Courtesy Loey Lane
July 08, 2015 03:00 PM

“From a young age, I was aware that I was bigger,” says vlogger Loey Lane. “I didn’t look like a lot of my friends did I was different.”

But for Lane, different is good. Through her YouTube channel, the 22-year-old inspires women of all shapes to feel great about themselves by posting body-positive videos that often focus on plus-size fashions (though she does beauty tutorials, too). “I felt there was a gap – there weren’t a lot of girls past a certain size making makeup and fashion videos. So I started,” she tells PEOPLE.

The journey to body acceptance hasn’t been the easiest for Lane, however: At 16, she found herself battling anorexia. “I’d been losing weight really slowly and steadily through cross country and sports, and then it just started one day. People knew it was happening, but even my parents didn’t talk about it.”

After a while, “It scared me, and I had to sit down and talk to my parents about why I was so afraid to gain weight after the point when I’d lost so much. So I got help and got to a better place.”

The place Lane is in today is great. “It’s scary, but I think to some people I am a role model, and that’s really powerful for me. It keeps pumping my adrenaline and makes me want to do what I’m doing so much more.”

And what she’s doing lately is making a difference. Last month, Lane released a video called “Why Fat Girls Shouldn’t Wear Bikinis” – basically an awesome takedown of Internet haters. “In real life, people wouldn’t say something like that, but on the Internet, they certainly do,” she says of the clip’s title (it’s been viewed more than 4.4 million times). “They try to dictate that anyone who has a body that’s not retouched or flawless shouldn’t show it off.”

Such commenters “at first made me angry, but now they fuel my fight,” she says. “I can take those experiences and talk about them. I try my hardest not to get mad now, and understand that a lot of it is what society tells people to think.”

She’s changing that way of thinking, however; Lane says she’s had several nasty commenters return to apologize for their words. “You say something controversial, and people want to argue,” she explains. “But I think a lot of times people just get heated. They’ll later comment on a random video, ‘I’m really sorry for what I said, I wasn’t thinking of you as a person.’ And I’ll go back to find that their original comment was deleted.”

Her parents and husband have supported her all the way, and it’s her fans who are keeping her afloat now. “What makes me smile is women who tell me they’ve never worn a bikini or a swimsuit before, and have only gone to the beach wearing a tee and shorts, say that my video is inspiring them to go to the beach in a swimsuit this year,” she says. “It’s empowering, and it makes me want to love my body and honor it even more.”

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