Jessica Learned To Love And Embrace Her Strong Body

Even at her strongest, Jessica's body didn't look like that of a fitness model. It took years for her to learn that every body is different, and that hers was worth loving, too.

Jessica Learned To Love And Embrace Her Strong Body

Jessica Gilmartin's body was made to be strong.

"Since I was a teenager, I've had a thicker, more athletic build," she says. "My stepdad took me to the gym at 13 years old, and I was soon racking six 45 plates on each side of the leg press. I was lifting like crazy."

But even though she was fit, Jessica struggled with her body image. Her thicker build wasn't what she saw on the covers of magazines, so she thought it wasn't good enough. As she grew older, Jessica's self-confidence continued to decline and, when she became pregnant at age 26, it tanked.

"I was pregnant and about to be a single mom," she says. "I grew depressed, and I started to eat emotionally. I gained weight throughout my pregnancy, and when my daughter was born, I was at my all-time heaviest: 270 pounds."

Before 268 lbs.
After 170 lbs.
Age: 26
Height: 5'7"
Weight: 268 lbs.
Body Fat: 42%
Age: 33
Height: 5'7"
Weight: 170 lbs.
Body Fat: 21%

After the birth of her daughter, age and perspective started to give Jessica a healthier view of her body. She realized that when she hated her fit self, it was because she was holding her own body to unrealistic media standards. She made a pledge: She was going to get back in shape, enter a fitness competition, and, along the way, never lose sight of the importance of loving herself and her body.

This is her story.

What was your turning point, or 'aha' moment?

There was no big, exciting moment that inspired me to turn my life around. After my daughter was born, I got sick of feeling sorry for myself. That was the day I took my "before" photo and signed up for a gym membership. I had been so fit when I was younger, and I knew I could achieve some big goals, so I made my first goal competing onstage by my 30th birthday.

What were the first steps you took?

I started by going to the gym four days a week; then I worked my way up to six. I also started researching diet ideas. Since emotional eating is what made me gain all the weight in the first place, I knew that depriving myself of certain foods was just going to set me up for failure. While I was researching, I stumbled upon That's where I learned about macros and flexible dieting. The articles on macros written by Sohee Lee and Layne Norton, PhD, changed my whole outlook on what a healthy diet can look like. I've been tracking my macros ever since, which has worked great for me.

What does your diet look like on a typical day?

It's different every day. That's the beauty of tracking macros—it allows you to switch up your diet all the time. Here's what a typical day might look like:

Meal 1: Pre-workout

Quaker high-fiber oatmeal 2 packets

Meal 2: Post-workout

Protein powder 2 scoops

Flavored rice cakes 4

Meal 3

Lean meat 4 oz.

Quinoa 1 cup

Broccoli 1 cup

Snap peas 1 cup

Meal 4

Low-fat cottage cheese 1 cup

Peaches 1 cup

Meal 5

Lean meat 5 oz.

Jasmine rice 1/2 cup

Stir-fried vegetables 2 cups

Olive oil 1 tbsp

Meal 6

Hard-boiled egg 1

Egg whites 1/2 cup

Do you use any supplements?


Multivitamin 1 serving

Vitamin C 1 serving


Fish oil 1 capsule

CLA 1 serving

Before bed

Fish oil 1 capsule

BCAAs 1 serving

How did you design your workout plans?

I had lots of weightlifting experience from when I was younger that I could draw upon. I mostly created my own programs based on what I knew.

What does your training regimen look like?

Day 1: Quads

Leg Extension

5 sets of 15 reps
Leg Extensions Leg Extensions


Single-Leg Squat

4 sets of 12 reps per leg
One Leg Barbell Squat One Leg Barbell Squat


Smith Machine Squat (to a chair)

5 sets of 15 reps
Smith Machine Squat Smith Machine Squat


Walking Lunge

3 sets of 10 reps per leg
Bodyweight Walking Lunge Bodyweight Walking Lunge


Side Step-up

5 sets of 10 reps per leg
Side to Side Box Shuffle Side to Side Box Shuffle

Day 2: Back

Assisted Wide-Grip Pull-Up

3 sets of 15 reps
Machine-Assisted Pull-Up Machine-Assisted Pull-Up


Lat Pull-down

4 sets of 15 reps
Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown


Single-Arm Row

5 sets of 15 reps
One-Arm Dumbbell Row One-Arm Dumbbell Row


Bent-Over Barbell Row

5 sets of 15 reps
Bent Over Barbell Row Bent Over Barbell Row


Seated Cable Row

5 sets of 15 reps
Seated Cable Rows Seated Cable Rows

Day 3: Abs and Glutes
Ab circuit: 5 rounds
Hanging Leg Raise Hanging Leg Raise
Decline Crunch Decline Crunch

Ball Pass-Through (shown with kettlebell)

10 reps
Lunge Pass Through Lunge Pass Through

Plank Jack

15 reps
Plank Plank

Plank Knee Cross-over (shown as Mountain Climber)

10 reps
Mountain Climbers Mountain Climbers

Glute circuit: 4 rounds

Frog Hops

25 reps
Frog Hops Frog Hops
Butt Lift (Bridge) Butt Lift (Bridge)

Cable Kick-back

20 reps per leg
One-Legged Cable Kickback One-Legged Cable Kickback

Hip Thrust

20 reps
Barbell Hip Thrust Barbell Hip Thrust
Running, Treadmill Running, Treadmill

Day 4: Shoulders
Dumbbell Shoulder Press Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Machine Shoulder (Military) Press Machine Shoulder (Military) Press

Standing Low-Pulley Deltoid Raise Standing Low-Pulley Deltoid Raise


Barbell Front Raise

4 sets of 15 reps
Barbell Front Raise Barbell Front Raise


Rear delt fly

4 sets of 15 reps
Rear delt fly Rear delt fly


Cable Rear Delt Fly (Single-arm)

5 sets of 10 reps
Cable Rear Delt Fly Cable Rear Delt Fly

Day 5: Glutes and Hamstrings

Lying Leg Curl

4 sets of 15 reps
Lying Leg Curls Lying Leg Curls


Stiff-Legged Deadlift

5 sets of 15 reps
Stiff-Legged Barbell Deadlift Stiff-Legged Barbell Deadlift


Sumo Squat

5 sets of 15 reps
Wide-Stance Barbell Squat Wide-Stance Barbell Squat


Suspended Hip Thrust

5 sets of 15 reps
Suspended Hip Thrust Suspended Hip Thrust


Kettlebell Deadlift (Banded)

5 sets of 15 reps
Romanian Deadlift with Kettlebell Romanian Deadlift with Kettlebell


Seated Leg Curl

4 sets of 15 reps
Seated Leg Curl Seated Leg Curl

Day 6: Chest and Arms


5 sets of 10 reps
Pushups Pushups

Machine Bench Press Machine Bench Press


Dumbbell Fly

5 sets of 15 reps
Dumbbell Flyes Dumbbell Flyes


Bench Dips

4 sets of 10 reps
Bench Dips Bench Dips


Barbell Curl

5 sets of 15 reps
Barbell Curl Barbell Curl


Cable triceps extension

5 sets of 15 reps
Triceps Pushdown Triceps Pushdown


Cable Curl

4 sets of 20 reps
Standing Biceps Cable Curl Standing Biceps Cable Curl

Day 7: Rest

Did you ever want to give up?

I had many days, even weeks, where I wanted to give up. Deep down I knew I had set this goal for myself and my daughter, so I always picked myself back up and kept going. My inspiration mostly came from my daughter. She gave me the strength to keep pushing, because ultimately, I had to be a healthy influence for her.

What was the hardest part of your transformation?

The biggest challenge for me was the dieting. I had to work to understand what foods worked for me, because I knew a cookie-cutter diet approach wouldn't be sustainable. This is where learning about macros helped change my life.

Did you meet your goal to get onstage by your 30th birthday?

I did! I competed in the Emerald Cup in 2013. I didn't place, but I won the Inspiration Award from Elaine Craig, and I was brought out onstage to tell my story. Next to giving birth, it was the biggest victory of my life. What really made it the best was hearing my little girl tell me how awesome she thought mommy was with her princess crown.

What are your fitness goals at this point?

I'm currently an online coach teaching others how to lose weight with a lifestyle change and realistic approach, rather than crash dieting or overtraining. My goal is to eventually compete again, but this time I am keeping quiet about when and where. I'm just training my booty off so I can surprise everyone.

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