From fat to fit thanks to reality TV show

First establishing herself in the world of cars and motorsports, Cheryl Tay is a keen photojournalist who is equally enthusiastic about fitness and sports. More of her at and on FacebookTwitter and Instagram (cheryltay11).

Before and after: Fit for Fashion winner Citira Corrigan's transformation. (Photo courtesy of Citira Corrigan)
Before and after: Fit for Fashion winner Citira Corrigan's transformation. (Photo courtesy of Citira Corrigan)

A nasty fall led to a back injury, and fitness instructor Citira Corrigan went into a downward spiral of weight gain and hopelessness.

The 34-year-old Australian of Indonesian descent hit a rough patch in December 2012 when she suffered the injury.

“I was working as a fitness instructor for outdoor boot camps since 2010 when I moved to Singapore with my husband and kids from London, but I stopped working for nearly two years after the accident,” said the mother of three who beat 11 other contestants to win Fit for Fashion, Asia’s first fitness and fashion reality show that aired on StarWorld at the end of last year.

In that period, she was unable to keep up her routine of five workout sessions a week (a mix of HIIT, resistance training, weights and Zumba) and on top of trying to combat her hypothyroidism, she piled on the kilos.

Tipping the scales at 72kg then, the 1.69-metre tall Corrigan allowed her self esteem to crumble.

“I felt ashamed of myself back then and I felt like such a failure. I stopped working because I felt I wasn’t being a good role model for my trainees and not setting the right example of being fit. I believe in living what you preach and I didn’t want to take money from others when I couldn’t even help myself,” she recalled.

“I let myself go; I let myself slip away from myself and I lost sight of my visions, goals, dreams and aspirations. I was in a bad place, I didn’t want to see my friends, I put on all this weight, I wasn’t working, I didn’t know what I was doing in my life.”

Turning point

Then the opportunity for transformation happened.

Corrigan was approached to audition for Fit for Fashion, but she declined, feeling that she was “neither fit nor fashionable”.

After much persuasion, she decided she would give this a shot.

“I needed something drastic in my life to kick me out of this rut I was in. I wanted a transformation and I thought this might be a good way to inspire me and get my fire back,” she explained.

Fit for Fashion featured 12 men and women from all walks of life across Asia compete in gruelling physical tasks and intriguing fashion challenges.

Under the guidance of professional fitness trainers and fashion photographer Todd Anthony Tyler, contestants were taken to Tanjung Jara Resort in Malaysia. Each week, the weakest performer was eliminated after a fitness and survival challenge.

“It was incredibly surreal for me as I’ve never been away from my children in that kind of environment. I was actually going to bed early and I didn’t have the stress of cleaning and looking after my kids, so I could really focus on myself,” Corrigan said.

Finding her confidence

At the start of the competition, Corrigan’s goal was just to achieve a transformation and gain back her confidence.

From not being able to do a full body push-up on the first episode and not having any experience in fashion or modelling, she gave herself completely to each challenge.

Her efforts paid off after four months – Corrigan lost 10kg but most importantly, she found herself through the process.

Fit for Fashion helped me to find my confidence back and find my true self again,” she said After the show ended, she returned to her fitness instructor job, empowering other women through outdoor boot camps.

Being on the show also taught her important lessons about the definition of beauty.

“Throughout the journey I realised that nobody judged me the way I used to judge myself, the way I used to punish myself and the way I aligned success with physical appearance. I saw myself as a grotesque fat person and I was beating myself about it.

“Women have expectations thrown at them to look at certain way but look, there’s no cookie cutter for a woman’s body and physical appearance is not a measure of success. I’m proud of my body for what I know it can do and not how it looks – I can do full body push ups, I can flip tyres, I can do pull ups; things I thought I could never do again.”

What about the handsome US$100,000 cash prize she snagged?

Calling them her “life-changing dollars”, Corrigan will be saving a large part for her three sons, and also using it to pursue her dream of becoming a screenwriter.