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Fitness Instagrammer Fenella McCall started working out regularly, which helped her slim down and gain muscle, but she weighs more than before

By Julie Mazziotta
Updated February 02, 2017 12:35 PM
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Credit: Fenella McCall/Instagram

Fitness Instagrammer and student Fenella McCall used to feel down about her body. Despite working out regularly for 17 months, she was still gaining weight.

“I’ve grown up with intense body hatred,” McCall, 30, tells PEOPLE. “I’m not sure where it all stemmed from, but I was always super aware of my body and nothing ever seemed good enough.”

A former heroin addict, she started doing Kayla Itstines’ Beach Body Guide program in August 2015, after quitting drugs led to weight gain on her skinny frame.

“I had put on a fair bit of chub after getting clean from heroin,” McCall, from Melbourne, says. “I had put down drugs and replaced it with food. I was unhappy. I felt disgusting in my own body. I was eating lots of sugar.”

McCall says she was self-conscious about working out in the gym at first, but she soon saw positive changes.

“I was super determined and committed,” she says. “Each week I found a pokey little corner at the gym behind the machines so no one could see me, and worked my butt off. Slowly, slowly, as I got fitter and stronger, my confidence started to build.”

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A year and a half later, McCall is fitter than ever, but the body doubts still creep in, especially when she steps on the scale and sees the number going up instead of down.

“I guess I was concerned about weight gain cause I always used to assume that meant fat,” she explains. “Since coming back to [university] I’ve been eating more. But I forget that I’m also now lighting weights. Slowly, I’m lifting HEAVIER weights. I can actually feel my muscles getting stronger.”

And on Sunday, McCall posted a side-by-side image of herself at the start of the program, and now. Though she weighs 1 kg. more (about 2 lbs.) ,the difference in her body is huge.

“That’s the beauty of progress shots. Your eyes can’t lie to you as much as your mind can play tricks on you,” she says. “My mind is always playing tricks with me. ‘You’re hopeless, you’re not fit, that’s not really muscle.’ But when I see the photos, I know what is real and what isn’t.”

For others looking to get fit, McCall recommends tracking weight loss progress with photos, rather than the scale. And she says her body image is in a much better place.

“Honestly, I feel fabulous. I love my body and who I am,” she says. “I never thought I would say that. I was always way too ashamed. I grew up never feeling good enough. I thought I needed to be skin and bones to be happy. Now, the goal is health. It’s to be fit and strong. Not skinny and weak.”