A natural athlete, Tiffany Lee Gaston started doing gymnastics and dance at a very young age; by age 8 she was already drawing attention for her muscular build and becoming self-conscious about her body. “I really struggled with how I should look,” she recalls. “I felt like I didn’t fit the mold for the types of bodies I thought were appealing.” By age 12, Gaston had developed anorexia. “I was trying to starve the muscle off my body.”

At age 14, she’d withered away to 37kg when her parents stepped in, and Gaston started working with a counselor, learning to embrace her natural build.

Gaston started weight training after taking it as an elective in high school. “It was such an amazing feeling to be getting stronger and watching my body change.” She’s now been lifting for more than 20 years, following a structured five- to six-day-a-week routine, including isolation exercises, functional training, and body-weight workouts. In 2015, she authored a book, From Broken to Badass, about her struggles.

She continues to set new goals for herself and recently took up Olympic lifting. “I started it because it’s not something I’m good at, and that makes me want it even more.” Challenges like these are key for your mind and body, she says. “No matter how big or small, it’s important to have a goal to work toward.”