This story originally appeared on Health.com by Blake Bakkila.
Two best friends took to Instagram to reflect on how much they’ve changed since 2013. On the outside, 28-year-old pals Aerin Gaines and Gwen Swanson have become more fit. And on the inside, they’re more confident and positive than ever. To celebrate their progress on both fronts, they shared these before-and-after photos. (Related: 3 Ways Your BFFs Can Improve Your Health)
“There have definitely been plenty of ups and downs, but one thing is for sure - this journey is beyond worth every struggle,” they captioned their post. “Our health is worth it. Our happiness is worth it.”
2013 to 2018 The past five years have been all about hustling, learning and growing . . Change is a scary thing, but ya know what’s scarier!? Feeling stuck. STAYING STUCK. . . We knew we were ready for m o r e so we started learning, researching, trying, DOING. . . And today we continue to take charge of our health, happiness and lives in all aspects because of what this journey has taught us. We have truly transformed from the inside-out and when we actually take a minute to sit back and reflect on that, it’s pretty damn rad. . . There have definitely been plenty of ups and downs, but one thing is for sure - this journey is beyond worth every struggle. Our health is worth it. Our happiness is worth it. You know YOU are worth it, too, right, girl?! Because we know you are. #gogirl xo
These BFFs tell Health that they’ve been inseparable since meeting 16 years ago and have always had an honest, open friendship. When they first teamed up to improve their health, they admitted that they had a lot to learn about wellness. (Related: The Surprising Effect Your Friends Have On Your Exercise Habits)
“We honestly started because we wanted to ‘get skinny,’” they say. “But then we quickly discovered a deeper passion for health and fitness. We realized it feels good to feel good and looking good was just a bonus.”
From workout videos to meal prep ideas, Gaines and Swanson share uplifting words to motivate their followers—and each other. They keep each other accountable and serve as sounding boards offering advice and support. While they stay active together, they’ve each found the best diet and exercise regimen that works for them individually. (Related: What It's Really Like When Your Best Friend Gets Cancer)
“I have a deeper passion for nutrition and studied it a lot in school and my free time,” says Gaines. “But I honestly hate to cook, so making healthy meals that taste great, but are super simple, is my jam! I also discovered that I love to run, but Gwen does not.”
When Gaines is running, Swanson is spinning.
“I’ve always been the more active one, and after we started this journey I knew I wanted it to be my career,” says Swanson, who has since become a group fitness instructor. “I totally fell in love with cycling. Getting stronger is the best feeling, [and] pushing your body to do things you didn’t think you could do is empowering.”
Despite their positivity and encouragement on social media, they acknowledge that it’s not always easy to stay on track. (Related: 5 Partner Exercises from the Tone It Up Girls to Try with Your BFF)
“Progress is never linear,” they say. “Embrace the journey, both the successes and the struggles because there will be both. Self-love is key.”