Most of the time, Instagram serves only as a highlight reel, an endless scroll of filtered images and profiles that seem to exist in a perpetual state of euphoria. But as anyone who is living in 2021 knows, our lives are enriched by the very textures of human experience that are, at times, difficult to process and to share. Whether it’s the uncertainty that stems from lockdown, to inculcated ideals we have towards our own bodies and self-image, these topics are so rarely discussed with transparency and openness. Thankfully, that’s all changing thanks to 25-year-old Bree Lenehan. The health and lifestyle influencer behind the Instagram series, Real Me Monday, is sharing untouched images to encourage others to embrace their body just the way it is.
Across both Instagram and TikTok, Lenehan shares with her countless followers images and videos of her body, projecting a message of self-love that is empowering for all those who witness it. In one video, Lenehan showed how her body naturally changes over 24 hours, experiencing everything from bloating to daily weight fluctuation as a result of bathroom breaks, mealtimes and snacks. Now viewed over 1.6 million times, it serves as a reminder that those images we are bombarded with constantly aren’t a reality.
In an interview with BuzzFeed, Lenehan explained that she was inspired to create such a video to change the way she perceived her own body’s natural changes. “No one talked about how much their body changed and tummy expanded throughout the day, so I thought the way mine did was abnormal and something to be ashamed of,” she said. “Turns out, it happens to most of us; we just don’t talk about it openly and know how to ‘hide’ it. So I wanted to show just how real those changes are and that it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
Research reveals that bloating is a normal occurrence. The average adult will see their weight fluctuate by up to 5 or 6 pounds during the day. Despite bloating being a universal norm, it’s so rarely discussed and can leave many people feeling embarrassed or alone in their struggle. “I believe [weight fluctuation] isn’t talked about as openly because many of us feel a pressure to meet a certain beauty standard, and being bloated isn’t part of that standard,” said Lenehan.
A major driving force for Lenehan to document and share her journey of self-love was the fact that today especially, young women are constantly presented with filtered images that skew their own perception of reality. It was something she experienced herself, holding unrealistic expectations for her own body. “I spent years picking myself apart and trying every single fad diet out there,” she said. “I learned in the end that those were all Band-Aid fixes. You can’t hate yourself into a body you’ll love. So I…focused on learning to accept my body, truly.”
As Lenehan said, “I stopped following people online who left me feeling worse and followed people who posted things that made me feel good about myself. I posted my real body more and more, which definitely helped, because everyone could already see me as I am, so I had nothing to hide or try to ‘live up to’.”
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