Chandler Sosebee is reminding people that there's more to weight loss than the physical changes.

By Faith Brar
February 20, 2020

Chandler Sosebee has experienced the challenges of weight loss firsthand. She's shared her journey on Instagram from the very beginning, opening up about how she lost 85 pounds over the course of two years. Even though Sosebee reached her goal weight in 2018, she continues to share transformation photos to remind herself how far she's come.

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Transformation photos can be a great source of motivation for some. But Sosebee says they don't always capture the entire journey that comes with weight loss. In a candid Instagram post, she shared how a "photo doesn't even begin to cover" what it took for her to get to where she is today.

"It won’t show how challenging eating healthy was for me. It took about a year to click," she wrote. "It doesn’t show that I discovered the importance of protein the hard way, how dedicated I had to be in order to build up muscle mass, or how life happens and progress slips away."

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When Sosebee began her fitness journey in 2016, her initial goal was to "look skinny" she tells Shape. "Talking about this part of my journey is extremely uncomfortable, but that’s exactly why it’s so important to bring it up," she says. "I thought that being skinny was what I wanted, but seeing my body look like that was honestly more traumatizing and damaging to my mental health than being obese ever was."

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Even though she'd technically hit her "goal size" by 2018, she still felt unhappy at the time, she shares. "Knowing that I did that to myself is a hard pill to swallow," says Sosebee. "But being a size 2, having a flat stomach, thighs that didn’t touch… these were all things I had dreamed of since I was old enough to start caring about my appearance. But once I had it, I felt like I was in someone else’s body, and not in a good way. I hated looking at myself in the mirror and I really missed my curves."

From that point on, Sosebee reassessed her fitness journey with a new goal in mind: strength. As she set out to find ways to feel strong, she soon learned that she was seriously lacking protein in her diet, she says. "Paying attention to your protein intake is SO important on a fitness journey," she shares. "Your body needs protein for fuel in order to recover properly, so when you’re not getting enough of it, your body starts using the protein in your muscles as its protein source instead. It took me a lot longer to realize that than I care to admit."

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The lack of protein was also negatively affecting her skin, hair, and nails, adds Sosebee. "Once I started fueling myself properly and gained some healthy body fat, my hairline started to grow back in," she shares. "I hadn’t even realized that it had been receding, and my hair was thicker and more vibrant in color. My nails started growing in stronger, and my skin regained elasticity and overall just looked healthier."

Once Sosebee figured out the problem with her diet, she decided to take a step back from working out altogether, she says. "I needed to gain perspective and I wanted to figure out what was next without further damaging myself," she explains.

In some ways, Sosebee felt like she was starting her journey all over again, she shares. "I really had to trust the process," she says.

Over the next several months, Sosebee worked on unlearning her approach to food and began adjusting her workouts, she tells Shape. "I stopped having the 'eat-as-little-as-possible' mindset and [stopped] doing mostly cardio," she explains. "I also started focusing on proper nutrition and strength training with the heaviest weights I could manage while maintaining proper form."

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She also started prioritizing how she felt versus how she looked, she shares. "I stopped paying attention to physical progress and started focusing on non-scale victories like upping my weights and being able to do more reps at the same weight," she says. "I could tell I was getting stronger and healthier and, as I continued, the physique I had truly wanted—a toned lean look—naturally followed."

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Today, when people look at Sosebee's transformation photos, they're reminded of the fact that weight loss is possible. But Sosebee wants people to know that change—both physical and mental—doesn't happen overnight. There's a long, grueling, and ultimately rewarding journey that takes place between the two photos you typically see in a transformation post, she says.

"Internally there is a whole other journey going on that can’t be captured in a photo, and it doesn’t always correlate with what’s going on physically," she explains. "Having an 'after body photo' doesn’t always mean that you’re mentally in the best place."

So the next time you see a transformation photo, Sosebee encourages you to see beyond the aesthetic results and focus on appreciating the journey instead. Weight loss, when done the right way, is all about empowerment, she says.

"That empowerment will spill over into all areas of your life: your close relationships, your job, your schoolwork… everything," she says. "You’re happier and more confident, not because you’re losing weight, but because you’re proud of who you are as a person."

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This article originally appeared on Shape.com

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