Fitness + Well-being

Bikini competitor felt pressured to get breast implants in order to win

As the number of plastic surgeries performed each year continues to rise, the body-positive community has been buzzing about cosmetic procedures: Are they an empowering choice, or a way to cover up insecurities? When fitness influencer and Blogilates founder Cassey Ho referred to her one-time wish for breast implants on Instagram last week, we had to learn more about her take.

A little background: Ho's  #ThrowbackThursday post provided a glimpse at her bikini competition days. The photo, taken in 2012, shows Ho and three other bronzed women clad in tiny swimsuits.

#ThrowbackThursday to my bikini competition in 2012. 👙Never had I ever thought of altering my body until I saw the stark difference between the girls who won and the girls who lost. Every girl that I met that day was uniquely beautiful, but what I noticed was that the girls who placed Top 5 in my contest all had breast implants. I on the other hand, placed near the bottom 5. • Whether or not this was the case, it led me to believe that if I wanted to be a winner, I'd need to get breast implants too. But I see now that I set myself up for this mental state of weakness. When you put yourself up against other women in a physical bodybuilding competition, your entire worth is how you LOOK. Not who you are. Not your GPA. Not your talent. Not how nice you are. It's literally how low your body fat % is and whether or not the ratio of your waist to your boobs and your butt is better or worse than the girl next to you. And guess what? Your entire worth is dependent on a panel of judges who spend a few seconds looking at you like a piece of meat. • In my moments of weakness, I did not see the situation clearly. I saw myself as less-than and I wanted to do whatever it took to win. I wanted boobs. Boobs were gonna make me win, I thought. The problem was...the reason for changing my body wasn't for myself. I wanted to change my body for a panel of judges I didn't even know. • And that's where I stand on plastic surgery. 100% do it if it's for you. I'm never gonna judge you for it! But if you're doing it because someone else wants you to? Stay far FAR away from plastic surgery! Changing your body to make someone else happy is a NO-NO. • I go more in depth into this story on the latest episode of the @besheroic podcast! It's definitely a must-listen! Bit.ly/besheroic (bio link) • What's your stance on plastic surgery? Also, please NO BODY SHAMING of any sort on this post! #blogilates #besheroic

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In the caption, Ho writes that she noticed that day that the women who placed in the top five all had one thing in common: breast implants. "[I]t led me to believe that if I wanted to be a winner, I'd need to get breast implants too," she wrote. "The problem was...the reason for changing my body wasn't for myself. I wanted to change my body for a panel of judges I didn't even know."

RELATED: THESE ARE THE RISKS OF BREAST IMPLANTS, ACCORDING TO A SURGEON

Ho didn't end up going through with the plastic surgery she so desperately wanted. In an interview with Health, she explained that she decided to move on from bikini competitions when she realized she had lost her passion for exercise. "I was only working out to see physical results, that was it," she says. "Working out for vanity isn't going to fulfill your soul."

So Ho returned to the physical activities she used to love: dancing and pilates. And since then her joy and enthusiasm for fitness has attracted some 1.4 million followers on Instagram and 3.8 million subscribers on YouTube.

While she's no longer interested in plastic surgery herself, Ho believes the decision to have a cosmetic procedure is entirely personal. As she wrote on Instagram, "100% do it if it's for you." But if you're doing it to try to please someone else, think twice, she warns. "Changing you body to make someone else happy is a NO-NO."

Finding harmony with my body, my lifestyle, and my career is something that I've struggled with for a long time. And to be totally honest, I still do! I've been on both extremes. 1️⃣ If I exercise a lot and restrict calories (please don't only eat 1000 cals a day ever!!!!), I may be super lean and "look fit", but I don't have enough time or energy to be creative and excel with my work. 2️⃣ If I work too much, my company may grow faster, but at the expense of me sitting in a chair all day, becoming physically weaker while gaining weight. So...finding that harmony was such a fickle thing...but once I found it, I FELT UNSTOPPABLE. So as you can see, on my current photo, I'm not as lean (or as tan) as during my bikini competition, but I feel at PEACE. I feel strong. 💪 And you know what? I think I look GOOD! 🔥 And! What I think is the only thing that matters when it comes to judging my body. I get into this A LOT in the newest episode of the @besheroic podcast! 👠 Go listen to it now to find out more about how to find your balance with working out. 🤸🏻‍♀️ Bit.ly/besheroic. (Bio link) Also could you please please PLEASE rate ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ and leave a review?! 😊 I know it's hard to figure out how to do (like why iTunes why!?), but leaving a review really helps the podcast get discovered by more listeners! PLUS I really wanna know what you honestly think! Thank you guys, and love you! ♥️ #besheroic #piit28 #blogilates

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In our interview, Ho went on urge celebrities and other influencers to disclose any work they've had done, since the effects can have such a powerful effect on young women in the age of social media. "If you take a selfie and say it's a no-makeup selfie, some girl is going to look at that and be like, Oh my god, I'll never look like that, even if you've had fillers and injections," she explains. "Especially with a group of young women still figuring out what makes them beautiful and confident, it's important to disclose the truth. Just say it and own it if you do get [a cosmetic procedure]."

And for anyone looking for a way to feel more confident without going under the knife, Ho suggests shifting your focus from how you look to what you can do: "What makes me confident is when I'm working on something and get better and better at it.... It's being able to practice and refine a skill that builds that confident feeling."

Ho also recommends making a similar mental shift when it comes to your fitness. Rather than targeting a number on the scale or a specific physical change (say, a six-pack), choose strength and endurance goals, such as holding a plank for a full minute, for example, or beating your 3-mile PR. You'll be more likely to reach your goals, she says. "Plus it makes the journey more fun, too."