Woman shares dramatic side-by-side photos to prove how deluded Instagram has made us about our bodies

A self-love activist and influencer is bringing about greater public awareness of the deceitful nature of social media imagery with her powerful “ Instagram vs reality” photos.

Danae Dianne Mercer, a Dubai-based freelance health and travel writer, has amassed over 1.3 million followers on Instagram through her body acceptance content, in which she strives to normalize cellulite, stretch marks and belly rolls — a few very natural parts of the human body that are rarely showcased or even acknowledged online.

“Your cellulite is NOT an error. A glitch in perfection,” she captioned one of her recent posts. “It’s incredible. Unique. A stamp mark of who you are. A sign that your body is functioning and alive and doing the same thing as over 80% of other women.”

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CELLULITE is so darn COMMON. So WEAR that swimsuit. Rock that bikini. Get out there and roll with the full wonder of all that you are. And don’t let any little lumpbumps make you second guess for a single minute. Over 80 percent of women have cellulite. That’s a HUGE number – and yet we are told it’s bad and wrong and subtly, so subtly, taught that it is shameful. Some of us learn these lessons as little girls. Yesterday I shared a YouTube video that wants to teach exactly that. It featured a slight child deciding she was TOO BIG, so she exercised and weighed herself and ate carrots and weighed herself and climbed stairs and weighed herself. Some of us learn these lessons as adults, when brands try to SELL TO US and make money from SHAME. From creating flaws that don’t exist, or from turning incredibly common bits of bodies into things that must be fixed. Wherever you learned these lessons, know that they are wrong. Your cellulite is NOT an error. A glitch in perfection. It’s incredible. Unique. A stamp mark of who you are. A sign that your body is functioning and alive and doing the same thing as over 80% of other women. So today, babygirl, get out there and rock your cellulite. Celebrate your dips and rolls. Embrace your curves or your straights. And most of all, do whatever makes you SMILE. Because you are a GLORIOUS CELEBRATION. A song of limbs and heart and soul. Don’t you forget it. Bikini @heiress_swimwear #selflove #bodyacceptance #normalizenormalbodies #cellulite #strengthmarks

A post shared by Danae | Angles + Self Love (@danaemercer) on Jun 23, 2020 at 6:27am PDT

Mercer told In The Know she actually got her start on Instagram sharing traditional “fitspo” and luxury travel content, but her exhaustion with keeping up such an illusion led her to pivot and become a body-acceptance champion instead.

“I started to feel really disconnected from what I was putting out there and what I knew happened behind the scenes,” she explained. “I’d show a perfect snapshot after posing and arching and taking dozens of photos for much longer than a candid moment.”

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Insta vs reality — or LETS talk LIGHTING. Because that’s the main difference in these photos. In one, my bum is deliberately angled into the shadows. The softer light hides my cellulite and smooths most of my stretchmarks. It’s flattering. In the other, I’m just casually squatting (lol) beside the mirror. My hips and thighs are in the sunlight. Lumps and bumps are on show. There are a few posing differences (core tight, hips popped back, squeeeezzzinnnggg), but mostly this pic is about LIGHT working its magic. When I worked in magazines, we shot at sunrise or sunset. On most sets, there were people holding SUN DIFFUSERS and REFLECTORS to help create the perfect FLATTERING balance of shadow and light. The same thing happens on SOCIAL MEDIA, just in a different form. Most insta-models know EXACTLY how to POSE and work their angles. And they know LIGHTING too. Like how SIDE LIGHT, diffused from a window, is the most flattering for abs but usually pretty harsh on the face. It’s why you’ll often see a phone covering the face. Or how SHADOWS can gently eliminate certain LUMPS and BUMPS. All that is fine with me, honestly. It’s art and photography, and there is no shame in wanting to look FIERCE. But I also want to remind you about how SO MUCH on here is FILTERED. POSED. PERFECTED. And how you shouldn’t EVER COMPARE YOURSELF to a STRANGER on the internet. Because cowgirl, you’re just seeing their snapshots taken in PERFECT LIGHT. Your reality is a whole lot more varied, diverse, and human than that. It’s more perfectly imperfect. Real. Raw. And that’s a wonderful thing indeed. You got this. x #instavsreality #womenirl #womenshealth #popsugarfitness #instagramvsreality #posingtips #cellulite #strengthmarks

A post shared by Danae | Angles + Self Love (@danaemercer) on Jun 25, 2020 at 6:59am PDT

After seeing Sara Shakeel’s glitter stretch mark campaign, which, “in an instant changed the way” Mercer thought about her own body, she ultimately decided to make a change in her posting habits in order to create a movement that “could possibly help other women.”

The result is ongoing exposure about how posing and lighting can be used to manipulate or enhance one’s appearance online — something Mercer doesn’t believe is inherently bad, but something she wants her audience to be aware of no less.

“Posing is great fun, but NOT POSING doesn’t make you worth ANY LESS,” she wrote in one of her latest posts. “Even if it means your wobbly bits come out on show.”

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Do you SIT differently in PUBLIC than you do in PRIVATE? I did. For YEARS I did. In public, I would pose. Squeeze. Arch. Tighten. In private, I’d sit comfortably: shoulders relaxed, body loose, just being human. And I imagine that maybe, just maybe, I’m not alone. I read an article once talking about the BEST WAY to POSITION your body on the beach. It was all ‘knees up, core tight, never lay flat’. And if you had extra wiggles and jiggles around the hips and thighs? The article recommended DIGGING A HOLE in the SAND. To put that bum into. So it would, you know, look LESS. As a teen, I did these things. And then, as an adult, I still held myself sucked in or avoided crossing my legs because heaven forbid anyone should see my CELLULITE. Things have CHANGED in this last year. I wish they would have changed so much sooner. So today, I just want to remind you: It is OK to sit comfortably. To RELAX while you’re RELAXING. Perfection isn’t the price you pay to exist in a human body. And comfort is pretty darn incredible. Posing is great fun, but NOT POSING doesn’t make you worth ANY LESS. Even if it means your wobbly bits come out on show. Or your skin folds. Or you’re just, well, YOU. Because being YOU is incredible. And worthy. And powerful. In whatever way, shape, or form. You got this girl. Go sit comfortably. x Photos @chiclebelle who is just the best #selflove #selfacceptance #bodyacceptance #iweigh #feminist

A post shared by Danae | Angles + Self Love (@danaemercer) on Jul 1, 2020 at 6:41am PDT

Mercer, who previously served as the editor-in-chief of Women’s Health Middle East and Men’s Health Middle East, says she hopes her extensive knowledge of an industry that often perpetuates harmful beauty standards can help her “pull back the curtain” and lead women to love and accept their bodies, stretch marks and all.

“I want women to understand that what we see online or in magazines is only a glimmer of the truth and that so much of what we think is ‘flawed’ about ourselves is completely, marvelously normal,” she told In The Know. “I want women to feel normal, to know they’re not alone and to know that we’re in this together.”

“Ultimately, women are incredibly powerful and undeniably strong,” she added. “I just would love to see us turn some of that strength and love to ourselves and our bodies.”

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