30, personal trainer and health and fitness blogger
‘I’ve struggled with body dysmorphia (BD) all my life. I was taller and bigger-boned than all my friends when I was growing up, and my mind started playing tricks on me by amplifying that. When I looked in the mirror, I’d see a girl three sizes bigger than the real me. It meant that I would always wear loose clothes, trying to cover up.
When I was 18, I started going to the gym, doing endless cardio in a bid to lose weight (which, I later learned, wasn’t the way to do it). At first, I’d wear big, baggy gym clothes, but they got in the way, so I started wearing tighter clothes – and people in the gym began complimenting me on my figure. It gradually made me realise what I saw in the mirror wasn’t real and, after doing a bit of research, I released I had BD.
I worked in marketing for years, but started Youtubing fitness videos in my spare time. I built up about 20,000 followers in a year, and decided to quit my day job and take a personal training diploma. I now have over 370,000 Youtube subscribers, several clients in the gym and a waiting list for online Skype clients from around the world.
Through watching my videos back and seeing what my body is capable of, I’ve been able to beat my body demons. I respect it now and don’t compare myself to the small, thin girl I once dreamed of being. I train three to five days a week, alternating body weight and weighted circuit workouts; rarely cardio unless I go for a run with my dog. I’m a size eight and I weigh just under 11st – it’s the heaviest I’ve ever been but I’m two sizes smaller than when I was 18.
I do receive the occasional cruel comment online such as “you look like a man” or “your abs look too masculine”. When I started, that would deeply affect me. But I’ve learned to try not to take criticism to heart. I’m proud of those abs because they prove I’m strong.’ @carlyrowena