this new adventure. For years he would say that by 30 he wanted to compete on stage in a bodybuilding competition. Well, he turned 30 last September and he was still piddling with the idea, switching back and forth from taking  posing classes to going into bulk mode and competing in powerlifting meets. During this same time, I was to a point where everything bored me. My training was getting old, the food wasn’t inspiring me anymore, and I was actually starting to gain quite a bit of weight back. When we returned home from our trip to the Olympia in Vegas,  I said enough was enough, and it was time to start getting fired up about something again. That’s when I told Justin that I wanted to compete. He was probably as surprised as I was at the notion, but frankly, I was tired of hearing him talk about and I desperately needed a challenge, so I thought, why not?? So it was official, we were both going to hit the stage!

Justin had already built a report with a master of all things strength, Phil Stevens, so we asked if he could help us prep for a competition. Phil coached Justin through his first powerlifting meet, so it felt natural that he be a part of another first for us both. (To learn more about Phil, go here.)


I ballooned back up to 145 lbs. when these photos were taken.

Phil, in a very small nutshell, writes our programming (another word for “workouts”) and gives us our macros (tells us how many grams of protein, fat, and carbs we can eat in a day). It sounds so simple, but really I think he’s a damn genius because my results blow my mind. Not just in how I look, but how much stronger I am, how much better I feel, and how much I have learned about myself and how to train. (For more details on some of our time with Phil and my first powerlifting meet, go here.) I amazed at everything I’ve been able to accomplish, and the amount of weight I’ve lifted in the midst of all the “dieting”. The numbers speak for themselves!

Before After
145Body Weight127
110Bench Press (1 Rep Max)155
65Strict Press (1 Rep Max)95
195Squat (1 Rep Max)245
205Deadlift (1 Rep Max)270

As if walking around in a bikini on stage wasn’t enough of a motivator to whip my ass back into shape and stick to our diet over the last few weeks, I also entered the 200k Transformation Challenge again. The Challenge started a few weeks after we began working with Phil. Not sure if it’s luck, or what, but it also ends in just a few short days. I participate in the Challenge every year, I do it because it’s fun, and it’s exciting to see something so simple, like a 12 week challenge, inspire so many people to give a shit about their health, to get in the gym, to stop feeling sorry for themselves. The thought of throwing my hat in for a chance (albeit an extremely minuscule chance) to win part of the 200k doesn’t hurt either. Thousands of people participate, and actively provide support and encouragement to complete strangers who have a common goal…to transform their bodies into the best version possible. I love it. This year has been especially fun because I actually won one of the weekly challenges! and Dymatize Nutrition picked one of MY recipes among all others as the winner and awarded me $200! I think that’s pretty damn cool!

Challenge Winner

Along with the voluntary weekly challenges, the 200k Challenge requires you to submit before and after photos in order to compete. I can tell you right now, if it weren’t for this rule, I’m not sure I would be so generous with my photos. It’s terrifying to post such scantily clad photos of myself. But, I really couldn’t think of a better way to prepare myself for the stage than by posting my progress pics for all to see, so I’ve tried to do just that. If you follow my IG (@elishahess) or my bodyspace account, you’ve seen them all, if you don’t, then here’s your chance!

Before 200k

Only two and half months with Phil, and I already dropped down to 132 lbs. These are the photos I submitted for the 200k Transformation Challenge.

Participants are encouraged to follow a program, and post constant updates on training, measurements, and progress. ( offers a number of FREE programs, including the Jamie Eason 12 Week Live Fit Trainer, the program which introduced me to barbells and plate weights. If you can’t afford a coach or are just looking for something new, I encourage you to check them out!) I felt extremely lucky, and like I had a leg up on the competition since I had Phil providing my program and macros because it was tailored specifically for me and bringing up my weaknesses.

His training style is like nothing I have ever seen or experienced. He made lifting fun again, presented me with new challenges to overcome, and made me work on things I hated because I sucked at them…things like push ups and pull ups and curls. Before Phil, for instance, I struggled to complete 10 consecutive push-ups, now I can happily brag that I’ve completed over 150 push-ups in under 10 minutes. Real pushups too, not the girl ones! 

My training changed every 4 weeks, and almost every day included one or more basic lifts (squat, deadlift, bench press, strict press) with a smattering of accessory work and body weight movements…..and LOTS of volume (high reps). I learned new methods and challenges like EDT (Escalating Density Training), Curl Ladders, and the very, very evil Push-Up Contest. Any one of these will 

Curl Ladder: Start with one rep per arm, then 2, then 3 etc. etc. until failure, then rest 1 minute, and start the ladder over at one. Repeat 4 times. Try and increase this ladder over the weeks.
Push-Up Contest: Perform 1 set of push-ups, as many as possible. Rest 10 breaths, do as many push ups as possible again, rest ten breaths, do as many push ups as possible yet again. That’s one round. Rest two minutes. Repeat for three rounds.
A few of my favorites from Phil, like the barbell complexes he programmed in Week 14, are already posted on our Training page. Try them out! They look easy, but they will kick your ass, and they only take about 10 minutes to complete. 

I’m a log book junkie. I’ve kept a log of every training session I’ve ever had. It really helps me stay motivated and organized. When I have a shit day in the gym, I can go back through it and remind myself how far I’ve come. These are a few snippets of my training from the last 23 weeks for your viewing pleasure! 

My macros/diet changed frequently depending how my body weight and measurements panned out each week. We weren’t shooting for a specific number on the scale, but we were going for a specific “look”. It was a we would know when we saw it sort of thing. This really frustrated me at first because I felt like I had no specific goal, but eventually I let go of my Type A tendencies, decided to stop worrying about it and just do what I was told! Below is a snapshot of a typical day of food. In the simplest of terms, I followed an If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) approach, meaning I can eat whatever I want as long as at the end of the day I have eaten as close to the amount of proteins/fats/carbs as Phil prescribed. So if I wanted ice cream, or cheese, a bowl of cereal, or to eat out at a restaurant, I could! 

Day of Food

Please Note: I don’t want anyone thinking that they can just eat exactly what/how much I eat and achieve the same results. It doesn’t work that way. Everyone is different, and while my “diet” may provoke similar results in others, it is still MY diet. It is tailored to my specific goals, the current state of my metabolism, combined with how my body reacts to carbs/fats/proteins, and my training regimen. 

I did my best to not go over my macros, but I also did my best not to stress about it if I did. I’m a perfectionist, so this was really difficult for me. I slipped up a lot. The kids are really good as sharing their food with me. I blame them! Those damn bite-sized pieces of peanut butter & honey sandwiches and chicken nuggets! They get me every time. At least the nuggets were homemade, right? Anyhow, the diet has been the hardest part for me. Restraint around food is not one of my strong suits, but I think I’ve done okay. I guess we will know for sure next weekend when I attempt to strut my stuff in 5″ heels! 

So with all that said, we have exactly seven more days to push a little harder, to freak out a little more, and remind ourselves that our hard work and sacrifices will pay off. They already have, really. Whether I place at the show or not, or win any more prize money, this whole process has changed me, and I’ve learned so much about myself. Justin and I both have received so much support from family, from friends, and even complete strangers! For that, we are grateful. So thank you!


I have had several requests for before and after photos, and I haven’t posted them for the simple reason that my suit is very, very tiny. It’s especially shocking if you are unfamiliar with figure competitions. So, if you are one that is easily offended, I suggest you not scroll down….’cause your going to see more of me than you probably want! 

These photos were taken last week, so hopefully, by show day, I will have leaned out even more. Justin and I both will have photos (taken by a professional!) posted as soon as we can of us on stage. 

Competition: 2015 1st Phorm NPC Midwest Championships and 200k Transformation Challenge

The suit: Angel Competition Bikinis

Jewlery: Glam Competition Jewelry

Shoes: Ellie Shoes

Hair Colored by: Sherri Young at Infinity Salon, Republic, MO

Photos: Taken with the crappiest iPhone camera ever. 








 2 weeks out


%d bloggers like this: