We live in a world of filters and Photoshop, so it’s important to keep it real from time to time. Popular fitness blogger Kelsey Wells took a break from her “fitspo” posts on Monday to do a gut check — literally and figuratively — and share it with her legion of Instagram followers and Facebook fans so they could see that, yes, she too has imperfections, and it’s OK. Wells showed off two pictures of her normally chiseled belly looking so bloated from eating that many commenters assumed she was pregnant.
The day before, Wells — who is also an interior designer, wife, and mom — wrote on Instagram that she’d been indulging in “treats” since Thanksgiving, and she “did not feel one bit bad about it.” She referenced that confession in her belly-bloat post and claimed that she decided to share the images of her expanded abdomen in response to fans who had written to her bemoaning their imperfections. “I wanted to post this because I have received more than a few questions lately such as ‘how do you never look bloated?,’ ‘how do you never get zits?,’ and ‘how do you not have stretch marks?,'” Wells captioned the photos.
She does get all those things, the body-positive My Sweat Life blogger admits, because she’s human. And because her journey and message are about self-acceptance, she accepts her stretch marks, blemishes, and bloat — and encourages everyone else to be OK with these realities. “I could give you tips and tricks on how to fight bloating and zits and stretch marks,” she writes, “but I think it’s more important for everyone to realize that these things are totally normal!” She calls Instagram “a highlight reel of sorts” filled with good lighting and all the right angles, acknowledging that she takes part in the illusion, “but I never want that to be misconstrued as saying I don’t have bad [photos] or never look bloated,” she writes. “Everyone is human. Everyone is beautiful.”
Fans on both Facebook and Instagram were inspired and reassured by Wells’s transparency. “On point! Thanks for sharing this message and keeping it real (: You’re a great role model and inspiration to me and many others!,” one commenter wrote. “Thank you so much for being honest and realistic!” gushed another. And, of course, there were comments such as, “I thought you were announcing you were pregnant for a minute! I got really excited haha thanks for showing though what real people look like.”
It’s not the first time Wells has sent a message of self-love to her social network. She’s been brutally honest about her journey since day one — including her own battles with self-image and her false starts. On her website, she talks about quitting BBG (Bikini Body Guide), the fitness program that’s gotten her into peak condition, shortly after starting it. The timing also happened to coincide with the birth of her baby; when she quit the program she was two months and two days postpartum. “It was so freaking hard!” she admits on her site. “I could barely get through the circuits and had to modify most all the exercises. I started and stopped a few times, but eventually decided I was doing this NO. MATTER. WHAT.”
And her social media accounts often feature throwback photos of what she looked like before she embarked on her fitness odyssey, along with down-to-earth commentary about her transformation and her state of mind throughout. In a post from three weeks ago, for example, she shows four photos of herself spanning 2008 to 2016. Along the way, we see her go through her pregnancy. “It took me a long time to figure out how to love my body,” she writes. “For the girl in the first three photos, the moments of confidence were the exception, not the rule.”
In another post, she shows a before-and-after comparison of her figure and emphasizes, “Let me be clear: my internal changes are NOT the byproducts of my physical changes, but the other way around.” Wells explains that it’s not so much the way her body looks that makes her feel secure, but the way she sees herself, knowing that she’s working hard to improve herself. She also notes that her physical transformation is not about weight, but strength. She actually gained weight while on the BBG program, because she built so much muscle, and muscle is more dense than fat.
She writes in a post from seven weeks ago, “I am 5’7″ and weigh 140 lbs. When I first started #bbg I was 8 weeks postpartum and 145 lbs. I weighed 130 before getting pregnant, so based on nothing besides my own warped perception, I decided my “goal weight” should be 122 and to fit into my skinniest jeans. Well after a few months of BBG and breastfeeding, I HIT IT and I fit into those size 0 jeans. Well guess what? I HAVE GAINED 18 POUNDS SINCE THEN.” Wells urges her followers not to pay attention to the scale — or to fitting into their “skinny” clothes. “I have gone up two pant sizes and as a matter of fact I ripped those skinny jeans wide open just the other week trying to pull them up over my knees,” she says in reference to her current, extraordinarily fit figure.
Over and over, Wells sends a message of health to her fans, and wants them to be inspired by the return of her energy, the building of her confidence, and the decreasing of her anxiety — and not obsess over her appearance. Because even the healthiest people have physical flaws, and no one looks as perfect as they do on Instagram.