How I Got This Body: Gaining 30 Pounds of Muscle While Still Having One Cheat Meal a Week

All photographs courtesy Virginia Kinkel.

Welcome to How I Got This Body, our look at some of the amazing things the human body is capable of and the Washingtonians who put their bodies to the test. Want to share your transformation story? Email

Who I am: Virginia Kinkel, 30, Bodymass Gym owner from Georgetown.

Why I wanted to make a change: As a former gymnast I’ve always had a competitive drive and appreciation for the human body and all it’s capable of. When I was about 10 years old, I had a female coach who was a competitive bodybuilder. Her physique always intrigued me. After nearly 15 years of intrigue, I was at CVS picking up a magazine—I saw Nicole Wilkins, an IFBB Professional Figure Competitor on the cover of Muscle & Fitness Hers and instantly thought, Ok, that’s it! I want to look like her, I want to do this. Her balance of strength and beauty are what pushed me into the sport and have encouraged me to enhance my physique.”

My workout plan: “I work out six days a week for about 60 to 90 minutes. I primarily focus on strength training doing lower body, back and shoulders each two times per week. I rarely do cardio, except for in the final weeks as I lead up to competitions. This allows me to maintain as much muscle as possible. When I’m in my off season, I listen to my body. My workout routine will be relatively similar, but if I’m feeling worn down or tired, I rest. If I feel tight, I focus on mobility. Workouts during this transformation have truly allowed me to stay in tune with my body.”

I started to appreciate my body for what it was capable of, rather than solely what it looked like.

My healthy eating plan: “To put on muscle I primarily focus on eating protein and carbohydrates.  I generally eat six meals a day, and sometimes feel like eating becomes a full time job!  My protein consists of lean sources like egg whites, tilapia, ground turkey, and chicken.  For carbohydrates I will eat Ezekiel Bread, oatmeal, brown rice, and a whole lot of high-fiber vegetables like broccoli, greens, Brussels sprouts and green beans.  I also will eat raspberries or blackberries with breakfast.  I also eat one cheat meal a week that typically consists of a burger/fries or pizza and ice cream.”

How I changed: “I was able to put on 30 pounds of muscle over the last five years…Over the past 5 years of competing I’ve learned so much about my body. I’ve learned about nutrition, what foods allow my body to change in certain ways, what foods allow my body to feel certain ways.  I’ve also completely altered my body image.  Prior to competing, I was like most 20-something females, I felt insecure and self-conscious.  Did I have too much fat here?  Was I too skinny there?  Competing taught me to use my body as a machine, fuel it well, operate it well, and watch it change.  I started to appreciate my body for what it was capable of, rather than solely what it looked like.”

How I stay motivated: “Mental preparation has been key in helping me stay on track. If I visualize an end goal, and remind myself of it every day I find I’m continually moving forward. I also track progress continually with progress pictures, and DEXA scans to measure my body composition. When I’m improving I stay motivated.  During my workouts I often listen to motivational speeches and that truly keeps me striving forward to do more and be better!”

One piece of advice: “Stay committed—change doesn’t happen quickly, it’s a long arduous process, but small steps each day can add up to big changes in the long-run.”

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

Want to share your transformation story? Email with details. 

Associate Editor

Caroline Cunningham joined Washingtonian in 2014 after moving to the DC area from Cincinnati, where she interned and freelanced for Cincinnati Magazine and worked in content marketing. She currently resides in College Park.