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Woman sheds 120 pounds and wins competition in journey to mental and physical wellness

Woman sheds 120 pounds and wins competition in journey to mental and physical wellness

Sandeepa Rathnayaka, a Columbus, Ohio, based engineering manager, took home the top prize at a bodybuilding and transformation competition in October after losing more than 120 pounds in three years, she said.

Rathnayaka credits a life-altering physical transformation to a larger lifestyle change of mindset, which she said helped her battle lifelong depression.

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Rathnayaka told "Good Morning America" that after weighing 253 pounds in 2020, she shed over 120 pounds after her trainer at a local gym opened her eyes to a series of lifestyle changes, which ultimately aided her in achieving a prolonged healthy mental state as well.

PHOTO: Sandeepa Rathnayaka won a bodybuilding competition in October, 2023. (4Net Media Group)
PHOTO: Sandeepa Rathnayaka won a bodybuilding competition in October, 2023. (4Net Media Group)

Rathnayaka said she was molested at 9 years old, an event which caused prolonged trauma, and a reliance on various coping mechanisms.

"I had been relying on food as an emotional comfort, like a coping mechanism throughout childhood and teenage years," said Rathnayaka.

Rathnayaka said justice was never served to her molester.

"That was one of the biggest things with my childhood trauma. I felt unprotected."

On top of depression and crippling weight gain, Rathnayaka also developed Allergic Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis which exacerbated her symptoms of asthma, something she had dealt with from a young age.

Rathnayaka said after hitting "rock bottom" in 2020, the guidance and relationship she fostered with personal trainer Paul Rennalls, inspired a lifestyle change which resulted in the massive shift and helped her find emotional stability.

"I didn't believe in myself. So, I started to believe in self through him," said Rathnayaka.

She said Rennalls introduced her to a holistic approach to health and wellness.

The 36-year-old said implementing nutrition, exercise, meditation and breathing exercises all helped heal her "from the inside out."

Rathnayaka said Rennalls helped her to recognize "triggers" and develop methods to alter her habits when encountering a trigger.

"She didn't realize how her emotional triggers were allowing her to go back to the habits that she had," said Rennalls.

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The personal trainer said he noticed that Rathnayaka would be uncomfortable in the gym environment, and easily distracted with the thought that other gymgoers were looking at her, something she attributed to childhood traumas once Rennalls questioned her on it.

Rennalls said on top of exercise, examining stress and sleep patterns are vital in personal training.

PHOTO: Rathnayaka shed over 120 pounds after her trainer at a local gym opened her eyes to a series of lifestyle changes (Sandeepa Rathnayaka)
PHOTO: Rathnayaka shed over 120 pounds after her trainer at a local gym opened her eyes to a series of lifestyle changes (Sandeepa Rathnayaka)

"I really wanted to show her the value of investing in to training and what it could do."

Her investment paid out in spades as Rathnayaka brought home the Women's Transformation title at the Summer Shredding national competition in Houston, Texas in last October, a bodybuilding and transformation competition.

PHOTO: Rathnayaka shed over 120 pounds after her trainer at a local gym opened her eyes to a series of lifestyle changes. (Sandeepa Rathnayaka)
PHOTO: Rathnayaka shed over 120 pounds after her trainer at a local gym opened her eyes to a series of lifestyle changes. (Sandeepa Rathnayaka)

"You can have an absolutely phenomenal transformation naturally," said Rathnayaka. "You just need the right guidance. Working with a qualified coach can guide you to do it with a holistic approach to health and wellness."

Throughout her training process Rathnayaka and Rennalls report that the pair also fostered a romantic relationship.

"I consider him my soulmate, like I truly found love," said Rathnayaka, adding that a key component to that was learning to love herself.

Woman sheds 120 pounds and wins competition in journey to mental and physical wellness originally appeared on goodmorningamerica.com