Like many women, Sarah Bowes didn’t realize the number on the scale was ratcheting higher, until it climbed too far to ignore. She managed to lose her pregnancy weight fairly easily after having her son, Alex, three years ago, but after she returned to work she found balancing her job as a compliance officer plus the demands of raising an infant left her with little time or energy to eat right or exercise.

“I gained back all of that pregnancy weight and then some,” says Bowes. “I’d get home and binge on cheap, processed foods like mac and cheese or get takeout.”

When she tried to eat clean, it often became an excuse to eat unhealthily the rest of the day. Even weight-loss supplements failed to make a difference. “I realized there was no secret pill,” she says. By February 2012, Bowes had ballooned to an all-time high of 171 pounds and was discouraged by her lack of drive.

It was then that she and her husband, Chris, noticed a 90-day transformation challenge on a fitness website with a prize of $10,000 for the most dramatic results. “It caught my eye because not only was it a goal that we could work toward and it’d keep us accountable, but the monetary promise also sweetened the pot!” Inspired, the pair improved their diet and started a training routine.

While they didn’t finish the contest, it was the jump-start Bowes needed. She spent about 15–20 minutes of her lunch hour each day doing cardio, and another 45–60 minutes of weight training at night after she put her son to bed. She also dramatically cleaned up her diet. After three months, she’d lost about 20 pounds. “I had all of this newfound energy!”

By the following fall, she decided to enter a fitness competition. Working with trainers from Ultimate Transformations, she dropped another 10 pounds while adding lean muscle. At her first event, the Tokyo Joe’s Colorado State championships in July 2014, she took two first-place trophies and an overall, as well as placing second in the open division.

Competing gave Bowes ample confidence: “I found balance in my life–how I looked and felt mattered more than numbers on a scale.” Friends, family, and even strangers began to tell her how her changes motivated them to become more active. “It’s humbling because I was just like every other struggling mom who wants to lose weight. But I finally realized that only I could control whether my strengths outweighed my weaknesses.”


Sarah’s menu
Breakfast: Egg whites, steel-cut oats, and berries
Snack 1: Chicken breast, brown rice, and green veggies
Lunch: Sirloin steak, white rice, and green veggies
Snack 2: Protein shake, peanut butter, and an apple
Dinner: Chicken breast and spinach or asparagus
Snack 3: Egg whites and almonds

Training schedule
HIIT fasted cardio 3–4 times a week
Monday: Glutes, hamstrings, and triceps
Tuesday: Back, biceps, and core
Wednesday: Shoulders
Thursday: Cardio
Friday: Quads and hamstrings
Saturday: Glutes and hamstrings
Sunday: Off

Fave supplements
Pre-workout: ProBody Solutions VasocX
Protein supplement: MusclePharm Combat Powder
Post-workout: Cellucor COR-Performance B
Competition prep: MHP DREN fat burner, ProBody Solutions Adrenylcx
Daily health: Optimum Nutrition Opti-Women multivitamin, plus probiotic and potassium supplements