By Liana Jacob


THIS SEXY MUM-OF-FIVE used to feel like the ugliest person in the room and had an eating disorder that almost landed her in hospital, but since turning FORTY-EIGHT feels more confident than ever and is flaunting her unbelievably youthful physique all over social media to prove it – but she looks so good that people are accusing her of having work done and FAKE BREASTS.

In 1991, when certified personal trainer, Sharyn Leanna (48) from New South Wales, Australia, was just 21 she had her first child, Sam. Following the birth, she was told by a relative that she had a ‘fat backside’ and was called ‘chubby’.

Sharyn says she now isn’t afraid to try weights. MDWfeatures / Sharyn Leanna

These comments greatly affected her and she began obsessing over her weight, purging food, which continued for a couple of years reducing her body from 9st 6Ib and a UK size 10 to just 6st 10Ib and a UK size six.

She became addicted to exercise and would work out on machines for up to four hours a day, overeat and make herself sick, then go on the scales.

It wasn’t until she visited her GP in 1994, that he suggested she had body dysmorphia, a mental illness where a person spends an excessive amount of time worrying about flaws in their appearance, which are often unnoticeable or non-existent.

Sharyn pictured with her youngest, Levi, Kasidei and Cooper. MDWfeatures / Sharyn Leanna

The doctor told her parents that if she continued down this path, she may end up hospitalised and put on a drip. With the help of health professionals, she began to make better food choices, stayed off the scales and reduced her exercise. By the time her second child, Brodie, was born in 1996, she reached a healthy weight of 10st and UK size eight after discovering her passion for weight lifting.

She has since maintained a healthy perception of her body and appearance and has had three more children, Cooper (19), Kasidei (16) and Levi (8).

Being a chronic asthmatic since she was a child, in July 2009, Sharyn had what she thought was a serious asthma attack which left her in a critical condition and her family told her that she would be placed on life support if she didn’t get better.

The doctors then diagnosed her with pneumococcal and pneumonia with a partially collapsed lung. While she was always health and exercise conscious, the incident prompted her to step out of her comfort zone and pick up real weights.

Sharyn dispels the myth that weight lifting makes women look ‘manly’. MDWfeatures / Sharyn Leanna

To her surprise, her new body has prompted some to accuse her of having breast implants, and some even questioning whether she is the biological mum of her oldest son, due to her physique.

“I had no self-confidence what-so-ever when I was in my twenties, although I hid it well on the inside, I was riddled with self-doubts,” Sharyn said.

“I saw myself as overweight and avoided the mirror and photographs as I would focus on my flaws; many of which I realise looking back were all in my head.

“When my eldest child was six weeks old a relative told me, I had a fat backside. The very same night an acquaintance referred to me as ‘a bit chubbier’ since having my baby.

“While I was only a size ten, these off-the-cuff comments affected me greatly at twenty-one-years-old. They truly stirred something emotionally in me.

“I began purging food, this went on for a couple of years until I got so thin. I was also always tired, and I hid the disorder from everyone around me (so I thought) because I was in complete denial.

“I became obsessed with exercise, food and my weight; I was driving everyone insane around me constantly asking if I was fat and comparing myself negatively to other women.

“Every single exercise contraption on the TV infomercials I bought and usually wore out. I would exercise on these machines sometimes up to four hours a day and eat ridiculously then make myself physically sick. I was obsessed. It was a vicious cycle.

“What the scales told me each day would determine my mindset about myself for the whole day. I never thought I could be too thin.

Sharyn pictured in a wine-coloured cleavage-baring dress. MDWfeatures / Sharyn Leanna

“I knew deep down I had to stop. For my son, my partner and my health. I still didn’t think I was thin although looking back I was unhealthily thin. But I knew I was harming myself.

“All I could see in the mirror was an unattractive, overweight person staring back at me. I was told by my GP at the time I was suffering from body dysmorphia.

“Feelings of not being good enough, always feeling like the least attractive person in the room, this consumed me.”

After a wake-up call from her doctor who told her that she may end up hospitalised if she got any thinner, Sharyn made the brave step towards recovery.

“The bulimia did finally stop well before our second child was conceived in 1996, it was not an easy process, but I was determined,” she said.

“I began to make better food choices, stayed off the scales and the drive to purge became less and less every day until the thought of being sick made me sick.

“I continued to exercise but never to extremes and continued after every single baby. Cardio was still a no-go zone.

“I began to format my own methods of training incorporating things around me and often using my babies or water bottles for weights.

“This helped me bounce back naturally after each baby. I also started eating eighty percent clean and twenty percent of whatever my body craved.

“In July 2009, I had what we thought was a bad asthma attack, I was placed in intensive care in a critical condition and my family told me I’d be placed on life support if I didn’t improve.

Sharyn pictured weight lifting at a beach. MDWfeatures / Sharyn Leanna

“I was diagnosed with pneumococcal and pneumonia with a partially collapsed lung – I was very lucky to survive. It took me months to fully recover.

“Then in March 2010 to our surprise we found out that baby number five was due in October just after my fortieth birthday. I enjoyed being pregnant with this baby and we were all so excited.

“I’d birthed five beautiful children, but I knew I wanted to do something to make not only them but myself proud.

“When baby number five was almost one-year-old, I booked myself a personal trainer for a few weeks and decided to get fit and strong again.

“For the first time in my life I picked up real weights, even though I’d always had the notion weights would make me manly but it’s not true.

“For the first time when others complimented me, I’d say thank you and not think they were just humouring me.

“Fitness truly does boost you as much mentally as physically. Some days I don’t feel like exercising but I know that I need to because it can truly positively change your whole mindset for the day.

“Weight lifting has just made me a happier more confident person. I guess with muscle you feel so much more physically strong it’s much easier to front up to your fears.

“You may not always feel strong on the inside but knowing you look it on the outside definitely makes it that much easier to face things and people.”

Sharyn pictured weight lifting. MDWfeatures / Sharyn Leanna

While she would obsess over her appearance before, Sharyn now accepts her flaws and focuses on becoming stronger.

“I accept I’m not perfect, I know I have flaws and I feel like I earned every single one. My lower tummy has the stretch marks as proof I birthed five glorious babies,” she said.

“My legs sometimes have cellulite, ok, no one loves their cellulite, but we all get it and I own it. In my twenties I would make myself sick worrying if I had cellulite or if my tummy formed any sort of rolls when I bent or sat down.

“Today I accept I’m only one-and-a-half-years shy of fifty and I’m not perfect because no one’s perfect but I’m alive and I’m doing fine.

“I’ve been accused of having breast implants and work done, but I one-hundred percent have not. I take that as a compliment but also feel a little sad as it’s not true.

“I’ve never considered cosmetic surgery as I’m very fearful of it and I really needed to keep fit. It’s not something I care about as I’m very skin conscious, so I’ve never wanted Botox.

“I’ve always been busty growing up and I never breastfed my children due to being an asthmatic and I’ve been on medication since I was sixteen-month-old.

“I have worked hard to maintain myself naturally. I often hear ‘oh you look great for having five kids’ or ‘you look great for forty-eight’.

“Mostly people have always questioned my husband on where our older son’s mother is, believing they were my step-children.

“Age is merely a number, if you’re in good health then do what you can. Don’t be afraid of picking up weights as they are your friend.”


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