Growing up, I didn’t really care about what I looked like. Or rather, I didn’t care enough to do anything about it. I was confident but not exactly in shape, and I practically ate my way through the drive-thru for the better part of my teen and early twenty-something years.
Then, the first day of my senior year in college, I suddenly keeled over from a sharp pain in my stomach. I couldn’t even stand, and I had to go to the emergency room…where they ran tests and found out my digestive system and G.I. systems were barely functional. (I guess years of eating fast food will do that to you.)
I saw my belly hanging over my workout pants—and I felt disgusted.
The weird thing is, no one asked me about my diet during any of those exams—I was just given a prescription to help with my digestion. After a few months of taking it, I could tell that something still wasn’t working—the medicine wasn’t really addressing the root cause.
Enter: my then-boyfriend, now-husband, Luca. He immediately could see what was causing my health problems: my poor diet and lack of activity. After some nudges from him, I started out on my quest to improve my health in 2013.
My "transformation" ? Sometimes I don't like calling it that because I was never unhappy with the way I looked to begin with. • My transformation was more about how I felt on the inside, about my health, and that's not something I can show you in a picture. Nevertheless, instagram is a visual platform and we are visual creatures so here we are. While I'm happy with the physical changes I've worked so hard for, they don't compare to the non-physical changes that aren't visible to the naked eye. Those non-physical changes are what keep me going. There's always room for physical improvement and there's always someone who looks better than you, and those two facts can be freaking exhausting if it's all you're concerned with. It can put you in a constant state of wanting to restrict food more, work out more, and if you're not careful, lead to an unhealthy obsession and relationship with workouts and with food. That's not what I want for me or for any one of you. • The before photo was in November 2012, so nearly 5 years ago. Could someone see progress in less time? Of course, and I did see significant progress not long after this 'before' photo. My transformation didn't take 5 years, it took about 9 months. I do set goals and push myself, but I've always been overly conscious of maintaining balance and never letting fitness take over my life. These last 5 years I've been pushing myself but I've also been living my life, enjoying vacations and cheat meals and completely indulging and having no regrets. I don't work out to punish myself for eating ice cream and I don't restrict myself if I feel I want to relax a bit. I DO however keep in mind how food affects me mentally and emotionally and that's what keeps me eating as healthy as I do. • Do I have people telling me I should be more lean? Yes. That I could gain more muscle? Yes. But I'm not concerned with other people's ideas of what I should or shouldn't do with my body. I'm doing what I want which is to kick ass in the gym, be empowered by my workouts and feeling strong, but still enjoy life and to value balance above rock hard abs or a lower body fat percentage. #fbggirls www.annavictoria.com/guides
‘I felt like I couldn’t compare to other women on Instagram.’
I joined Instagram in the early days of the app as an outlet for sharing my health and fitness journey—and to keep myself accountable. But after using the app for a few months, I started feeling “less than.”
My feed seemed like it was just picture after picture of beautiful women—girls with the flattest tummies you could ever imagine, the most perfectly toned legs and booties, and gorgeous faces to match.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with these photos on their own. Every woman should be able to post photos that make her feel beautiful and confident.
But these photos of women who had the most enviable bodies were so plentiful, and seemingly never-ending. Despite all my workouts, I felt I didn’t even come close to comparing to these crazy-gorgeous women. The fact that my tummy, with its little pooch, wasn’t getting anywhere near as flat as seemingly every other woman’s tummy on Instagram was disheartening.
‘I realised I was part of the problem.’
Then, one day in January 2016, I was foam rolling in my living room in front of a mirror. In the reflection of the mirror, I saw my belly hanging over my workout pants—and I felt disgusted.
How did I still have this belly pooch after working out regularly for two years? I thought.
Despite how strong I was, how much better I felt than I did when I started working out, those tummy rolls still really got to me.
I imagined how disappointed my more than 1 million followers would feel if they knew how the “real” me, the un-posed me, had these rolls and not the flat, toned tummy I showed off in my carefully curated photos.
But then I realised something. I felt “less than” because of photos of women with seemingly perfect bodies, yet I had women commenting on my photos saying things like “#goals” or “I wish my tummy looked like yours.”
They were only seeing was the perfectly posed body I allowed them to see. They might have been feeling just as discouraged as I was—yet I was posting same kind of images that made me feel so down about myself.
So, in that moment, I took my very first “relaxed” selfie, sitting there in the living room in front of that mirror. The same mirror I was so annoyed to look at, that made me so frustrated because it showed me my stomach rolls.
There are two reasons I want to share this with you ladies: one reason is because I want you to know having skin fold over on your stomach when you sit or to have "rolls" is not anything to hate or be ashamed of. The other reason is because while I say this, there have been times where if I ever found myself in front of a mirror where I am sitting and I see my stomach, I automatically think "ew!" because this is what society has conditioned me to think. Your stomach does not have to be perfectly flat to be healthy, your stomach does not have to be perfectly flat for you to love yourself, and your stomach does not have to be perfectly flat to be confident and beautiful and an all around amazing person. As a society, we shouldn't let physical characteristics set the standard for whether we deserve to love ourselves or not. Everyone deserves to love themselves, however I know that's easier said than done. What's amazing to me and what I have witnessed with the fbg girls is most of the time they start learning to love themselves more on their journey not because of the physical changes, but because of the mental and emotional changes that come from dedicating yourself, pushing yourself, and seeing just how strong you really are. (what we call "non-physical progress" and is just as, if not more important than physical progress). That type of strength and beauty can only be seen and felt from within. ?? #fbggirls #realstagram www.annavictoria.com/guides
‘I no longer felt that pressure to be perfect.’
To my relief, the response was overwhelmingly positive. The comments I received ranged from people thanking me for showing my non-posed side, to women sharing that my photo helped them with their body dysmorphia, anorexia, bulimia, and other disorders that were fed by this unattainable idea of perfection.
I had been scared and nervous to share that photo. I had no idea how people would react. But after putting it out there—and seeing how my followers responded—I felt a weight lifted off of my shoulders. The pressure to be and look perfect had disappeared, just by posting that photo of my real self.
You girls requested for me to share this after posting on snap last week ? Picture on the left was taken one day before the wedding and the picture on the right was taken… 2 minutes after! Someone recently said to me that we all have our good angles and we all have our bad angles, so why do we let our bad angles carry so much more weight than our good angles? If you focus on how bad you look in the bad angles, at least focus on how good you look in the good ones too!! ?? Tag a friend if you found this helpful ? #fbggirls #loveyourself #realstagram www.annavictoria.com/guides
That experience showed me that “perfection” was too great a burden to bear. I don’t want to be seen as flawless, and I don’t want to put out this image that I am perfect. It’s exhausting—and frankly, it’s as bad for me as it is for anyone seeing my pictures. I’m not perfect—no body is. And that’s okay.
‘What I see in the mirror doesn’t scare me anymore.’
Of course, I still do share posed photos and beautiful moments in my life. They don’t represent all of the ups and downs I experience, but they are moments in which I feel beautiful, confident, and happy. And I encourage others to do the same! But I still (and always will) share the non-posed photos, too.
Me 1% of the time vs. 99% of the time. And I love both photos equally. Good or bad angles don't change your worth ❤️ I recently came across an article talking about how one woman stated she refuses to accept her flaws, because she doesn't see them as flaws at all. I LOVED that because it sends such a powerful message that our belly rolls, cellulite, stretch marks are nothing to apologize for, to be ashamed of, or to be obsessed with getting rid of! As I'm getting older, I have cellulite and stretch marks that aren't going away, and I welcome them. They represent a life fully lived (for 28 years so far :)) and a healthy life and body at that. How can I be mad at my body for perfectly normal "flaws"? This body is strong, can run miles, can lift and squat and push and pull weight around, and it's happy not just because of how it looks, but because of how it feels. So when you approach your journey, I want you to remember these things: I will not punish my body I will fuel it I will challenge it AND I will love it ??? If you're following my page, you're a part of helping me spread this message and creating this movement – thank you. #fbggirls #realstagram www.annavictoria.com/guides
I faced my insecurity by dealing with it head-on. I looked at the belly pooch that used to make me cringe, and instead of hiding it, I shared it with the world. And by confronting that fear, I overcame it.
Now, what I see in the mirror—posed or unposed—doesn’t scare me. I love it all.
Here’s the thing: I am not pretending to be perfect anymore. I want to stay in my own lane—my own, imperfectly perfect lane. I’m not trying to be anything but a stronger, healthier version of myself—no matter what that looks like.
And I hope to inspire every person who follows me to strive to do the same.
This article originally appeared in Women’s Health US
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