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How One Body-Positive Post Started a Beautiful IRL Friendship

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Photo: Robbie Ann Darby; Love My Shape tanks ($28; shapeactivewear.com)

I first embarked on my lifelong journey to eating disorder recovery almost seven years ago. On a quest to radically reimagine what fitness and wellness could look like, I began to document my life as a personal trainer and fitness instructor and developed RAD Experience. A large part of my brand became supporting others going on a similar journey through my blog and on social media. What I never imagined was that engaging with others online could not only develop a new, more confident me, but new friendships in real life too.

It all started a little over a year ago when I saw a post that Shape shared during the early days of their #LoveMyShape campaign. I was scrolling through my feed and was immediately emotionally and spiritually fed by @fitwit3's personal journey of "loving her shape."

 

 

@shape_magazine started a movement called #lovemyshape where women are encouraged to #shareyourstory Here goes mine: For as long as I can remember, I've always wanted bigger boobs. I promised myself that after I had my babies, I would gift myself with the best breasts that money could buy. After giving birth to 3 babies in 5 years, the way I felt about my body began to change. I was no longer preoccupied with perfection. Instead, I was focused on demonstrating #bodyconfidence & #bodyacceptance to my daughters. I delivered those 3 healthy 8 pounders naturally & I fed those BIG babies with these small boobs. And that's when I realized that I didn't need to gift myself with better boobs cuz I was already blessed with the best gifts of all. #3babies #healthiswealth #motherhoodunplugged #fitwit3 #exercisebenefits #laborstory #naturalmama #fitnessjourney #bodypositivity #fitoverforty

A post shared by Claudine Cooper (@fitwit3) on

Claudine is a fitness professional who is balancing womanhood, wifehood, and motherhood so eloquently. But it was her vulnerability and transparency that inspired me the most. Her story resonated with me because, although I am not a mother yet, I already have fears about how I will handle the ways this next stage may affect my body. I'm constantly telling friends and myself that "after I have kids, if I don't like my body, I will definitely get work done—primarily my boobs." It was Claudine's newfound appreciation of her breasts for being able to feed her babies that reframed my point of view that day. (Related: Amazing Women Who Embrace the #LoveMyShape Movement

After seeing her post, I was inspired to revisit a list I had initially created in the beginning days of my eating disorder recovery. On the left side were all the things that my body had accomplished, and on the right, all the things I viewed as my imperfections. Back then, my body image was so severely distorted that the left side was quite short. However, after reading Claudine's post and revisiting the list almost six years after I began therapy, I was brought face-to-face with my growth after seeing how swiftly I was able to write thing after thing on the left side of the page. I realized that what my body is capable of accomplishing will always be substantially greater than any of my so-called-flaws.

So after I wept happy tears all over my list, I immediately followed her, and she followed me back.

From then on, her photos and inspirational captions were always a treat to come across. Our frequent double taps and comments back and forth became a source of support and inspiration. So, after recently moving cross-country to Los Angeles from New York City, I reached out to Claudine in hopes of meeting one of my favorite followers and accounts to follow in person.

She was equally enthusiastic, and we agreed to go on a hike for our first friend-date—so SoCal of us. I should've been nervous since this outing provided two "firsts" for me—meeting an Instagram friend in person and hiking—but I've come to love taking on both adventures ever since. (Here, more on my LA hiking experiences.) 

 

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For a little over an hour we giggled, chatted, Instagram-ed our time (obviously) and ultimately realized that our connection was a match made in "social-media-friends" heaven. Not only were we bonded by being fitness instructors who also write—which meant a new professional connection and someone to take classes and share content ideas with—but we discovered we have deeper things in common too. "I've always thought of us as long-distance coworkers; [however] the best surprise about our chance meeting on Instagram was that it began with a common interest in health and wellness, but it stretched into our philosophies on life—we're both risk takers, life lovers, and faithful believers," Claudine recently told me.

All in all, I truly couldn't imagine my transition to Los Angeles being so rad if it weren't for Claudine—and I have her raw, honest #LoveMyShape post to thank for it.

After a 14-year-long eating disorder, learning to "love my shape" is still an everyday commitment. And of course, I have dark days. But now, on these days, I pull out my list and connect the negative thoughts about what I might see in the mirror with the positive accomplishments and opportunities that they provide. For example? Negative: My muscular legs are massive and hard to dress; Positive: These muscular legs helped me cross countless finish lines and PR multiple times as a runner for over a decade now. Negative: My boobs are small; Positive: I can go braless. So give me all the bodysuits, backless tops, and wireless bras, please! It's all about perspective.

Claudine not only helped me gain a newfound appreciation of my body, but she reminded the value of opening up about those private, internal struggles. Through this experience, I've realized just how important social media can be in helping to create new, important connections (whether they stay online or transition to real life!) that let us all know we aren't alone in our journeys towards self-love and acceptance.

Because our bodies are badass and feeling strong, healthy, and confident is for everyone! Help us spread the body love and be a part of our #LoveMyShape body confidence movement: Post a photo or video on social sharing why you love your shape. And check out Movemeant Foundation, our partner in empowering women and girls to be body positive.

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