I started running track when I was 9 years old, and continued to run all the way through college at Arizona State University. I loved running, but I also had a very fast metabolism, so it was really, really hard for me to keep weight on. I was 98 pounds throughout high school and into the first years of college (I’m 5’1″). When I dropped down to 90 pounds during conditioning my second year, my coach required me to keep a food journal. I never suffered from an eating disorder; I just couldn’t keep any fat on. And I hated that.

I always had what I call “spot confidence” — certain things I was always confident about, like my goofiness, or how I was always able to see the good in others. But I was so unhappy with my body. I didn’t feel 100% comfortable with my chest because it was (and is) so small. I didn’t always feel comfortable in my chocolate skin because it wasn’t considered beautiful in much of society. I just didn’t feel confident overall — and I hated it because I so desperately wanted to be.

I also hated the way people would react to the way my body looked — I was often bullied in high school and even in college. But by the time I was 22, it really started to break me, and I started feeling depressed. I was tired of being the little, bitty, petite girl.

The Change

I only had one goal at that point: I wanted a butt! So I started researching booty growth exercises. All my friends and family thought I was nuts. Everyone kept telling me it’s completely impossible to grow a butt and hips in the gym. But I’ve always loved a challenge, and deep down, something in me said it was possible. So I went for it. It started with me just hanging out in the 24-hour gym in my apartment, late when no one was there, so I could figure out my way around the machines. Because of my frame and fast metabolism, I knew I needed to lift weights to make the changes I craved. And even though I had been an athlete my entire life, track training and weight lifting are very different, so there was a lot to learn.

I started my “booty journey” by taking to Instagram for inspiration. But it was surprisingly hard because so many women have had surgical work done and claimed they got their results via working out, so it was this weird challenge figuring out who I could believe. But I paid attention to the exercises I kept seeing, and began experimenting.

Like I said, I love a challenge, so I was super dedicated to lifting. Next thing I knew, I started feeling better about myself, too. Once I realized the gym was therapy for me, I knew I’d never give up on it.

And three months, I really saw the work start to pay off. I went from a 32-inch glute to a 36-inch glute and was just blown away. I couldn’t believe I actually did it — I actually grew my booty in the gym! I was astonished, honestly.

The Workout

When you first start working on your butt, everyone tells you squats are the key. But I’ve found squats are like the kindergarten-level workout for booty gains — it takes a lot more than one move to grow a butt! And even though it’s true you can’t change your bone structure, I learned you can strengthen your hip flexor muscles to give that illusion of bigger hips.

I’ve always used both machines and free weights, but I never really used the machines in the way they’re intended. Hip thrusters on the leg extension machine, squatting backwards for reverse hip abductors — I would turn every machine into a booty exercise machine. People used to look at me like I was crazy!

After my initial gains, I realized my legs are very quad prominent and grow really fast. So I started zeroing in on glute isolations. Bridge holds help with the middle booty and the hip abductor machine will change your life forever.

The Food

When I first started lifting weights, the biggest struggle for me was my nutrition for sure. I ate salmon almost every day and regular potatoes, broccoli, and brown rice. And even though it was all healthy food, I lost my abs because I was eating so much to get my gains.

So I started playing around with my nutrition. I cut out brown rice completely, because even though it’s a good complex carb, I found myself so bloated every time I ate it. Now I do yams as my complex carb and it’s literally changed my life! I eat them daily. I also eat a lot of turkey, because it’s the leanest meat, and a lot of Brussels sprouts.

I focus on foods that keep me lean because just “eating healthy” can cause me to lose my abs. I will admit that I eat a lot of the same things week to week, but I change how I cook it so that I don’t get bored. I still have a high metabolism so I make sure to eat extremely often. I eat a lot of carrots as a snack — you’d swear I was a rabbit by how fast I go through them. I also eat a lot of spinach (add honey and pepper — it makes it taste sweet so it’s easier to eat). Plus, I love green apples — my dad use to tell me an apple a day keeps the doctors away, and I still believe him.

The Payoff

I weighed under 100 pounds for so long, but through strength training I was able to gain nearly 30 pounds of mostly muscle. I’m between 120 to 130 pounds these days, and have gained 12 inches in my hips entirely from lifting.

Even though what I wanted so badly was to gain a booty, and I was shocked that I was able to do it, the bigger surprise was how much I found myself in the gym. I fell in love with working out and realized I wanted to help other people feel that way, so I became a personal trainer.

My journey really helped me learn that I can only empower other people by empowering myself first.

All I ever wanted growing up was to be confident and comfortable in my own skin. Now I am. I love and enjoy everything about myself, and my “flaws” aren’t flaws — they’re just part of who I am.

Now, I face every insecurity I have and deal with it head on. I learned how to love myself truly and exude confidence regardless of what I’m wearing or how I look.

I’ve worked so freaking hard on myself, so I am very, very proud of the woman I am today.

Cookie’s Number-One Tip

Don’t give up! Changes take time so don’t be hard on yourself if the results aren’t happening as fast as you want them to. Don’t be discouraged if you have one too many cheat meals on your nutrition plan. Everything is a learning process, so learn how you can be better next week than you were this week.

Follow Cookie’s fitness journey @cookieeedough.

From: Women’s Health

From: Delish US

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