Your cart is currently empty.

Unrivalled guarantees.

JUN 13, 2024

From Anorexia to Strongman: A Father's Inspiring Journey

Discover Jonno Stowell's inspiring journey from battling anorexia to becoming a strongman champion and devoted father. A story of resilience and transformation.

Read time: 12 minutes

It’s Father’s Day this weekend and, as such, we want to shine a light on one dad in particular: Jonno Stowell. Now, of course Father's Day is a time to celebrate the strength, love, and resilience of dads everywhere. But Jonno is a father who transformed his life in a remarkable way. From battling anorexia to becoming a strongman champion, Jonno’s journey is a fascinating and inspirational one, with a universal lesson about the importance of finding your true passion.

The Long, Hard Road Out of Anorexia

In 2017, Jonno had reached a critical point in his battle with anorexia. He spent three to four years underweight and unhappy, struggling with his self-image and direction in life. If something didn’t change, he’d be in a world of trouble. Thanks to a lot of support and intervention from family and friends, his journey began with a simple desire: to improve his health and build his confidence.

During his college days, Jonno found himself living next door to a gym. But he realized that without proper guidance, he might fall into unhealthy patterns of exercise. This realization led him to pair up with a personal trainer, who not only guided his workouts but also became a long-time friend and mentor.

Initially, Jonno's focus was on achieving a beach-ready aesthetic. That led him to dabble in bodybuilding, with an aim for the chiseled look that many of us are after. However, this approach started to show problems. The bulking and cutting cycles associated with bodybuilding clashed with his past struggles with anorexia. To the degree that the idea of cutting felt dangerously similar to the starvation he had experienced during his lowest times.

The Differences Between Bodybuilding, Powerlifting, and Strongman

For anyone unfamiliar with the world of fitness, there are generally three main paths you can take when deciding to get serious about working out: bodybuilding, powerlifting, and strongman.


This focuses on muscle hypertrophy and aesthetics. Bodybuilders undergo cycles of bulking (gaining muscle and fat) and cutting (losing fat while maintaining muscle) to achieve a defined, muscular physique.


This centers around three main lifts – the squat, bench press, and deadlift. The goal is to lift the maximum amount of weight in these specific movements.


This involves lifting a variety of heavy, often awkward objects, such as stones, logs, and sandbags. The emphasis is on overall strength and functional fitness rather than muscle definition or specific lifts.

Discovering Strongman

During this period of trial and error, Jonno discovered the world of strongman competitions. He was drawn to the raw, primal strength required in this discipline. Unlike bodybuilding, which focuses on muscle definition and aesthetics, or powerlifting, which centers around maximal lifts in specific movements, strongman offered something different. The challenges at the heart of strongman - lifting awkward, heavy objects like sandbags, tires, and stones - are tasks that feel more fundamental and real.

For Jonno, the appeal of strongman competitions was in their objectivity. While performance in other fitness disciplines can be subjective (i.e. who looks the best or appreciating different aesthetics), the world of strongman is straightforward. The weights speak for themselves. Either you can lift them, or you can't. And this clear-cut measure of success resonated deeply with Jonno.

The Turning Point

The transition to strongman needed more than just a change in workout routines. It was a complete shift in mindset. He began to see food not as an enemy but as fuel for his body. This change was so important. See, to excel in strongman, he needed to nourish his body adequately, ensuring he had the strength and energy to lift increasingly heavy weights.

Jonno's personal trainer played a pivotal role in this transformation. Together, they crafted a training regimen and diet plan that supported his goals.

The emphasis was no longer on looking a certain way but on performing at his best. This shift helped Jonno develop a healthier relationship with food and his body.

As Jonno progressed in his strongman journey, he found himself getting stronger not just physically but mentally as well. The confidence he gained from lifting heavy weights and competing against others translated into other areas of his life.

Early Success and the Fire Within

Jonno's entry into the strongman world was incredibly impressive and reassured him that his efforts were in the right place. Despite only three months of training, he made a significant impact in his first competition, finishing 5th out of 15 competitors and winning the first event of the day. This initial taste of success ignited a fire within him, fueling his passion and determination.

Performing a 300kg deadlift was a transformative experience for Jonno. The sheer weight he managed to lift symbolized not just his physical strength but the possibility of what he could achieve in the future.

Competing against and eventually surpassing those he initially looked up to was exhilarating and marked significant progress in his journey.

Achievements and Pride

For Jonno, the highlight of his strongman career to date has included several first-place finishes. However, his greatest pride lies not in the medals and trophies but in his recovery from anorexia and his ability to perform a 300kg deadlift.

"It's good to have the medals, rewards – but the self-confidence and feeling that level of pride is more important," he says.

Looking forward, Jonno's ambitious goal is to win the World’s Strongest Man competition. While some might laugh at this lofty ambition, Jonno sees their doubt as fuel for his journey. "People may laugh, but that fuels me. Having dug myself out of anorexia, I know I can achieve whatever I put my mind to." Jonno went on to explain, he believes that those who doubt him are merely projecting their limitations onto his success.

The Power of Community

One of the most significant aspects of Jonno’s journey has been the support and camaraderie within the strongman community. He’s found that the strongman world is unique in that, while competitors fiercely battle to be the strongest when the whistle blows, outside of competition, they are quick to lend a hand, share chalk, or offer snacks.

Jonno appreciates this duality. "You can be hospitable, polite, friendly, and warm as a group, but when it comes to it, everything changes, and the competition takes over. But the comradery comes straight back. Because it’s not personal, it’s about yourself." And this environment has not only helped him grow as a competitor but also allowed him to forge lasting friendships.

An Unexpected Gift: From Strongman to Strong Dad

While training intensely for strongman competitions, partner became pregnant. And his daughter was born just two months before his first competition. Jonno fondly refers to this newfound strength as "Dad strength" - a primal, subconscious drive to protect and provide for his child.

"When you become a father, you’ll do anything to protect your child."

This instinctive drive lit a fire in him that he could never extinguish, pushing him to train harder and stay focused.

The Philosophy of Strength

Jonno emphasizes that this "Dad strength" doesn't mean being a brute. It's about being capable and channeling that strength when needed. It's about control. A quote he loves comes from Miyamoto Musashi’s The Book of Five Rings: "It's better to be a warrior in a garden, than a gardener in a war." And it’s this philosophy that has guided him in his journey, balancing the raw power required for strongman competitions with the calm, nurturing presence needed for fatherhood.

And while the strongman community has provided immense support, Jonno acknowledges that none of his achievements would be possible without the unwavering support of his immediate family. This support allows him to train four times a week and maintain a 6,000-calorie daily diet essential for his strength training.

"If you’re going to get into strongman, you have to have understanding from your family that this is what you want to achieve."

He explained that this understanding and support becomes a shared goal, with everyone rallying to help him reach his objectives.

Shifting Perspectives: A Valuable Lesson for All Dads

Jonno’s daughter recently turned 1 year old and marked a significant milestone not just in her life but in his journey as a father. He candidly shared how he initially expected his firstborn to be a boy, imagining a son who would follow in his strongman footsteps. However, the birth of his daughter opened his eyes to the broader world of strength sports, including women competing in strongwoman events.

This shift in perspective took time to take root but was profound and Jonno realized the importance of understanding and overcoming those deep-held gender biases. Because fatherhood, for him, is about protecting, supporting, and setting his child up for the best life possible. It's about being in good health and having physical, emotional, and moral strength.

"Be a pillar of strength - knowing that you’ll always be there for them no matter what."

A Journey of Strength and Determination

Jonno Stowell's journey from a young man suffering with an eating disorder, to strongman competitor, then to devoted father is quite the achievement in such a short space of time. And as he continues to strive for his goals, he does so with the unwavering support of his family and the strongman community. So, in that spirit of support, here are a series of helpful tips for anyone looking to improve their health on Father’s Day and beyond.

Getting Started: The Gym as a Sanctuary

Jonno firmly believes that everyone should get to the gym. "Mentally and physically, you will get better." He states the gym is more than just a place to build muscle, it's a sanctuary where you can improve your mental health, find a sense of community, and build confidence. Whether you're lifting weights, running on a treadmill, or engaging in a fitness class, the act of moving your body and challenging yourself can have huge effects on your overall wellbeing.

Choosing Your Path: Bodybuilding, Powerlifting, or Strongman

When it comes to choosing a sport, Jonno advises going all in. Whether it’s bodybuilding, powerlifting, or strongman, he emphasizes the importance of dedication. "Really go for it but be aware that you’ll be taking it 'beyond the point of healthy'.” These sports come with targets that may not always feel natural, and they can push your body to its limits.

Embrace the Challenges

Be prepared for the physical complications that come with intense training. Despite the physical strain, the joy of training and competing is unparalleled, “There’s nothing more fun.” Aspiring to beat someone's best, setting new personal records, and pushing your boundaries provide an adrenaline rush that makes all the effort worthwhile.

The Power of Discipline

Jonno highlights that motivation will only get you so far. What's truly needed is discipline. "The thing that gets you going is consistency and a target." Having a clear goal and maintaining a consistent routine are crucial for long-term success. For Jonno, this discipline is ingrained in who he is, but he encourages everyone to cultivate it.

Understanding Your Limits

Jonno acknowledges that intense training isn't for everyone. While he believes everyone should aspire to lead a healthier life, develop a better relationship with food, and practice body confidence, he understands that not everyone will want to push their limits as he has. "If your mind is wired in a certain way, you’ll want to take it to the next level." Which is why he recognizes that the drive to excel in competitive sports is not universal.

Family and Community Support

Throughout his journey, Jonno has emphasized the importance of support from both the strongman community and his immediate family. This support has been vital in allowing him to train effectively and maintain a high-calorie diet essential for his strength goals. He encourages others to seek and appreciate the support of their loved ones in their fitness endeavors.

Jonno Stowell - a father who went from anorexia to strongman winner.

Jonno wanted to get in better shape to improve his health and build his confidence. When he realised how much he could perform with a sandbag he got into strongman.

He was attracted to the fundamental, raw, primal strength of it all.

Suggested Products:



Sold out

PRO Stainless Steel

Sold out


Sold out

Written by Matthew Stogdon

Matt has been writing for two decades, across print and digital media. He is also an accomplished filmmaker, with several accolades under his belt.


Join the millions of people worldwide who receive our tips and exclusive deals that help you reach peak performance every day.

logo-paypal paypal