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What Really Happens To Your Body When You Start Lifting Weights

This before-and-after photo shows where 30 pounds of muscle really goes.
PHOTO: Instagram/emilyskyefit

Seven years ago, the now Instagram-famous fitness guru Emily Skye (@EmilySkyeFit) weighed just under 104 pounds. “I was obsessed with being as skinny as I could be,” she wrote in a recent Instagram caption.

To make it happen, Emily forced herself to sweat through crazy long cardio sessions while drastically restricting her food intake. Being lighter began to take a toll on her mental health. “I was starving myself and was really unhealthy and unhappy,” she wrote on Instagram. “I suffered depression and had terrible body image.”

Realizing that her choices just weren’t making sense, and that her goal didn't make her happy, Emily decided to change things up. She began to lift heavy weights, replacing her lengthy cardio workouts with high-intensity interval training.

Emily also began to eat much, much more. “I eat more than I've ever eaten in my life,” she wrote of the new diet that’s still going strong, which I'd definitely have a bite of, had she offered: 


Now, Emily tends to avoid bread just because it upsets her stomach, but she still gets all up in dessert a couple times a week. “I’m all about balance,” she wrote on Instagram.

And while you might think that eating more food, including dessert, and lifting all the heavy things would make a woman look hefty, that's not always the case: So long as you don't eat more calories than your body needs to carry out basic functions, and you make sure you eat a mix of complex carbs (to fuel your workouts) and lean proteins (to repair and rebuild the teeny muscle tears that result from working out hard), you'll end up gaining muscle, not fat. And because muscle is denser than fat, meaning it can weigh a bunch without taking up too much space, increasing your food intake and strength training can leave you looking lean, even if you end up weighing more than when you started. Emily is living proof:

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In the after photo above (right), Emily weighs almost 30 pounds(!) more than she did back in the day when she obsessed over being skinny (left). In her case, it was gaining weight, not losing it, that left her positively ~*glowing*~—a welcome reminder that the number you see on the scale isn't always the best gauge of your health.

But the real takeaway here has nothing to do with the way Emily looks or how much she weighs now. “I'm also happier, healthier, stronger, and fitter than I have ever been,” she wrote on Instagram.

If *that* kind of transformation doesn’t convince you to stop eating like a bird and pick up some heavy AF weights, IDK what will!

Follow Elizabeth on Twitter and Instagram.

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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.