Emily Skye Talks Depression & Staying Body-Positive On Instagram

Photo: Courtesy of Reebok.
A few years ago, when Emily Skye was just getting started on her fitness journey, she was in a surprisingly dark place. "I was really negative, insecure, depressed, and didn't even want to live anymore," she says. "I was really skinny and obsessed with being thin."

But after making a whole slew of changes in her life — eating healthier, lifting weights, surrounding herself with more positive people — she gained a new perspective and began to feel better mentally and physically. "That wasn't an overnight thing, and I still work on it now," she says. "But I always go back to why I started and how good I feel when I exercise, and eat healthy, and be positive."

Now she's a fitness star across social media and the creator of the FIT program, which offers guidance on exercising, nutrition, and building up a positive mindset (FIT stands for Fitness Inspiration Transformation). And she's currently helping Reebok promote its new "Hands" campaign, which gives you the chance to book a free training session with a ReebokONE trainer this week via the Handstand app.

Below, we talked to Skye, 32, about why body positivity is so important to her — and how she uses fitness and Instagram to spread her message of self-acceptance.

How does it feel to see yourself make progress in fitness?
"Before going to the gym, I might be having a bad day or feeling down or my confidence isn't too good. Then I go in there and I start lifting and I start feeling better. It's hard, it's tough, but I know it's good because it reminds me I'm alive. You actually feel everything.

"You feel a sense of empowerment and that translates to other areas of your life — even doing things like [this interview]. I never used to be able to talk to people, I couldn't go on TV, I used to be extremely shy. Fitness has been a huge part of helping me because you step out of the gym and you feel like you can really tackle anything. That's helped me overcome depression. Sometimes I slip back to feeling unhappy and a bit down, but it's usually when I've had time off from training or haven't been eating too healthy for a period of time. I start to feel those negative feelings I used to have and don't let myself go back there. I keep going [with fitness and eating healthy] instead."
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You step out of the gym and you feel like you can really tackle anything — that's helped me overcome depression.

Emily Skye
Why do you decide to focus on body positivity in your Instagram posts?
"I've been doing those for a few years now about various things from showing pimples to cellulite to stretch marks to bloating to [the difference between] posing naturally and sucking in your tummy, and sticking your butt out — all the things that go into these photos. And people forget that a lot has gone into them and they're not necessarily real, so I try to be honest with people.

"...I think it's great especially for young girls who are focused on getting skinny, looking at their online idols, searching for perfection. I really am passionate about that because when I was younger I struggled with self-worth and being okay with who I am. I was always trying to be someone else because I didn't feel good enough as me. So I was always looking at everyone else and I thought that if I looked good and was perfect in every way, then people would love me and accept me. But that's the wrong way to get acceptance.

"Having a sense of belonging is so much more important than changing who you are to be accepted. So now I'm a bit of a goof and people probably think I'm annoying, but I'm just being me and I'm okay with that and I don't have to please everyone."
Why has Instagram become such a successful way for you to spread body-positivity in the fitness community?
"A few years ago, a newspaper interviewed some young girls about who their fitness inspirations were and a lot of them were saying me. So [the reporters] got onto my Facebook page and there was a photo there of me on the beach smiling. Of course they didn't look around, they didn't read what I wrote underneath, they just saw a photo of me in a bikini and said that I was creating a bad body image.

"So I got annoyed and I took a photo of stretch marks with pimples and no makeup. I wrote a caption saying I have insecurities and flaws, and we all have our struggles in different ways. Don't ever think someone doesn't have struggles or insecurities in their life. So I wrote this and it went viral.

"Now I make sure I'm real and vulnerable with people and that I show these things we all go through. I don't ever want to give the appearance that everything's perfect. And I don't ever want women to come to my page and feel intimidated or insecure. So I make sure I mix it up between the stuff that the young girls are looking for — the perfect bikini, fitness, fashion shot — and then show the other side of it and what goes into it."
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