A Portadown woman has undergone an amazing transformation in her life, both physically and spiritually, a transition which has seen her pick up a top bodybuilding award in the process.
Zara Crowe, 25, picked up the NABBA (National Amateur Body-Builders’ Association) Miss NI Figure Toned title having made serious changes to her lifestyle in order to compete in the competition.
Zara explained how the transition came about: “I became a Christian last year. I realised a big focus in my life was on going out and drinking and not much else. I wanted something more.
“I was doing weight training on and off at Columbia Gym with Stevie Millar, who is the current Mr World. Last year I went out and watched the Worlds with my trainer Steve Millar. I was mesmerised by the dedication that goes into the sport.
“I started to train harder and come Christmas time I thought I might give it a go.”
She continued: “Stevie set out a 16-week plan for me. Oh my goodness, I don’t think anyone could truly understand the physical and mental pain you go through when you’re training for something like this.
“You’re cutting out all the nice things - no bread, cheese, crisps, chocolate.
“You’re eating exactly the same thing every day. The only thing that varies is the portions.
“I’m eating oats, eggs, turkey, rice and protein shakes throughout the day.
“You really do miss having sugar flowing through your blood. You physically crave chocolate.
“It gets so, so tough because you’re trying to get your body fat down so low.
“There are times when it’s difficult holding a stable conversation.”
Despite the hardships, Zara was over the moon with the end result. She said: “I couldn’t believe the transformation after 16 weeks. By no means did I need to lose the weight, but the change was still crazy.
“People think of female bodybuilders as these big bulky girls, but I’ve shown it’s possible to get toned and keep your curves.”
Zara, who works as an Environmental Health officer with Newry Council, grew up in Craigavon and went to school at Killicomaine and Portadown College. She’s currently living in Waringstown with her fiancé George Dawson
She said: “I’ve never achieved anything like this before. To be this involved and to do that well at something is a first for me.
“As soon as it was over I hit the vending machine at our hotel and hoovered up about 10 chocolate bars in a row.
“I had three days off and ate what I wanted and as much as I wanted.
“Then I was straight back to training. I’ve got the Britains on May 31 and I’ll be representing Northern Ireland at the Worlds on June 7.
“I couldn’t have done it without Stevie Millar and my fiancé George who runs Shapeshifter nutrition. It was through George that I got involved in this. His brother is getting ready for next year’s NABBA.”