Instagram star Amanda Roberts (@mandas_muffintop) credits the body-positive Instagram community with helping her love and appreciate her body when she was at her heaviest. But after she made the decision to have weight loss surgery and subsequent skin removal surgery, Roberts was surprised to find herself at the receiving end of negative comments on the social platform, where she has nearly, 70,000 followers.
“I am a self-proclaimed self-love and body positive activist, but people think that because I decided to finally rein in my health (after a lifetime of obesity that was affecting my health), I didn’t truly love myself,” she told Health in an email. “I’ve received comments like, ‘If you love yourself so much, why did you change yourself?’ It’s truly frustrating to try to explain over and over again that loving yourself does not mean you have to stay the same.”
A viral before-and-after photo Roberts recently shared on Instagram expands on this message. “I loved myself at 330lbs [sic] on the left. I loved myself at 180lbs with loose skin. And I love myself now at 185lbs with my scars,” she wrote. “I decided to change myself BECAUSE I love myself. This my my journey, and I’m proud of it.”
Roberts first discovered the body-positive (“Bo Po,” as she calls it) online community when she weighed over 300 lbs., and tells Health that she’s mostly received support and encouragement on the platform. “It wasn’t until I found the Bo Po community that I truly started loving myself,” she says. “From that inner self-love, I found a reason to want to be the best me.”
After undergoing weight loss surgery, Roberts immediately realized that she would one day need skin removal surgery, too. “I had always had issues with rashes and sores, especially due to eczema, when I was plus-size, and I knew that the loose skin was only going to make it worse,” she explains. As a stay-at-home mom in a low-income household, though, Roberts couldn’t afford to get the surgery right away. In the meantime, she used her Instagram account to help spread the message that “loose skin isn’t grotesque—it’s very common and is worth the battle to lose weight if that is what someone decided was best for them.”
When she landed a spot on the popular CBS show The Doctors, Roberts was fortunate to have the skin removal surgery done for free. The procedure was a success, and helped ease her day-to-day discomfort. But afterwards, Roberts began to notice some negative comments from followers. “I got backlash about it, with more people saying, ‘If you love your loose skin so much, why are you having it removed?'” she says. “A lot of people tried to say I wasn’t a body positive activist.”
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Luckily, though, Roberts says that the majority of her followers understand that the surgery was about feeling comfortable in her own skin, and she’s “thankful” for their kindness and support. Today, she’s focusing on using her platform to celebrate bodies of all shapes and sizes.
“I think my body has always been amazing at every stage of my journey,” she says. “We all deserve to practice self-love and feel positive about our bodies, no matter what they may look like.”