Tanya (42) tells how the birth of her daughter led her on a 20-year fitness journey
Tanya Skelton (42) took home the best transformation and biggest weight-loss awards at the NIFMA Ireland Fitness Model Championships in Newry.
It all started for Tanya over 20 years ago after the birth of her daughter.
She explained: “I decided when I was at my heaviest, 21 stone and 9lbs, that I needed to do something or I was going to end up dead.
“I felt like something just clicked in my head and I just kept thinking it was for my daughter.
“I always struggled with my weight, I used to eat rubbish, just all fried food washed down with Coke.”
Initially struggling, she attempted diet programmes like Weight Watchers, but the only form of physical exercise she was capable of was walking.
“I was so heavy, I couldn’t do anything else,” she said.
“I also was keeping an eye on what I was eating and just trying to eat a lot more healthily. I ended up actually losing quite a bit of weight to begin with.
“Weight Watchers was good for me because I needed someone to be accountable to, I need that check-in so I have something to aim towards every week.”
Happy that she was on the right path health-wise, she embarked on getting much more physically fit.
“It was only a couple of years ago I started to transform myself. My whole face, shape and body changed with the help of my personal trainer Vinny McCormick, who works out of Gyn An-Trim. He hasn’t just changed my life, he’s saved it. He’s been so supportive and encouraging and I would be lost without him.
“It was actually him who inspired me to get into the shows.”
Even though her body had been transformed, she still had insecurities around her confidence.
“When he first mentioned the NIFMA Ireland Fitness Model Championships, I immediately thought no. I had never put a bikini on until recently, never mind standing on a stage in front of hundreds of people in one,” she explained.
Founded by bodybuilder and fitness model Martin Spence, the organisation encourages elite fitness.
Competitions are hosted in hotels across the island with a number of categories.
Tanya added: “After some consideration, and Vinny’s encouragement, I just thought why not?
“It was brilliant. I loved every single second of it.”
In the build-up to the event she took specialised ‘posing’ classes alongside her three weight and multiple other fitness classes a week to ensure her form and figure was on show in the best possible way.
“If you had asked a couple of years ago about possibly doing a show like this, with all this involved, I would have instantly said no way — I used be this wee shy thing,” she laughed.
“This was completely out of my comfort zone.
“I thought I would have been s****ing myself, but it was a great atmosphere.
“Everyone was lovely. I was buzzing to win the categories.
“It’s something I never thought I would do, so it’s a box ticked off for me.
“Just the other day I was doing a photo shoot at my gym, so it just shows the confidence I’ve gained.
“I used to wear baggy clothes and hide myself away — and now I’m doing this.
“My daughter, who is now in her 20s, is so proud and supportive, as are my friends, who are so happy for me.”
Asked about any concerns over the fitness model world, which is often criticised for perpetrating an unhealthy or unnatural lifestyle and body image, Tanya said: “No, there was nothing like that, and that was not the case for me at all.
“We were all backstage and every one was so supportive of one another.
“I think it’s great that women are so involved now — I’m all for girl power!”