Woman loses 120 pounds and wins competition on journey to mental and physical health
Rathnayaka credits her life-changing transformation to a change in mindset.
Sandeepa Rathnayaka, an engineering manager in Columbus, Ohio, said she took home first prize in a bodybuilding and transformation competition in October after losing more than 120 pounds in three years.
Rathnayaka credits her life-changing physical transformation to a larger lifestyle change in mindset, which she said has helped her battle lifelong depression.
Rathnayaka told “Good Morning America” that after weighing 253 pounds in 2020, she lost more than 120 pounds after her trainer at a local gym opened her eyes to a series of lifestyle changes that eventually helped her achieve a state of health. A healthy, long-term mindset too. .
Rathnayaka said she was molested when she was nine years old, an event that caused long-term trauma and reliance on various coping mechanisms.
“I relied on food as an emotional comfort, like a coping mechanism, throughout my childhood and teenage years,” Rathnayaka said.
Rathnayaka said justice was never served to her harasser.
“That was one of my biggest childhood traumas. I felt so unprotected.”
On top of depression and crippling weight gain, Rathnayaka also developed allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis which exacerbated her asthma symptoms, something she had dealt with from a young age.
Having hit “rock bottom” in 2020, Rathnayaka said the mentorship and relationship she fostered with personal trainer Paul Rennells inspired a lifestyle change that led to a massive transformation and helped her find emotional stability.
“I didn’t believe in myself. So, I started believing in myself through him,” Rathnayaka said.
She said Rennels introduced her to a holistic approach to health and wellness.
The 36-year-old said that following the diet, exercise, meditation and breathing exercises helped her heal “from the inside out.”
Rathnayaka said Renals helped her identify “triggers” and develop methods to change her habits when faced with a trigger.
“She didn’t realize how her emotional triggers were allowing her to fall back into the habits she had,” Rennels said.
The personal trainer said he noticed that Rathnayaka would be uncomfortable in a gym environment and would be easily distracted by the thought that other gym-goers were looking at her, something she attributed to childhood traumas when Rennels questioned her about it.
In addition to exercise, examining stress and sleep patterns is vital in personal training, Rennels said.
“I really wanted to show her the value of investing in training and what it can do.”
Her investment was paid off in a big way as Rathnayaka brought home the women’s shift title at the Summer Shredding National Bodybuilding and Shifting Competition in Houston, Texas last October.
“You can have a massive transformation naturally,” Rathnayaka said. “You just need the right guidance. Working with a qualified coach can guide you to do this through a holistic approach to health and wellness.”
Throughout her training process, Rathnayaka and Renals report that the pair also fostered a romantic relationship.
“I consider him my soulmate, because I have truly found love,” Rathnayaka said, adding that a key element of that was learning to love herself.