Malin Olofsson deals with heavy bloating each month from her period that she long felt like she needed to hide — until now. Frustrated with the lack of dialogue around PMS symptoms, the Instagrammer posted a photo of her swollen stomach to “normalize” menstration.
“I am so sick and tired of the shame we as women go through when it comes to how our bodies functions and look,” Olofsson, 27, tells PEOPLE. “I want to normalize PMS, because most women go through it.”
The topic of body image is particularly important to the Umeå, Sweden-based Olofsson, an anorexia survivor.
“I used to hate my body, and all I saw was my perception of my ‘flawed appearance’ — I just saw everything that was supposedly wrong with me,” she says. “All I saw was a surface. A shell.”
Olofsson has steadily recovered from her eating disorder over the past 18 months, both physically and mentally.
“Now I see a body. A strong, healthy, capable body,” she says. “I see the work that I’ve put into my body in the sense of actually caring and giving my body as it has given me life. For the first time, I realize that my body is my best friend, is my home, is my everything. And I love my body for all it has been through — and for still being here, supporting me and enabling me to live.”
She’s also boosted her body love through weightlifting.
“It has given me a reason to live,” Olofsson says. “I never really had an interest in anything particular before. When I started lifting I realized that ‘this is my thing’ and that the gym is where I feel at home, where I feel like I can be myself. It’s a place that’s really helped me in becoming more comfortable in my own skin.”
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Which helped when her period returned after her eating disorder, and she started dealing with the PMS bloat.
“In the beginning, when I got my period back, I was very ashamed and I did my best to hide my body. I would also feel like restricting because of the bloat. Now I just don’t care,” Olofsson says. “I am very open with it and try to be as comfortable as possible, even though I still have some negative thoughts about it. The difference is that I never allow those thoughts to control me anymore.”
That positive body image is something Olofsson hopes to inspire in other women with her photo.
“I want to show that it is possible to love your body, no matter how you look and no matter how your body’s shape/size/form fluctuates,” she says. “I want women to support each other, to stop shaming themselves and others and I want women to feel relieved that they are not going through this alone.”