Julie Ledbetter/Facebook

She’s healthier and happier after gaining weight.

Kristin Canning
May 11, 2017

Julie Ledbetter, once a bikini competitor, is now a fitness and body-positive blogger. She knows how tough it is to train for a competition, and in her case, it led to a scary-low body-fat percentage and a very unhealthy attitude concerning her size and shape. That's why she decided to share a different kind of before-and-after photo with her Facebook followers.

Ledbetter posted a photo of herself taken just before a competition in 2014 and then paired it with a video showing her “after” body as it looks today. In the video and the post caption, Ledbetter explained how her pre-competition body was unhealthy and unsustainable.

“I was almost in the single digits for body fat % (not healthy), constantly cold (in the middle of JULY), always thinking about my next meal because I was in a deep caloric deficit and couldn't miss a gym session because 'I was ___ weeks out from my show,’” Ledbetter wrote in the caption.

TURN THAT SOUND ON ladies, you need to hear this one LOUD-n-CLEAR😵👂🏼 Since bikini competition 👙season is is FULL swing this time of year and tons of people are showing their highlight reels from their bikini competitions on instagram and using them for program covers and advertisements, I felt compelled to show you my BEFORE and AFTER from the day before I won my #WBFF bikini pro card back in 2014 to today (happy, healthy and free with NO plans to compete in the future). Looks a bit backwards from what you think in your mind huh? It most likely will for over half of you. That is the fitness industry for you..showing you the highlight reel of what they call a "bikini" body. For those of you who have competed, you know what I am talking about when I say that the body on the left is NOT maintainable year-round. I was almost in the single digits for body fat % (not healthy), constantly cold (in the middle of JULY😳), always thinking about my next meal because I was in a deep caloric deficit and couldn't miss a gym session because "I was ___ weeks out from my show". I also remember sending that exact photo to my coach asking him if I was ready because I thought I still needed to lose fat in my stomach...like what?! Talked about a WARPED brain I had🙄😒. The body on the right is a maintainable body. I am at a healthy body fat %, I am not constantly thinking about my next meal or stressed when things take priority over my workouts. I am strong, content and most importantly confident of the body I have built since 2014. This body is something that I can confidently say I can maintain for life. 🙌🏼😁 Moral of this post: Ladies, do NOT...I repeat, do NOT look at all these bikini competition photos or magazine covers these next couple months and compare your body to theirs. 99.9% of them are either showing a VERY VERY VERY extreme highlight reel OR photoshopped. No matter how "healthy" your approach is to the stage, it is an extreme. Plain and Simple. BTW this is not bashing competing in any way, just stating the fact that competitors often tend to use photos from their competition photoshoot to advertise these bikini programs and it is just NOT right or an accurate portrayal of what a bikini body looks like for 99.9% of the population. ✌🏼 Tag a friend who needs to hear/see this♥️

Posted by Julie Ledbetter on Tuesday, April 18, 2017

She also mentioned that even though she had a super toned physique and visible six-pack, she still thought she needed to lose stomach fat.

“Talk about a WARPED brain I had,” she commented.

These days, Ledbetter is healthier, and she's embraced a positive outlook concerning her body. Her weight has gone up, and she has more body fat. In the video, she said it might be confusing for some people to understand how her progress involved adding pounds. Yet having a maintainable body and lifestyle makes her feel better, physically and emotionally.

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Ledbetter explained that she still works out five days a week, but she's able to take weekends off and incorporate rest days. She’s also no longer sacrificing time with friends and family in the name of "perfect" eating.

“I am at a healthy body fat %, I am not constantly thinking about my next meal or stressed when things take priority over my workouts. I am strong, content and most importantly confident of the body I have built since 2014,” she stated. “This body is something that I can confidently say I can maintain for life.”

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Ledbetter ends the post by encouraging women not to compare their bodies to someone else's, reminding them that most bikini competition photos are only showing an extreme highlight reel and aren’t realistic.

The original post has been viewed 6.6 million times and has racked up over 30,000 shares. Clearly, Ledbetter’s message to embrace balance is hitting a chord.

She wrapped up the video with a powerful statement: “Yes, this is my after body and I’m proud of it.”