News, Culture & Society

How anyone can sculpt a dream physique in 12 weeks

Impeccably toned celebrities are usually the stars of the glossy pages of fitness bible Women’s Health, but now three of the magazine’s staff members have shown that anyone can get a toned A-list body in just 12 weeks.

Editor Claire Sanderson, 39, from Hampshire and her deputy Victoria Joy, 32, and writer Florence Mitchell, 22, both from London took on a complete diet and fitness transformation challenge and all three emerged with abs of steel as well as losing almost five stone between them.

Claire took on the challenge to get rid of the stone she’d put on while juggling a demanding job with motherhood and home life, as well as to boost her mental health and reclaim her identity.

Florence took more than eight minutes off her 5K time and was told by her personal trainer, who also works with footballer John Terry, that at times she outperformed what the professional athlete could manage.

And Victoria Joy managed to lose more than two stone thanks to just three weightlifting sessions a week. 

Florence Mitchell, 22, from London, Claire Sanderson, 39, from Hampshire and Victoria Joy, 32, from London transformed their bodies in just 12 weeks, losing  five stone between them 

Claire Sanderson, 39, 5ft 7in

Claire admitted that when she became editor of Women’s Health she thought she’d end up in the best shape of her life as she lived and breathed the magazine’s clean message. 

Claire’s training regime 

Trained by: Alice Liveing and Tony Diamond at Third Space, London

3 x 60-min strength sesssions

2 x 60-min Pilates sessions

1 x 60-min HIIT session

‘A long commute, even longer hours and a hectic home life with two children under five had taken their toll,’ she said. ‘I was making bad food choices and wasn’t training effectively.

‘That said, I’ve lifted weights for years and I genuinely love training, so my body is on my side.’

Used to heavy lifting, she was hip-thrusting 100kg within four weeks and 120kg within eight as well as deadlifting more than her original body weight but the biggest challenge for Claire was diet.

Despite consistent training and building muscle she wasn’t melting away fat as she’d hoped and she continued to use snacking as a remedy for stress.  

Editor Claire Sanderson wanted to up her fitness game and improve her mental health after gaining a stone

Claire shed just over a stone during the challenge and lost five per cent of her body fat

Editor Claire Sanderson wanted to up her fitness game and improve her mental health after gaining a stone (left). She shed just over a stone during the challenge and lost five per cent of her body fat (right)

Six weeks in she sought the help of nutritionist Gillian Brunton of Vida6, who deduced that she was often undereating, encouraging her body to hold on to fat, and not eating the right foods to support her level of training. 

‘From then on, it was all about nutrient cycling – eating around your energy output,’ she explained. 

Claire upped her protein intake so that in the final weeks it constituted 50 per cent of her daily calories.  


Weight 11st 6lbs

Body fat 24.1 per cent

Hip thrust 80kg

Trap bar deadlift 50kg


Weight 10st 4lbs

Body fat 19 per cent

Hip thrust 130kg

Trap bar deadlift 75kg

‘A typical day was overnight oats with unsweetened almond milk and berries after training, a protein shake mid-morning, turkey breast and green veg for lunch, a green apple with a teaspoon of Pip & Nut Crunchy Almond Butter as a mid-afternoon snack, and salmon with pesto and veg for supper,’ she said. 

Claire reached her personal targets, but said that for her the biggest benefit was reclaiming some of her identity.  

‘I often come so far down the pecking order in life’s priorities – I’m a mum, a wife, a manager, a homemaker, a cook – everything to everyone – and I’m Claire last of all,’ she said. 

‘Yet I still managed to create strength and push my body’s physical barriers.’

How anyone can sculpt a dream physique in 12 weeks

Florence Mitchell, 22, height 5ft 2in

Vegan Florence had never been on a diet before but feared her love of pasta, relaxed attitude to exercise and sedentary job could lead to weight gain.  

Florence’s training plan 

Trainer Bradley Simmonds

5 x 60-min cardio sessions

As she’s in her first job forking out for pricey gym membership isn’t an option, so her exercise plan centred around training for free outdoors. 

As I’m in my first job – and it’s not a bank’s grad scheme – I can’t fork out for a gym membership, so my training was outdoors and hardly cost a penny.

‘Week one was a shock. I was stiff and exhausted, but on an endorphin high. My training was cardio-heavy. Tiring as it was, by the end of week two, I was 7lbs lighter.

‘Brad’s nutritional advice was simple. Swap my morning bagel for granola, yoghurt and a banana. At lunch, choose from quinoa, brown rice or sweet potato to pair with veg and protein – chickpeas, lentils and tofu. For dinner, more protein, veg and a modest portion of carbs. Oh, and no snacking.

‘At the halfway mark, my fitness had improved dramatically. My Parkrun 5K personal best dropped five minutes, providing huge motivation to keep pushing through the midweek hill sprints. 

‘When my boyfriend joined my training, he was relegated to timekeeper, unable to match my burpee reps.

Training in the last month proved to be the toughest, but my 5K time plummeted – major motivation. At my local Parkrun, I clocked a spot in the top 10 women, then the top five, with a 23.25 PB.


Weight 10 st  1.2 1.3 2,7

Body fat 32.9 per cent

5K time 31.35

Plank 15 secs


Weight 8st 9 lbs

Body fat 26.8 per cent

5K time 23.25

Plank 1 min 

‘I’ve always wanted to feel sportier and, while an aesthetic transformation doesn’t motivate me, being told to ‘think like an athlete’ and, latterly, ‘John Terry couldn’t do that’ (another of Brad’s clients – sorry, John) was exactly what I needed to hear. 

‘I haven’t felt pressured to be thinner, just encouraged to be more healthy, more active and increase my running speed. The weight just happened to drop off as I did it. 

‘A month in, I felt like I was missing out, but by week 12, skipping sugary sweets and booze felt like I was treating my body with respect rather than depriving it of something good. I’ve found a new trajectory, and this one will only see my health improve.’

How anyone can sculpt a dream physique in 12 weeks

Victoria Joy, 32, height 5ft 10in

Having forever been a cardio girl I was terrified of lifting. I spent the first week downplaying my attempts in case Sarah had been forced to start me off on the tiny weights. 

Victoria’s training plan 

Sarah Lindsay at Roar Fitness

3 x 60 min lifting sessions

I’m still baffled that my results came from just three hours of strength training at Roar Fitness each week. 

Our programme comprised one back and chest session, one legs and shoulders session and then a third of arm exercises to try to build my upper body in line with my bigger bottom half. 

 Breakfast and lunch were easy: fat-free yoghurt mixed with a scoop of chocolate protein powder, followed by a tuna and egg or chicken salad.

I found turkey mince to be a bit of a revelation – roll it into balls with some garlic and sage and you have, my friends, the best bit of your Christmas dinner to eat as a weekday lunch. 

How anyone can sculpt a dream physique in 12 weeks

They bandy around 60 days as the time it takes to break a bad habit or form a healthy one – and I’m happy to say a preference to eat savoury at breakfast has stuck. 

Eggs have become my go-to, paired with something that provides an additional hit of protein and fats, with low-fat dairy taking a backseat. 

The shapeless size 12s in my wardrobe no longer fit, and those few key (size eight) pieces I was never prepared to ditch are back in outfit rotation. 

Being a pear shape, I’m used to dropping weight from my upper body first, but I’m impressed by how I’ve torched excess – no doubt dangerous – fat from all over my body. Building extra muscle across my shoulders and upper arms means I’m still in proportion – just a smaller version of it. 


Weight 12st 5lbs

Waist fat 5.2cm

Chest press 5kg

Single arm row 8kg


Weight 9st 10lbs

Waist fat 0.9cm

Chest press 12.5kg

Single arm row 17.5kg