Looking for some new fitspo in your feed? Meet Anna Victoria, personal trainer and creator of the Fit Body Guides—a 12-week meal plan and training guide that’s taking the Instagram world by storm. Her account, which currently boasts 820,000 Instagram followers, is filled with a mix of gym selfies, healthy food porn, workout videos, and transformation photos from some of the 100,000 women (and counting!) who have found success with her guides.
So what sets her apart from all of the other fitstagram stars out there? (At first glance, her account isn’t too far off from what you might see on, say, Kayla Itsines page.) Well, having undergone a transformation from so-called ‘skinny fat’ to fit herself (and in the process, overcoming health issues caused from a diet of junk food), Victoria manages to strike the perfect balance of inspirational and relatable. Yes, she has an incredible and toned body, but she’s all about maintaining womanly curves too, and has a refreshingly realistic approach to fitness. Her main message: Being healthy is all about balance and should actually be enjoyable (groundbreaking, right?), and having a six-pack doesn’t need to be the end goal. (Anna lives in Rome with her fiancé, and yes, she assures us she eats pasta and gelato weekly!)
Shape: You talk about how before discovering health and fitness, you ate junk food and never worked out. Was there a moment that flipped the switch in your mind towards a healthy lifestyle?
Anna Victoria [AV]: It started when my fiancé Luca and I moved to China over three years ago and I was working full-time and going to school full-time. I was on a diet of strictly junk food—I would literally eat just Goldfish for dinner—because I was convinced I had no time, and that it didn’t matter because it was delicious! But I began having health issues, including problems with my energy and sleep. I was taking medicine, but I could tell it wasn’t really getting down to the root cause. I was like, OK, I’m 23 years old, I shouldn’t want to lie in bed all day! At one point, I had to go to the emergency room because my entire body shut down. At that moment, the light went off in my head. I realized I needed to start eating healthy and working out—and I hated it! Because I loved junk food, and I looked fine—‘skinny fat’ is a hard thing to say because people are like ‘oh, please!’, but just because someone is skinny or looks okay by society’s standards doesn’t mean they’re healthy. I was very fine with the way I looked. I didn’t hate myself. And I don’t think your journey should start with hating yourself, it should be about wanting to improve. So I started working out and it was a whole new world that I became fascinated with. I wondered, how did I seriously think McDonald’s every day was okay?! So that really started my health journey.
Shape: How did your guides and Instagram page come about?
AV: As I was starting my journey towards a healthier lifestyle, I created my first Instagram account (which no longer exists) and just posted what motivated me. This was in 2012, so Instagram was just starting and there were no other fitness accounts. I posted my own transformation and everyone started freaking out. People were asking me for advice, and I would spend all my free time responding and sharing as much as I could with people about what worked for me. I began spending every single day researching every health topic I could and became a certified personal trainer—studying for that exam was so hard. I was in tears at some point! It’s tons of science. I realized I was providing a service and I had student loans to pay off, so I created my very first four-week guides (which I no longer sell). The guides blew up—I think I sold over 100,000. I had such an amazing response, and people started asking more about me. They were really connecting with me, so I opened my Anna Victoria Instagram page and saw my engagement double. From there, I created my current 12-week guides.
Shape: What’s the concept of your 12-week meal plan?
AV: The meal plan guide is based on whole natural foods. People really over complicate healthy eating. You shouldn't cut out food groups! You need carbs, and protein, and fats. There are no shortcuts. I believe in eating foods that will help give your body energy and fuel. I look at the ingredients—not the calories. A calorie isn’t just a calorie. I designed my plan to make you feel satisfied—it’s not about starving yourself. I eat six times a day! That’s one comment I get all the time from the girls who follow my guides: “I’m so full!” They feel like they need to stop eating so much or they won’t lose weight, but I tell them just to trust the process. They’re amazed they went so long starving themselves and yo-yo dieting and not seeing results, and now they’re actually eating and seeing results. So I really want to help people shift their mindset from dieting to fueling their bodies. I had a nutritionist approve my plan and she said it was one of the best she’s seen.
Shape: And how about the 12-week training guide?
AV: When I first started my journey, I was weight lifting. I loved it and I still do, but it was requiring me to spend at least two hours in the gym. I was lifting for an hour and a half and then doing cardio for an hour. I was living in the gym and it wasn’t realistic or practical. So I transitioned into circuit training and high-intensity strength training. You don’t need any machines to do my guide—just your own bodyweight and dumbbells—but it incorporates traditional exercises like squats and stiff leg dead lifts that other programs don’t. I’m a big believer in building muscle to tone and sculpt your body. It makes us more shapely. I have way more curves now than I ever did before!
Shape: Do you ever worry that 'fitspiration' might turn into a negative thing or make young women feel pressure to look a certain way?
AV: I don’t think anyone has ever gone on social media and not felt that way! It’s human nature. Before social media, women compared themselves to magazines and TV. It’s important to talk about it and to say, this isn’t real life! People do post their most perfect images. People say, ‘You’re so perfect’, but I’m not stick thin, I have curves, I have real boobs, I’m a normal woman! And that’s ok. So I try to show that. I just posted a video of myself grabbing my skin! Of course I'm human, I do the same thing myself—I see girls like Tash Oakley and say, oh, my god, she’s so perfect! But for me, I try not to look at is as a comparison, but as ‘OK, if she can do that, I can do it too.’ (Find out Why "Fitspiration" Instagram Posts Aren't Always Inspiring.)
Shape: Is there one main takeaway that you want readers to know about your overall approach to fitness and healthy eating?
AV: Balance. I really want people to know that you don’t have to be so extreme or to try to be perfect! I talk on my Instagram a lot about 80/20. I eat healthy 80 percent of the time so the other 20 percent I can enjoy myself. That 20 percent is really important. I see a lot of people being so extreme and saying things like you can never have a cupcake. Of course you should. I want people to live a healthy life and balance that with their happiness. You should eat! That’s something I don’t see people say very much and I want people to know it’s OK to indulge as long as the other 80 percent of your time you’re being healthy. Living in Italy, I of course have my cheat meals. We always go out on Saturday nights and I have one to two glasses of red wine, a huge plate of pasta, and gelato. We used to buy a kilo of gelato and eat it between the two of us. We eventually had to stop since I realized that was probably going over my cheat meal allowance!
Shape: What sets you apart from other health and fitness influencers on Instagram?
AV: I think the fact that I went through the whole process myself of “I hate this” to, after three years, actually becoming that person who eats healthy and works out—that person I used to hate! The number one comment I get more than anything is, ‘She’s so real!’ I didn’t go from being skinny fat to being a bodybuilder. I am still a normal girl, and people look at my transformation and say, ‘I can do that. I can look like her!’ (See 8 Ways Skinny Shaming Happens at the Gym—And Why It's Not Okay.)
Shape: Some compare you to Kayla Itsines. Was she an inspiration to you?
AV: I think she’s great, I admire her and it’s of course a compliment to get compared to her. We got started and came out with our guides at the same time. As women in this industry, we shouldn’t be competing against each other. Certain women might identify with her more, and certain women might identify with me more and that’s OK! There are a lot of parallels with our plans, but hers is more cardio and bodyweight focused, and mine is more strength-based. I do feel a little bit under her shadow, but our approach and stories are so different.
Shape: How do you handle negative feedback or critiques of your body?
AV: What I get more than anything is, ‘She looked better before.’ Or people will say, ‘That took her three years? That should take six months!’ But it wasn’t about how I looked before! It was about how I felt. I try to turn the negative into a positive. Of course it gets to me, but I use it as my fuel and fire to help change the world.
Shape: Is there a motivational phrase or mantra that you try to live by?
AV: “If they did it, you can too!” It’s easy to get overwhelmed, but that self-belief is what makes or breaks people.