Getting in shape for bikini season is enough to stress anyone the f*ck out, but Julie Ann Ledbetter, a former bikini competitor, says she became "happy, healthy and free" once she stopped competing for a perfect bikini body. "Since bikini competition season is is FULL swing this time of year... I felt compelled to show you my BEFORE and AFTER from the day before I won my #WBFF bikini pro card back in 2014," Ledbetter recently wrote in an Instagram post.
"Looks a bit backwards from what you think in your mind huh? It most likely will for over half of you. That is the fitness industry for you..showing you the highlight reel of what they call a 'bikini' body." Ledbetter went on to share that it was not easy maintaining her bikini body all year round, recalling how difficult it was to obsess over her weight:
"I was almost in the single digits for body fat % (not healthy), constantly cold (in the middle of JULY), always thinking about my next meal because I was in a deep caloric deficit and couldn't miss a gym session because 'I was ___ weeks out from my show'. I also remember sending that exact photo to my coach asking him if I was ready because I thought I still needed to lose fat in my stomach...like what?!"
Ledbetter, who made sure to note that she wasn't bashing bikini competitions, explained why she feels her "after body" photo represents a more maintainable body, writing, "I am not constantly thinking about my next meal or stressed when things take priority over my workouts. I am strong, content and most importantly confident of the body I have built since 2014."
Her advice for women who compare themselves to bikini competitors is simple yet powerful. "Ladies, do NOT...I repeat, do NOT look at all these bikini competition photos or magazine covers these next couple months and compare your body to theirs. 99.9% of them are either showing a VERY VERY VERY extreme highlight reel OR photoshopped. No matter how 'healthy' your approach is to the stage, it is an extreme. Plain and Simple."