I Gained 15 Pounds — And My Abs Have Never Looked Better

How one Philadelphian changed her body.

Left: mid-transformation in 2015 at 119 pounds. Right: 2017, at 132 pounds. Photographs courtesy Taylor Merget.

Changing your body takes hard work, persistence, and dedication. Here’s one Philadelphian’s transformation story. 

Who: Taylor Merget (@_hustle.and.heart), 24, a respiratory therapist and cycling instructor from Queen Village.

Starting weight: 115 to 118 pounds.

Ending weight: 130 to 134 pounds — probably still going up.

How long it took: Five years — I’ve maintained this weight for about a year.

What I was doing before: “I’ve had a six pack since I was little because of being a competitive swimmer. When I quit swimming and restricted my meals, I lost a lot of muscle mass and my core started to become less defined — more just skinny and narrow/weak. I would literally go an entire day without eating — something and that took a toll on my metabolism. And now since getting back into proper nutrition and  high intensity interval training (HIIT)/cycling the six pack has returned!”

How I changed my diet: “I eat way more now. I used to restrict myself to a certain amount of calories and foods. Now I just eat intuitively (whenever I’m hungry) and make sure my meals are full of wholesome, nutritious meals because I know that’s what my body will tap into when I rip through a workout. Protein, veggies, fruits, complex carbs, and lots of them — but I still go out regularly with friends and family and have a delicious meal and drink (I don’t consider it a ‘treat;’ it’s simply just enjoying company).”

Photographs courtesy Taylor Merget.

How I changed my exercise routine: “I used to be a cardio bunny. I wanted to blast as many calories as possible. Now that my fitness education has broadened, I incorporate resistance training, high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, weights, and cycling into my routine. Anything to help me build muscle and strength. I also try to be as active outside of the gym as possible. Whether it’s hiking, riding my bike to work, snowboarding — you name it.”

The hardest part: “Watching and being accepting of the number on the scale increase. I got through it thanks to looking up to role models who had a similar story to mine and by educating myself more in the fitness department. I’ve been able to connect with amazing men and women in the fitness community here in Philly. We’ve all grown together on our own journeys. My friends’ and family’s continual support to keep going is a huge motivator as well.”

How I changed my approach: “I’ve reshaped my way of thinking about weight and what it even means. More muscle equals more pounds; it’s simple, normal, and to be expected, although we often think the number on the scale going up is a bad thing. I’m capable of way more than I ever was and can blast through a ton of burpees now.”

“You should retrain your mind to focus more on your strength increasing, instead of on your body shrinking.”

What else has changed: “I’m much faster when it comes to running and cycling (I can maintain sprints longer), I’m WAY stronger. I could barely get through ten jump lunges or burpees, and now I could go for minutes doing them without a break. More than anything, I have a significant amount of energy compared to back then. I would want to sleep and nap alllll the time when I was restricting, but since changing my lifestyle I’ve noticed how much more energy I have.”

What I want you to know: “That the number on the scale is irrelevant. That working out should be a celebration of what your body is CAPABLE of doing, not a punishment for what you ate that day. That you don’t need to stick to a certain routine or format to see progress. You can experiment and have fun. It should all be fun and if at any point you start to ‘dread’ a workout, switch up your routine! That you should retrain your mind to focus more on your strength increasing, instead of on your body shrinking. And that meals out will NOT ruin your body. Don’t obsess — enjoy everything out there the world has to offer!”