A teenager who was bullied for his skinny frame after he sold his lunches to provide for his family has transformed himself into a bodybuilder in just three years.
Iliya Tsikov, 22, who moved to the UK from Bulgaria, had ‘no confidence’ as a teenager and faced constant criticism from his peers about his small frame, resulting in self-esteem issues.
At just 16, he got into weight training and worked hard to transform his body after years of bullying and isolation took a toll. He now sports a six-pack and is a muscular fitness model.
You can follow his transformation journey below:
Iliya moved to the UK with his family at the age of 12, and they struggled to make ends meet when they first arrived. So much so that the young boy would sell his sandwiches to his friends and store the money in a shoe box under his bed, in case his family would need the funds in the future.
The schoolboy would come home every day with around £5 and pretend like nothing had happened. ‘I stored all my cash in a shoe box under my bed with the thoughts that one day I might need them since I saw how my family was struggling when we moved to the UK,’ he explained.
Because of this selfless act, Iliya would only eat between one and two meals per day, resulting in him losing weight drastically. The 22-year-old has spoken out about how he ‘hated himself’ so much during this time he would purposely isolate himself from the real world, playing video games in his room for hours at a time.
Eventually, his parents found out about what he had been doing but rather than be mad at him, they put the money into a savings account he can use in the future.
Upon making the decision to alter his appearance, Iliya began using outdoor calisthenics equipment to perform body weight exercises after school and soon got into a strict routine. After just three months, he started seeing changes in his body and became even more motivated to continue his fitness journey.
From there, he joined a gym and began incorporating weight training. Three years later, he’s happy with the results and even posts pictures of his body to his Instagram account, which boasts 36,200 followers.
Iliya, who works in social media marketing, explained:
The first step I took was starting being honest with myself about how I look and feel. I was a skinny teenager, who had no confidence, no self-esteem, no friends, far from having any girlfriend – nothing.
I was the stereotype who would come back home from school and play video games to isolate myself from the real world around me, which I hated because I hated myself. After I started being honest with myself, I made a commitment that I will no longer be the victim in school who they used to make fun of, and I will no longer be bullied.
I used that anger as a fuel to take action and I went out and started doing any body exercises. I found a place that had calisthenics equipment and I started working out. The moment I started working out was the moment I started feeling hope in myself that I can change the way I look at things.
Fast-forward three months of hard work and dedication, I started feeling good about myself! My appetite grew and I started building weight. The changes of my body motivated me and I joined the gym.
The 22-year-old now trains between five and six times a week, focusing on eating calorie-dense foods and performs high rep and high intensity workouts. He also makes sure he eats at least 2,500 calories a day, and has only 11% body fat.
Iliya hopes to use his online platforms to inspire others to begin their own fitness journeys – no matter what their circumstances – and to make a positive impact in any way he can.
Because he wants to help ‘as many people as [he] can who are in the same position [he] was in years ago’, the body builder has even set up his own YouTube channel. ‘I just want to inspire them and help them out,’ he explained.
What an incredible transformation.
If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Chosen for YouChosen for You
Most Read StoriesMost Read