Sarah Sapora was a little nervous about putting on a two-piece bathing suit, because she hadn’t worn one in decades.
“The last time I wore a low-rise bikini, I was 13 years old at fat camp,” she admitted in her plus-size wellness blog, Sarah Plus Life.
But for Sapora, 38, posing for photos in a cute bikini was the perfect way to celebrate a newfound confidence in her body.
The Los Angeles-based blogger rocked her bikini photo shoot on a Malibu beach with Keith Webb, a model friend.
Sapora says she has reached a point where she loves her figure just as it is, and she’s ready to share that confidence with the world.
“Here I am. A size 22. And more comfortable, more balanced, and more joyful than I have ever been in my entire life,” she wrote on Instagram. “There comes a time in your life when you realize it’s time to play the music YOU like, and dance like nobody's watching.”
The photo session marked an important milestone in her wellness journey, Sapora said.
“This shoot helped me celebrate one year of being totally committed to putting my health and happiness first,” she told TODAY Style. “In the last year I have changed the trajectory of my life … I meditate regularly, am stronger and more mobile, and more excited about the possibility of life.”
“In the last year, I have [lost] more than 74 pounds,” she added. “But for me this process is NOT about a number. I don't believe in chasing numbers and have no intention to do that. For me this has been about becoming the most balanced and happy version of Sarah that I can be.”
Sapora said that for her, eating healthy foods and exercising are forms of self-respect, not self-punishment.
“When I treat my body with respect by eating regular meals that are balanced, I feel better physically,” she said.
After Sapora posted her bikini photos, love poured in from fans on Instagram.
“You are such an inspiration,” one woman wrote. “I’m still on my journey to finding confidence and self love [and] some days are way better than others, but that’s OK ...you seriously made my day!”
Sapora said that reactions like this are one reason she took the plunge and did the photo shoot.
“We [women] need to know that we are seen and visible and that we are OK just as we are,” she told TODAY.
Unfortunately, because this is the internet, Sapora has also fielded some hurtful comments about her gorgeous pics — but she still doesn’t regret posting the photos.
“I have … gotten quite a bit of nasty negativity from people who do not believe that all bodies deserve to feel good about who they are,” she told TODAY. “I am not surprised by any of this, and shared my journey so openly regardless of what reaction I knew was coming. It is more important for me to talk to the 35-year-old woman who is disconnected from her own confidence and sense of worth then it is for me to avoid criticism from others.”
So there, haters!
Sapora recognizes that self-love doesn’t always come overnight.
“There is a lot of talk about the phrase ‘body positivity’ right now, and a lot of pressure for people to love their body,” she told TODAY. “I encourage people to start with simple acceptance … Once you find acceptance, you can find freedom from self-doubt. Freedom from that nagging voice in the back of your head that tells you that you aren't enough."
She has some advice for other women struggling to break free of all the voices — internal and external — telling them they aren't enough.
"I would ask people this: how has allowing others to dictate how you feel about your body worked for you so far in life? If it hasn't worked, then the only way you will feel and experience something different is by making a conscious choice to do things differently," she said. "We get to decide how we feel about ourselves.
"I know I am enough," she added. "That is something that can never be taken away from me."