Love Your Body

'Perfect posed photos are not me': Fitness star shares reality of Instagram

Forget the filters and "perfect" posts — TODAY Style is getting real! This week is all about being honest, authentic, transparent and, well, real about everything from wrinkles and body image to dressing room anxiety and aging. Use the hashtag #RealWomenHave _____ to share the topic about which YOU want to get real.

Many people turn to Instagram for fitness inspiration, workout tips and actual workouts. There's one person in particular that 1.1 million people look to for fitness advice: Anna Victoria. The 29-year-old Instagram celebrity and fitness guru motivates women all over the world — in all kinds of ways. Not only does she get them moving, she provides a dose of reality with her content: no woman is perfect, especially not her.

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Fitness expert reveals what REALLY goes into taking a perfect Instagram photo

Play Video - 2:49

Fitness expert reveals what REALLY goes into taking a perfect Instagram photo

Play Video - 2:49

In this essay, shared exclusively with TODAY, she elaborates on why she sometimes shares unflattering photos of herself — and why they mean just as much as the "perfect" pictures.

In today's world, we're surrounded by people on Facebook and Instagram with seemingly perfect lives, perfect bodies, perfect relationships and even perfect hair — it’s no wonder we’re feeling increasingly dissatisfied with our own lives.

This is a part of the reason why I decided to start contrasting my “perfectly posed” photos with “normal” photos on social media. Here's a quick look behind the scenes: Those posed photos are taken after a few minutes of sucking in, tightening your abs, twisting your torso and ensuring the lighting is as perfect as it can be to wash out any visible flaws.

Some people take it to an extreme level — Photoshop-ing, smoothing out cellulite and stretch marks, enhancing their curves and more. These photos aren't real life, yet they’re everywhere.

Through sharing my own posed photos over the last few years, I noticed a trend of young girls and women of all ages leaving a variety of comments from “#goals” to “I hope I can one day look like that,” to “I will never look like that.” It began to weigh on me.

These "perfect" posed photos are not me in real life. I’m trying to look my very best, but I could never actually walk around like that, posed and flexed — and in perfect lighting. Not that I’m dissatisfied with myself and it’s not that I’m trying to pretend to be something I’m not, but we're all human! Somehow social media tends to remove the human component.

I’ve always known that posing and finding the best light was a part of this online, social media-fueled world, yet other unsuspecting women don’t always know that.

When young girls and women of all ages see countless pictures of seemingly flawless women, it can seem like these beautiful women are in the majority. This leads these normal, everyday women to feel like there's something wrong with them. Why can’t I look like that? Why am I eating so healthy, working so hard in the gym, yet my body doesn’t look like that?

Anna victoria / Anna Victoria
According to Anna, posting "real life" photos of herself is just as important as sharing the "perfect" ones.

I want to make it clear that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with someone sharing his or her own most perfectly posed photos, but if you're a person of influence, there should also be some honesty and transparency, too.

In January 2016, I decided to share my first photo of myself sitting down, baring my “tummy rolls.” The point was never to show how big my rolls are, because they’re not. It was about providing a different perspective, a different angle of the usually toned and taut body you see on my page.

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

A post shared by Anna Victoria (@annavictoria) on

My goal then and now is to simply show young girls and women everywhere it’s normal to have belly rolls when you sit, and most importantly, that they’re nothing to be ashamed of.

Since then, I have received an overwhelming amount of support and I could tell this was something women clearly needed: to know that they don’t have to live up to the unrealistic expectations of never showing a bad angle, cellulite, stretch marks or belly rolls.

Last January, I shared anther photo of myself sitting, cropped right next to a picture of myself posing and standing. The response was overwhelming again, but in the best way possible. I received a variety of comments, from women thanking me for showing it’s OK to be human, to others sharing that they’ve struggled with body dysmorphia and eating disorders because of all the perfect images they constantly see online, and that my photo saved them.

Anna Victoria
Your body doesn't look perfect at every angle, and Anna Victoria is happy to point that out.

If all I have to do to help so many overcome such serious internal battles is to share a photo of myself sitting with a few belly rolls, it’s the least I can do.

I want women to feel confident in themselves, love themselves, value and cherish themselves for who they are, but also feel empowered to improve their lives, health and overall well-being, if they so choose. I want women to love themselves and appreciate themselves from all angles because a bad angle doesn’t take away from our worth or our beauty.

It will be a great day when women realize their “flaws” don’t define them, and I think we are getting closer to that realization each and every day.

Anna Victoria is a certified personal trainer and the creator of The 12 Week Fit Body Guides and The Body Love app.