BY Stephen Nartey, 6:45pm January 23, 2024,

Ohio woman who used food to cope with pain successfully sheds 120 pounds, wins bodybuilding competition

Sandeepa Rathnayaka/Photo credit: Sandeepa Rathnayaka via Instagram

An Ohio woman, Sandeepa Rathnayaka, who turned to food for emotional comfort after being molested at age nine, has successfully lost 120 pounds over three years.

The engineering manager, who previously weighed 253 pounds, described 2020 as her ‘rock bottom’ but has since undergone a transformative journey, not only shedding weight but also addressing a lifelong struggle with depression.

Sandeepa, currently weighing 133 pounds, has maintained her commitment to personal trainer Paul Rennalls’ fitness and eating plan, resulting in significant lifestyle changes, according to Daily Mail.

She candidly shared her weight-loss journey on Good Morning, linking her use of food as an emotional comfort and coping mechanism to a traumatic experience of being molested as a child.

“I had been relying on food as an emotional comfort, like a coping mechanism throughout childhood and teenage years,” she shared.

She said trauma worsened when she found that her molester was not punished, making her feel defenseless. This, according to her, led to struggles with depression, weight gain, and the worsening of her asthma due to allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis.

In 2020, she met trainer Rennalls, who employed a holistic approach including nutrition, fitness, meditation, and breathing exercises. Rennalls aimed to transform Sandeepa from the inside out, helping her understand triggers and develop strategies to manage anxiety.

“She didn’t realize how her emotional triggers were allowing her to go back to the habits that she had,” he added.

Rennalls recounted that she initially felt uncomfortable exercising at the gym due to concerns about others watching her. According to him, he brought this behavior to her attention, helping her realize it stemmed from unresolved trauma.

Sandeepa said she initially didn’t believe in herself and credited Rennalls with helping her build confidence and belief in herself through their work together.

Rennalls emphasized the significance of sleep and stress regulation during sessions with Sandeepa, adding: “I wanted to show her the value of investing into training and what it could do.”

Sandeepa noted that many people don’t realize there is a strong potential to lose weight naturally with the right guidance. Their training sessions brought about a positive transformation and led to a transition from friendship to a romantic relationship, with Sandeepa expressing it: “I consider him my soulmate like I truly found love.”

After her remarkable transformation, Sandeepa ventured into bodybuilding competitions. She achieved success by winning the Women’s Transformation title at the Summer Shredding competition held in Houston, Texas, in October.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: January 23, 2024

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