Destiny Stephens, 21, wasn't born with a butt that makes you wonder whether gravity is real. She didn't even set out to sculpt her backside when she began working out a little more than five years ago.
Rather, the Ontario-based teen hit the gym in an attempt to combat her anxiety and depression. If she surfaced with abs and a booty, the then-15-year-old thought, even better.
Getting started wasn't easy: Although she'd done gymnastics as a kid and played on her high school's volleyball team, she'd never worked out consistently. At first, she'd screenshot various online workouts on her phone to use as a roadmap. She'd get to the gym maybe three days a week, ultimately swapping volleyball practices for independent workouts.
"The gym became my escape, and I loved it," Stephens says. And although exercise alone doesn't always cure depression or relieve anxiety, in her case, it worked: "It helped me a lot mentally."
In 2015, Stephens graduated high school with plans to study dental hygiene at a local college. But after one semester, she changed her tune: Dentistry wouldn't be an active enough career for her, she decided, and pursued personal training instead.
After getting her personal training certification from CanFitPro, a Canadian fitness education company, in early 2016, Stephens learned how to target specific muscles and challenge herself safely. Inspired to reach her OG goal of sculpting a six-pack and round butt, she created a more consistent fitness routine with six weekly workouts.
And yet? "I wasn't getting the results I wanted because I didn't know what to eat," she says of her old diet, which was full of pasta and bread without ample protein. "I always had a fast metabolism, so I thought I could eat whatever I wanted and still be 'fit.' But then I realized you can only gain a booty by eating shitty foods — you can’t get abs."
Nevertheless, during the summer of 2016, a coach at her gym was so impressed by her progress that he encouraged her to sign up for a body building competition. The catch? It was three weeks away, while typical training plans tend to run 12 to 16 weeks, Stephens says. Convinced she'd really need her abs to pop to secure a win, she taught herself how to balance macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat) to reduce her body fat, swapping her old favorites for rice and sweet potatoes and adding lots of chicken to her regular rotation. "To gain and maintain muscle, my diet had to be very high in protein and moderate in carbs," she says of the diet. She also began timing meals around her workouts to give her body the fuel it needed for exercise and recovery. The strategy delivered, and ultimately she won first place.
After stepping off stage, though, she tweaked her fitness goals, focusing less on remaining lean and more on strengthening her butt. "To build a bigger butt you have to eat more, rather than shrink down," she says. So, slowly, she began eating more protein and more carbs — and stopped weighing carbs and counting calories, as she'd done during her intense training period.
Now, Stephens eats at least four hearty meals a day. Apart from weekends, when she dines out at least once or twice and orders whatever she's craving — usually chicken parm and a cranberry vodka cocktail — she starts most days with a chocolate protein shake or a fruit and yogurt protein smoothie. Then, several hours later, she'll eat a combo of chicken — her main source of protein — vegetables like broccoli or asparagus with feta, and starchy carbs such as brown or jasmine rice or sweet potatoes, all doused in chipotle sauce. She eats a variation of this three more times throughout the day, throwing in an extra protein shake after her workout and another at night if she's craving something sweet. "I have no problem with eating the same thing every day," she says, swearing she enjoys it.
Of course, the hard work is done outside of Stephens's kitchen: She spends between 60 to 90 minutes at the gym six days a week, working her butt four days a week, and focusing on other parts of her body on the other days. Then, twice a week, she tacks on a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) session for cardio.
But there's one butt exercise missing from Destiny's regular routine: Squats. "I have gotten amazing results without squats!" she says of the exercise, which she avoids due to back issues resulting from years of gymnastics. Although she recently began practicing squats here and there improve her functional fitness — she doesn't want to hurt herself while bend down to lift heavy objects IRL — her backside is proof you don't necessarily need squats to build a booty.
Although Destiny is training to appear in a sponsor's ad and plans to take on another competition in the future, she won't even try to maintain her results post-competition.
"It's not just about my physical looks," she says of her fitness goal. "I go to the gym mainly because it’s my happy place. It's a lifestyle and commitment to myself."