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"My white blood cells were so low the doctor wanted to test me for cancer."

Anthea Levi
March 22, 2017

Here’s to a different kind of body transformation. On Instagram yesterday, fitness influencer Anna Victoria shared a follower’s photos that document her inspiring recovery from an extreme exercise habit. 

In the "before" pic, @barbellkell_fbg is flexing her biceps in a bikini that shows off her chiseled six-pack. But what it took to get that sculpted bod was anything but healthy.

This is not your typical transformation, and no, the photos are not reversed. Left is before and right is after 💗 Please read what @barbellkell_fbg has to say: ••• "Not the typical transformation pic. Left is a year and a half ago - strict macro counting (down to gum, vitamins, cough drops, etc.) Both cardio and strength training 5x a week including two-a-days, strict coaching to the point we were shamed, zero balance, zero living, zero sustainability - I had my full time job and this, which was another full time job basically. By the last week of the 10 week plan, I could barely lift my feet to run on the treadmill because I had zero energy. I had my check up blood work done and my white blood cells were so low the doctor wanted to test me for cancer. CANCER. I promised him it was from my extreme eating habits and carb cycling and begged him to just do another blood test in one month. Instead of reverse dieting like I was supposed to, I had to just eat to survive. I did, my white count went back to normal, and I gained fat. While I was never overweight, I was now depressed and unmotivated. This left pic version of me was NOT healthy at all but hey, I had abs. I lost my cellulite. I had a flat stomach. But with my health suffering, I had to go back to "normal." The right is today. I eat what I want in moderation but still stay as healthy as I can. I do FBG workouts, with a supportive coach @annavictoria and community. I live. I eat. I drink. I enjoy holidays, parties, outings. I am strong. Here's the biggest thing - I deleted this pic on the left forever, or so I thought. I never wanted to see it again because I've thought about it everyday since I took that pic. It made me sad, depressed, feel bad about myself that I no longer look that way. I found that pic today, hidden in an email to myself from way back. Today is the first day in a year and a half that I can look at that pic and say, "Damn, I love myself NOW." I feel good. I am strong. I am happy. And that is something I NEVER thought I'd say when looking back at this pic." . This. This is what FBG is about. Living a healthy life while still LIVING life. ❤️ #fbggirls www.annavictoria.com/guides

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The photo on the left was taken a year and a half ago, when @barbellkell_fbg was committed to a 10-week plan that involved working out five times a week, sometimes twice a day, and counting macros (down to chewing gum, vitamins, and cough drops), she explains in the caption. "[Z]ero balance, zero living, zero sustainability," she wrote. "I had my full time job and this, which was another full time job basically."

The strict dieting and intense workouts took a serious toll. By the end of the plan, @barbellkell_fbg had a flat belly, and no trace of cellulite—but her energy levels had plummeted. "I could barely lift my feet to run on the treadmill," she wrote. A blood test showed her white blood cell count was severely depressed. It was so low her doctor wanted to test her for cancer, she says.

After convincing him to do another blood test in a month, @barbellkell_fbg committed to getting back to "normal." She ate "to survive," she said; and in time, she gained fat and her white blood cell count recovered.

OD'ing on exercise is a real thing, and it can cause everything from fatigue to chronic achiness—even an elevated heart rate, which puts more demand on your ticker. "Overexercising often contributes to pain, dehydration, or electrolyte imbalances, all of which can lead to an increase in heart rate," Kathryn Berlacher, MD, a cardiologist at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, explained to Health in a prior interview. 

For more signs that you're overdoing it at the gym—and tips on how to scale back—check out our guide to the symptoms of overtraining.

As for @barbellkell_fbg, she's come a long way in the last 18 months. She now follows Anna Victoria’s Fit Body Guides, and eats what she wants in moderation. "I feel good. I am strong. I am happy," she says—and she loves the body she has now.