After a long process of going through hundreds of entries for the #shapemyfitgirl search, we now have our finalists! These 10 women embody a lifestyle that centres on fitness and wellness. They workout, eat well, and inspire others in their own ways. In other words, they walk the talk. The winner will be featured on our June 2017 cover and she will also walk away with great prizes.
Check out the behind-the-scene HERE.
1. Maggie Wong
This 27-year-old marketer was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism in 2006. The condition made her lose up to 7kg in a week, only to regain it a month later. Maggie’s weight was constantly fluctuating, making her flabby and unhappy for a long time. But after some research on nutrition and exercise, she turned to fitness for relief, and soon found herself falling in love with weightlifting. Last year, Maggie participated in the NABBA WFF bodybuilding competition. “That was a critical moment because I was also going through other challenges in my personal life. Training for the competition helped me to focus on being positive,” says Maggie who is also a personal trainer. Despite some undesirable comments, Maggie is proud of her physique. “Some say that I am too muscular for a woman, but I love my shape and am proud of it. Build the body you love for yourself, not for others! ” she says.
2. Darshanaa Chellaiah
This 26-year-old Ph.D student is into nature and adventure. Thanks to her studies in Tropical Ecology, Darshanaa often goes into the forest to conduct research, and that means hiking, sometimes alone. “I need to be fit because going into the forest for research involves carrying heavy equipment. Sometimes I even have to hike up a mountain with those,” she says. Darshanaa also dabbles in kickboxing to hone her self-defense skills. For her, fitness is about continuously striving to be the best version of herself. Growing up as an active kid, Darshanaa was confident that she was fit, but was often called ‘skinny fat’ in secondary school. Even then, she avoided weightlifting as she feared it would bulk her up and make her appear masculine. However, that notion changed when she started working out with her trainer, who is now her boyfriend. Through him, she learnt about weightlifting and its benefits. “I’m still skinny but definitely toned, and I have strong abs, which I love,” she says.
3. Cynthia Tan
Fourty-year-old Cynthia Tan is on a mission to inspire others into fitness. The graphic designer by day, and fitness instructor by night gets motivated by her students. “My heart is touched on a daily basis when members of my fitness classes send me emails about how I have inspired them to live healthily. Their words keep me going strong on my own journey,” says Cynthia who keeps her Zumba workout sessions energetic and fun. Starting out as an active teenager, Cynthia dabbled in various sports such as long distance running, handball and swimming. She also participated in SUKMA and represented Terengganu in basketball. Cynthia has also conducted a boxing class called Boxercise (Jackie Chan’s signature class) in California in 2006. She believes that a healthy lifestyle is for all regardless of age. “Nobody’s perfect so we should constantly strive to upgrade ourselves physically and mentally, one step at a time,” she says.
4. Joyce Lim Pei Wah
The 27-year-old graphic designer is an active runner who is serious about marathons. She completed her first full marathon at the Asics Penang Bridge International Marathon last year. Her latest participation was in the Pahang International Marathon where Joyce ran in the 21km category.Her journey began in 2003 when she was just 13 years old. “It began as I wanted to get healthier because I used to get sick often. Then, I fell in love with it,” explains Joyce. She says that running gives her a sense of freedom. “It makes me feel free and I truly believe that it is the best way to de-stress,” she confesses. Apart from becoming a top runner in Malacca recently, Joyce also revelled at an 11km trail run in Bukit Larut, Taiping, organised by Majlis Kebajikan dan Sukan Anggota-Anggota Kerajaan Malaysia. “Running while holding a job means that I have to manage my time well in order to make way for both training and work,” says Joyce, who also likes playing badminton.
5. Farhana Abdul Wahab
This 25-year-old has a strong background in taekwondo. She began training at 9, and in her teenage years, progessed to competing at tournaments, representing her school and various clubs. Today, Farhana is a studio manager and fitness instructor at Atilia Haron’s Yogaonethatiwant Studio in Petaling Jaya. The sports science graduate began taking an interest in yoga when she interned at the studio during the final year of varsity. “I love how yoga challenges me mentally and physically. The practice helps me with flexibility, and calms me when I’m stressed,” says Farhana.The fitness enthusiast is also an avid fan of wall-climbing and juggling. She believes that fitness has no boundaries. “Being a Muslim who wears a hijab does not stop me from doing what I love,” says Farhana, adding that she aspires to be the first cover girl with a hijab in SHAPE Malaysia.
6. Sabrina Abu
This energetic and chirpy former Selangor state gymnast and founder of the #gilafitness community finds joy in helping others, specifically kids. She wants to help overweight children in achieving a healthy lifestyle. “I’m planning a bootcamp programme for obese kids since the obesity rate has gone up and there are few safe spaces around for kids to play today. Hopefully, this bootcamp will serve these two purposes,” she says. Inspired by her father who is a former sportsman himself, Sabrina was introduced to various sports including gymnastics at a young age. She fancied gymnastics, and pursued the discipline professionally. One of her greatest achievements is representing Selangor in SUKMA 2000. From there, she went to study sports science, majoring in health and fitness. The fitness trainer has also tried CrossFit, Muay Thai, boxing and functional training. Eventually, bodybuilding became her chosen path. “Fitness has given me so much and it is my hope and dream that everyone experiences it as I do,” says Sabrina.
7. Kamini Gandi
This 29-year-old mother struggled with her weight during her teens. “It was worse during college as I ate and drank excessively with minimal exercise,” says Kamini. So, she tried to turn her life around, exercised and lost weight within a month, only to regain it soon after. “I starved myself so it messed up my metabolism. And when I ate regular food, the weight piled back on,” she says. It was after she met her boyfriend, now husband, that she started to really look after herself. Kamini cut down on alcohol, started exercising and, most importantly, fuelled her body with the right food. “That did the job. It’s a lifestyle I’ve managed to maintain throughout and after my pregnancy,” says Kamini, adding that cheat days are permissive once in a while to satisfy her cravings. “My husband is my rock. We spend a lot of time together at the gym and in the kitchen to make sure that we are in this together,” says Kamini. On why she wants to be SHAPE’s Fit Girl, Kamini wants to tell women that it is possible to be healthy and fit during and after pregnancy.
8. Gillian Benjamin
This 32-year-old certified trainer is against body-shaming and is often compelled to protect those who experience it. “The kids at my secondary school labelled me with names like ‘walking stick’ as I was very skinny then. I hated that. That’s why I have this need to protect those who are going through the same ordeal as I did,” says Gillian. Taking every person’s fitness journey as her own, she is serious about not excluding anyone, especially those who need it the most. “I started my fitness journey to help, educate and motivate as many people as I can,” says Gillian who began as a fitness trainer at Fitness First in 2008. She also actively boxes, and runs marathons and triathlons. She believes that transforming yourself is a journey, and not a wishing well. “Time is an undeniable factor in your progress but success is possible if there is a will,” says the woman who also loves fishing and travelling .
9. Nika Karan
This Polish yoga teacher living in Malaysia loves nasi lemak and durian. And, with a good cup of coffee and some friends for meaningful conversation, Nika Karan is a happy woman. The 35-year-old mother of two boys is also a certified health coach. She loves helping women, especially mothers, to get into their best shapes using her signature ‘8 Week Yoga & Nutrition Transformation Programme’. She propagates a balanced lifestyle through eating well, sleeping more, stressing less and moving more in whatever way that makes you happy. When Nika started practicing yoga about 10 years ago, she realised that she has better control of her mind and body. “That boosted my desire to become a certified yoga teacher,” says Nika who has written Yoga For Weight Loss For Beginners: A Step-By-Step Picture Guide to 90 Slimming Yoga Poses. Her other books are Meditate Yourself Slim: Meditation, Visualization & Positive Affirmations For Weight Loss and Fast Burning Breakfast.
10. Bibian Leong
This 26 year-old hairstylist has an enticingly active and friendly personality. She confesses that she loves food too much to go on a diet. “For me, the key to health and fitness is in balancing life with workout sessions. I never miss a workout. No matter how big or small you are, being lazy is not an option because working out is a must, regardless of how much time you have in a day,” she says. While Bibian likes working out to keep a fit and trim body, she also likes the social aspect of the lifestyle. “When you work out in a gym, you’re in a different social setting, away from work and business, where you’re meeting and talking to new people from all walks of life. That’s my favourite part of this lifestyle,” she explains. Bibian concentrates more on her abs and glutes after a compulsory 15-minute run on a treadmill daily. When she isn’t indoors, she takes joy in hiking and skateboarding. “I’m not interested in being too skinny because fit is the new skinny,” adds Bibian.