Corinna Mantegazza, is a 24-year-old, sixth-year med school student based in Novara, Italy, has a schedule that’s totally bonkers. On some days, she’ll spend nearly every hour sitting on her butt hitting the books, while she spends other days sprinting back and forth along hospital corridors. Still, she rarely goes a day without a solid workout, a habit that she credits for her incredible transformation.
Corinna began her fitness journey two years ago and started documenting it on Instagram (@cori.mant) more recently. She’s built up a following of more than 38,000 in just eight months. “I don’t post my half-naked pictures just to be seen but to show to girls who have the problems I once had that anything is possible,” says Corinna, who hasn’t always been such a fitness fanatic.
In high school, Corinna was basically sedentary since she spent most of her time studying (and stressed AF). Concerned that inactivity would trigger weight gain, she limited her food intake, quietly suffering from what she now sees as an undiagnosed eating disorder. “I always had a sort of body dysmorphia,” she says.
By the time she graduated from high school, her weight had reached a new low. But starting college was all she needed to change her mind-set and her ways. “Being a med student makes you realize how important prevention is [for your health],” she says. “I didn’t want to be a doctor who doesn’t take care of herself.”
So Corinna ditched the boyfriend who’d contributed to her low self-esteem, made new friends who worked out regularly, and began to embrace exercise for stress relief and general health as opposed to weight control. Although she still feared dietary fat and avoided carbs at home in an effort to follow dubious nutritional advice she’d found online, she began to give herself a break when eating out with friends, all without feeling badly for indulging, which helped her gain back the weight she’d lost.
But it wasn’t until January of her fourth year of school, roughly two years ago, that Corinna really pressed reset. She heard about Kayla Itsines’s Bikini Body Guides (BBG), a two-part, 12-week program involving a series of 28-minute, high-intensity interval training workouts broken down by body part to target the abs, legs, and arms. She liked the program’s structure and efficiency, that it could get her in and out of the gym, butt kicked, in less than 45 minutes on days that called for cramming or long shifts at the hospital. Determined to follow the program precisely, Corinna started working out six days a week.
“It wasn’t easy to go to the gym after I’d already been out of the house for 12 hours,” she says. But the extra effort didn’t deter her, particularly once she started seeing results. “It felt kind of like a game when I started, and as soon as I saw my body changing, I fell in love with fitness,” she says. Feeling awesome encouraged her to spot-check her diet too. She was still relatively restrictive when she ate at home, apart from the rare treat. “I indulged in things like Nutella and desserts because my body was craving more food,” she says. Ditching the bogus nutritional advice she’d picked up online, she began eating balanced meals made up of protein, healthy fats, and carbs, while avoiding the fat-free processed foods she’d once eaten regularly.
That’s not to say she would deprive herself of treats. She still ate some chocolate every single night — without regrets. And it’s not like she stopped eating out. Although she’d never been a huge drinker, she continued to eat out with friends at least twice a week, and sometimes more, indulging in both booze as well as foods like burgers, fries, pizza, and ice cream. “I spent years being afraid of those kind of foods, but I started to understand that they’re not so bad if you consume them in moderation,” she says.
After six months of regular exercise and eating well-rounded meals and snacks, Corinna was on a high. Her new routine made her feel more energized and less bloated, curing digestive problems that had once really bothered her and helping her sleep much more soundly. (She now swears by her eight hours a night.)
Still, Corinna couldn’t help notice how her butt had changed since her journey began: Sure, she was getting stronger, but her butt was starting to deflate from all the high-intensity interval training and cardio involved in her fitness program.
Intrigued by what she was learning in school about the human body and its ability to respond to food and exercise, Corinna sidled into her gym’s weight room to try adding strength training to her regimen. She also increased her portion sizes to help build muscle mass, even though it sort of scared her, since she’d always associated eating more with gaining body fat, according to an Instagram caption. Still, she trusted the science behind this new strategy, and it worked, with the extra calories fueling her muscle growth as opposed to settling around her waist. “[Strength training] completely changed my body,” she swears. But really, the proof is in the pictures:
• When people see a girl at the gym, they immediately think she’s there to become thinner, skinnier, to lose weight and fit into a 00 size. When people see a girl at the gym, they don’t realise she might be there to gain weight, strength, and muscles. ~ I was talking to a male gym friend last week and he told me he was very pleasured when he discovered I was there to gain rather than losing. He was quite astonished too and told me that the first time he saw me he believed I was training to avoid to gain too much weight. There’re 7 kgs difference between these two pictures, and as you can see it took me more than one year. I gained weight slowly in order to avoid too much fat deposition. How? I increased my meals, my portion sizes, carbs but also healthy fats. I trained hard 6 days per week almost every week, but I also went through holidays, little injuries, sickness (currently writing from my bed – hello fall flu), A LOT of unhealthy meals, drinks, laziness and so on. When I first decided I wanted to gain some weight I felt weird. Why? Because everything you see about female fitness seems like telling you “you have to lose weight”. Well this is a total shit. Let’s say that weight doesn’t matter. An healthy body has no specific weight! I felt weaker both physically and mentally at first picture time. Now I weight more, yes I do, but I also feel stronger and more confident about myself and my body. Don’t focus on your weight. Focus on how you feel. And don’t be afraid to have some fun in the weight room with REAL weights. They build curves, not masculine bodies. 🍑 – Just in case u ask: progress is obtained using @kayla_itsines #bbg, weightlifting, crossfit, yoging, running, biking because I looove doing so many things I just can't stick to a single training style 😘❤️ •
• The fact is, there will always be someone who won’t like you. The other fact is that the only opinion which really count about yourself is… yours. Beauty is not a shape, nor a size or a skin colour. Beautiful is who loves its body in every details. A confident girl is beautiful, no matter what she’s wearing, no matter her measurements. Ugly is someone who feels free to judge a book from the cover, who feels free to say “I don’t like you” just from a picture. Body shaming is UGLY. You, are beautiful. Just to say: a) I worked damn hard for months to get here; b) I don’t care if you like my “before” body more, because I love my “now”, and that’s what’s matter to me; c) I respect everyone’s opinion, but I don’t respect rudeness; d) everything is possible if you work hard. Had a quite bad day today so if you have to say something bad.. just don’t. Otherwise, you’re welcome here. ❤️ •
• I love working out on holiday too ✌🏻 It wakes me up before long days spent around and after nights full of treats (and some beer more than usual 😂) How? I simply wake up 45 min before everybody else, get my shitz done in 35-40 min and voila 💁🏻 hope you guys are having a great week, happy #humpday ❤ •
While it clearly takes a ton of time and effort to achieve and maintain a body like Corinna’s, she’s grateful for the path she’s chosen, which has helped her learn to love herself. “I spent so much time hating the image I was seeing in the mirror, and sometimes, I still have bad body image days,” she says. “But going to the gym and feeding my body with the best products makes me feel better about everything.”
Now that Corinna finally feels comfortable in her skin, and is able to enjoy a solid pizza dinner without freaking out about its effects on her body, she’s able to focus on goals outside the gym, like graduating med school this July.
• #nonfitnessrelated picture but I love it 🙈 Let me introduce you my best patient 🐻 ok I could never work as a pediatrician bc I'm probably the first who still needs one 🙄 hey I'm just a young gal 👧🏻 Btw wanna know something non fitness related about YOU! What's your job? What are your dreams about personal future? Big loooove to all ya ❤️❤️ Ps picture credit to @loreg1992 aka my partner in crime 😈 •
One day, she’d love to get her personal trainer’s certificate, and the idea of competing in bikini competitions isn’t entirely off the table. But for now, she’s perfectly happy just sharing her story.
“I believe lifting weights is something every girl should do because it shapes your body and supports your metabolism, but mostly because it makes you feel strong,” she says. “I feel so confident and strong — like never before.”