"I see the healthiest version of 'me' I have ever been," Leah Kelley wrote on Instagram, sharing a photo of her self-described "body evolution"

By Lindsay Kimble
September 05, 2015 02:40 PM
Anna Shmel

Leah Kelley was forced to gain weight to make it in the plus-size modeling industry, a situation that led to major campaigns, but, ultimately, took a toll on her body.

The model, 28, said in a new Instagram post that only now, years later and after losing much of the weight she put on, does she realize that despite the success she was not truly happy or healthy.

“#TBT to my #bodyevolution over the last 8 years,” Kelley wrote on the photo sharing website on Friday, posting a split featuring three photos of herself.

“The picture on the left is from my first test shoot in NYC At 19 years old. I was my #naturalsize but was not #confident and always would be #bodyshaming myself,” she wrote. “The photo in the middle is after I purposely gained #weight to make it in the plus model world. This is also the time I learned to love my body.”

Kelley said she felt she was in a “parallel” fashion universe, where she began to feel more “perfect” with every pound she gained.

“I was finally proud to have been the tallest, curviest girl growing up,” she wrote. “I was baffled for years as my straight size friends would be told they needed to loose a few inches here or there, while I was being told I was too skinny.”

Despite her positive attitude toward her weight, Kelley wrote that she wasn’t well “physically,” and that a lack of exercise or healthy eating “took its toll.”

“I was tired all the time and any physical activity was hard,” she said. “My childhood asthma came back, my joints hurt, everything hurt. I started to realize that my health was and would be effected for the rest of my life if I didn’t make a change.”

The final photo in the collage, on the right, is a current image of Kelley in what she dubs her “natural size.”

“When I look at these 3 pics, I see three #babes,” she wrote. “One that was not very healthy or confident (constantly dieting/shaming) but totally should have been, I see one sexy #BBW who is feeling herself but unhealthy as well, and I see myself now. Someone who is happy in her own skin regardless of your or anyone else’s opinion. I see the healthiest version of ‘me’ I have ever been.”

Kelley added that the fashion industry has “changed” in the nine years since she began modeling, and that she easily books gigs without having to gain or lose weight.

“So many of my clients are embracing women in all sizes and I believe the bridge between #straight and #plus has been drawn,” she wrote. “#loveyourbody #thickandtoned.”