Hardships bring about greatness
With an enthusiastic, positive and happy demeanour, no one would know Steph Sanzo is a divorcee and single mum of two children with chronic conditions, has lost 25kg, suffered adrenal fatigue after competing and has pelvic floor and IBS issues. But she doesn’t let those things stop her from living out life on her terms.
BY KIRSTIN CUTHBERT | PHOTOGRAPHY BY DALLAS OLSEN
City: Geelong, VIC
Occupation: Mother, Fitness and Strength Coach, Public Figure and Fitness Promoter
CONNECT WITH STEPH
Facebook: Stephanie Sanzo Official
YouTube: Stephanie Sanzo
Steph is an absolute powerhouse; check out her PBs!
BENCH PRESS: 72.5kg
As a high-profile fit mum, Stephanie (Steph) Sanzo is known for her incredible strength, motivation and drive to achieve her goals.
Before having her two children, Steph worked full-time in the corporate field and wasn’t focused on her health.
“I had a very bad relationship with food and resorted to things like coffee and chocolate as my primary source of energy,” she says.
“At that time, my justification was to save both time and money, as I was living what seemed a very demanding lifestyle. Quick energy seemed like the best option, but it was short-lived.”
After gaining 25kg during her first pregnancy, Steph said she was left feeling “uncomfortable and lacking confidence”.
“This is what drove me to health and fitness and made me determined to get my pre-pregnancy body back!” she says.
“I made the decision to stop eating for two. I took up running for the first time in my life and wasn’t going to stop until I worked off all the weight I gained during pregnancy.”
Her body transformed after losing the weight and regaining confidence, Steph was determined to learn more about health and fitness. This led her to study certificates in personal training to be able to help both herself and others with fitness-related goals.
Using her new-found knowledge, she began to cut out poor food choices and based her diet on lean meats, wholesome carbohydrates and healthy fats.
Continuing with her healthy lifestyle, after her second pregnancy at 24, Steph found her love of weight training.
“I then noticed even bigger changes in my strength, body and mind,” she says. “My passion quickly developed once I was able to inspire and encourage others to make a similar transformation in their body and life.”
The inspirational fit mum to son Deizel, aged eight, and daughter Maya, aged six, says her children are her driving force to stay fit and healthy.
“Sadly, Deizel was diagnosed with autism when he was two and Maya was also diagnosed with ADHD,” she says.
“They both require a lot of emotional energy and patience, but are a true blessing to my life. They are my biggest motivators, and I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for them.
“There have been times when I’ve been challenged beyond measure, but they have helped me see my weaknesses and taught me how to be both strong and resilient.”
While she admits that “being a mother is one of the hardest and most demanding jobs you can have”, she says keeping fit and healthy helps to give her children the mum they need.
“Regardless of how busy life gets, I realise that my energy levels are always worse when I let my health and fitness deteriorate,” she says.
“I now live a life filled with regular exercise and healthy foods to keep my energy constant, which enables me to better keep up with my kids and be the best mother I can be for them.
“Life is busier than ever, but also more fulfilling now that I have the opportunity to help shape the lives of my kids as well as inspire and motivate people across the world.”
And that she does! With more than 360,000 followers on Instagram and 44,000 on Facebook, people have loved Steph and everything she offers from the beginning.
“I began my social media in the hope to inspire others with my story,” she says.
“I felt an enormous amount of gratification once I saw people responding to my journey.
“My passion to help and encourage people soon grew as my social media expanded. I feel very fortunate to be able to share my experiences of success and struggles.”
Although Steph has a large audience, she remains very humble.
“Social media has the tendency to elevate a person’s ‘status’, and I really try to bring myself back to earth and remind everyone that I am no different to them,” she says.
“I’m just a mum who’s passionate about fitness and wants to help and encourage others on their journey.”
Steph helps encourage others by being real and sharing her own struggles. And over the past 10 years, she has overcome a few obstacles!
One of the first was making what she describes as the “extremely difficult decision” to get a divorce and proceed alone as a single mother.
“At the time I was left feeling incredibly lonely and isolated as well as having to rely on only one income,” she says. “My financial struggles drove me to launch my own business so that I could then work my own hours around the care of my kids.”
Pregnancy has also left Steph with pelvic floor issues, something a lot of women experience after childbirth.
“It has become vulnerable and weak to the point that I need an operation,” she says.
“This has hugely influenced my training and prevents me from running or doing any movements that require impact or heavy loads.
“While this condition is manageable, it often holds me at a disadvantage with my heavy lifting, which can be very emotionally frustrating.”
In addition to this, she also suffers from irritable bowel syndrome, which drastically limits the foods she is able to consume.
“My gut is unpredictable and gives me grief on a near-daily basis!” she says.
“This causes pregnant-like bloating and incredible discomfort. This condition is hard for anyone, but I really struggle knowing I make my living out of being in shape and feeling good.”
Steph has also competed in a number of fitness competitions, and after her fourth one, she had a health scare.
“I became very sick after competing and some tests revealed that I had multiple cysts on my ovary, poor liver function, an irregular blood count and severe adrenal fatigue,” she says.
“This was a result of extreme dieting and training, which completely ran me into the ground. I was incredibly determined leading up to that competition and willing to do whatever it took to be successful.
“This led me to overtraining and severely undereating, which was a horrible approach and actually didn’t get me anywhere.”
And while all of this might seem like a lot to share, Steph says it’s important for her to be real and open about what she has been through.
“I strongly believe that going through hardship presents the opportunity for you to shine!” she says. “These struggles have made me who I am today, and I always do my best to view every experience as a chance to learn and grow.”
As someone who balances the demands of training, life and social media, Steph has some insight to offer on the task.
“Carefully monitor how much time and attention you allocate to each one of these priorities,” she says.
“It’s important to stay grounded and avoid becoming obsessive about your body and social media.
“I think when you put too much energy into these things, it has the potential to sabotage the balance of your home life.
“It’s great to have the time and energy to put into training and social media, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Remember that it’s a choice, not an obligation!”
Steph is now planning to bring out much more information that will cover training, nutrition and life in the form of e-books. She is also working toward producing more content for her YouTube channel. Plus in the near future she would like to compete in another fitness or powerlifting competition.
As a fit mum, motivator and humble and genuine woman, Steph is an amazing example of someone who has used the darker times to bring more lightness into her life.
“I want to show people that you can overcome hardship, defeat all odds, conquer your goals and set high standards for your life,” she says.
And going on the number of people who are not only following but also inspired by her, it appears she’s doing just that!O
Meal 1: Egg white omelette with spinach and tomato plus a small handful of almonds
Meal 2: Chicken breast, broccoli and a small portion of sweet potato
Pre-workout: Small serve of granola or two squares of chocolate
Meal 3: Kangaroo, green beans and brown rice
Meal 4: Salmon, broccoli and sweet potato
Meal 5: Egg white omelette pizza with a mixture of veggies
STEPH’S TRAINING PLAN
Monday: Heavy squats and hypertrophy glutes and quads
Tuesday: Hypertrophy shoulders, back and arms
Wednesday: Heavy deadlifts and hypertrophy hamstrings
Thursday: Heavy bench and hypertrophy shoulders and back
Friday: Heavy squats and hypertrophy glutes and quads
Saturday: Rest or full-body accessory work