I try my best to avoid following an abundance of fitness and health bloggers on Instagram and YouTube for fear of buying into pseudoscience and boring “click baity” posts the way that I used to, but there are a few that haven’t quite slipped through the net. It’s been my experience that on my quest to achieve some sort of holy equilibrium where my mind and body would be pure and sculpted, I have fallen pray to many bloggers who appeared to be peddling a dream, an unachievable, fruitless dream that they neither live nor know how to reach themselves.

This year has seen a shift in popular (108k followers sort of popular) fitness blogger Carly Rowena‘s posts and content as she has been posting more workout videos, more realistically sweaty selfies and more about the quest for self-love, rather than for abs – I’ve noticed this shift as I’ve been following her for a while. This rebranding has been echoed somewhat in the blogging community, with more and more Insty-famous people becoming cautious of what they are posting for fear of a backlash, similar to what we’ve seen in the community of ‘clean eating’ as many distance themselves from the associate that made them household names.

For Carly, fitness is a slightly different world, but still very much within the wellness umbrella. In typical Not Plant Based style, I felt a certain curiosity to find out more about her.

As my own fears of fitness have begun to subside since stomping on the final shards of an eating disorder that has had its heel to my throat since the age of 16 (I’m now 23) and since having the confidence to brave the gym and run in public, I’m particularly interested in why she personally felt a change was necessary and of her own thoughts on the current fitness industry – especially how it is portrayed on Instagram.

Carly Rowena

How did your love of fitness begin? Have you always loved exercising?

I’ve always been into fitness but was useless in school – I was always picked last. However, once I was old enough, I joined a gym and started off as your typical cardio bunny, then as time went on I fell in love with weights. Not only did it sculpt my body, it transformed my confidence and attitude towards my body. I felt strong, independent and bad-ass.

Did you ever think this could become a career for you? Were you surprised when your blog/channel took off?

Never. I was working for BMW as their Marketing Manager and although it was a fantastic career, it just wasn’t what I wanted to do forever. My issue was that I had no clue what I wanted to do, nothing ever really stood out and that in turn makes it very difficult to study for a new career. I turned to YouTube in the hopes of finding my talents. Luckily my followers spotted it before I did and made me realise that I really enjoyed fitness.

You recently decided to switch up your social media to represent a more ‘real’ version of you – why was this?

In all honesty I had fallen out of love with Instagram. I am not a model, I don’t really enjoy having my photo taken and I’m not particularly flexible which means my photos are never particularly exciting. I love working out and my social platforms are there to give others confidence, this was why i switched it up and I couldn’t be happier!

Are you comfortable in your own body? Do you think working out has helped that?

I have suffered with body dysmorphia for most of my life and although I have found ways to help it, I don’t think it’s something I’ll ever conquer completely. Exercise makes me realise that I’m worth more, my body now represents my strengths, not my hate or lack of calories and that’s the best feeling. Working out also brought me back to basics. I wear less makeup, I hardly ever style my hair, I’ve become comfortable with the real me.

Are you getting any sort of treatment for your body dysmorphia? How long have you suffered with this?

No treatment. To be honest I didn’t realise I was any different to anyone else for a long period of time, it was only after I became a personal trainer (PT) and looked further into it [body dysmorphia] that I realised it was what I had. I’ve suffered with it since I was around 13.

Have you ever suffered with any sort of disordered eating in the past?

Yes. I believe most of us are disordered when it comes to food. I had always over-thought my meals, snacks, drinks, calories, until recently, I was never in a space where I could relax around food. Becoming a PT and working closely with clients has fixed this issue for me.

What are your thoughts on clean eating?

It’s a tough one, for me clean eating means preparing your own meals so that you are aware of the nutrients, to some it means never touching chocolate and to others it’s zero carbs. I love that people are more aware of what they’re eating but they shouldn’t punish themselves because of it. Food is fuel, it’s not something to feel guilty about. I chose to say mindful eating, it’s all about mindset.

Do you think the fitness world is missing something? Do you think people should be more honest about their fitness and health routines on Instagram?

In all honesty, I understand why the fitness world has gone in that direction. If I were to post a picture of myself looking red faced, sweaty and a mess, it would receive far fewer likes than a picture of my abs – sex sells! It always has and people want a following, so I understand. I do however believe we should show all sides. I think videos really help to do this and I’m hoping that Insta-stories will allow for a different dimension!

Lots of bloggers are backtracking on information from the past that they wrote about which may have been incorrect, is there anything that you regret posting from the past? Or that you felt was irresponsible?

The health and fitness industry changes so rapidly it’s so difficult to ever be given the right information. I remember doing my PT course and thinking, this is so out of date! Nowadays, I think we have all realised that there is not one plan for everyone, we are all so different, you have to research and find what works for you.

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