Leaders of the #fitspo movement solicit heaps of praise on social media, but what it really takes to achieve a viral-worthy transformation photo often remains hidden from public view.
Former bikini competitor Julie Ledbetter, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, has illuminated some of those secrets in a viral Instagram post — and, she divulges, the journey isn’t always pretty.
“I was almost in the single digits for body fat % (not healthy), constantly cold (in the middle of JULY), always thinking about my next meal because I was in a deep caloric deficit and couldn't miss a gym session because ‘I was ___ weeks out from my show,’” Ledbetter writes in the post.
Not so anymore. Since abandoning the competitions, she’s lost her six-pack and buff arms — but she’s also gotten her life back, she writes.
To show how she’s changed, Ledbetter shares a reverse side-by-side transformation photo: one showing her in 2014 before she won a bikini competition and another showing her today, when she’s “happy, healthy and free” with no plans to compete anymore.
She recalled sending the 2014 photo to her coach at the time, asking him if she still needed to shed more weight before the competition.
“Talked (sic) about a WARPED brain I had,” she writes.
In the post, she clarifies that she isn’t bashing bikini competitions themselves. Rather, she urges her followers not to compare themselves to women like her former self. Not only did she find the lifestyle unsustainable, but many of the images that grace magazine covers are Photoshopped to look unrealistic, she warns.
“The body on the right is a maintainable body,” she writes. “I am at a healthy body fat %, I am not constantly thinking about my next meal or stressed when things take priority over my workouts. I am strong, content and most importantly confident of the body I have built since 2014. This body is something that I can confidently say I can maintain for life.”