Abby Pell tells PEOPLE the image she posted was meant to inspire – not fat-shame

By Gabrielle Olya
Updated January 21, 2015 05:40 PM
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Courtesy Abby Pell

A U.K.-based nutritionist and trainer who has been the target of backlash after posting a photo showing off her tight abs tells PEOPLE the image of her “extreme transformation” was meant to inspire other moms to reach their fitness goals.

The photo, which was originally posted to her Instagram account in February 2014, shows Abby Pell, 33, lifting up her shirt to expose her toned tummy. Her young daughter Bella, 6, stands beside her with her mouth agape, pointing at her mom’s abs. Text across the photo reads “I have a kid and a six pack and no excuse.”

After the post garnered hundreds of comments – some accusing Pell of fat-shaming – she updated it two months ago to explain her intentions were to inspire.

“I’ve been accused of adding to unnecessary pressure put on women and more specifically mums to lose weight,” she writes. “I would like to clarify that this is not my objective whatsoever.”

“The message I want to portray is for all the women/mums/girls who aren’t happy or confident with themselves, and the reason they don’t try to do anything about it is because they think it’ll be too hard or even impossible to get results, ” she continues. “I want them to look at me and think, if she can do it so can I. Because you can!”

The photo resurfaced after Pell placed fourth in a World Beauty Fitness & Fashion bodybuilding competition – and she tells PEOPLE she was shocked when the image created such a stir.

“My local newspaper called to write a story about that, and I guess they did a little digging on Google and found that the picture I posted had gone viral,” she says. “I didn’t even realize!”

Pell – who goes by @superabs on Twitter and Instagram – says she works out four to five times a week, concentrating on different body parts each time to achieve her enviable figure.

“An hour’s workout is only 4 percent of your whole day, and when you look at it, that’s not hard to fit in somewhere,” she says of staying committed to exercise while being a busy mom. “I usually go straight after I drop my daughter to school; otherwise I go in the evenings.”

As for the controversial photo, Pell says she doesn’t regret posting it.

“On reflection, I can see why it caused a little controversy,” she says. “I could have picked a different caption, true, but would I have reached as many people if I did?”

While she acknowledges that “not everyone wants a six-pack,” she does feel like she made a point. “My extreme transformation was a good advert for an underlying message that if you have a fitness goal, whatever it might be, being a mum won’t stop you from achieving it.”