UCF student builds community on Instagram after losing 60 pounds
At one point in her life, Rebecca Kennedy feared that the number would be higher every time she stepped on the scale.
"I have a fraternal twin sister who was a naturally skinny girl," said Kennedy, a senior speech pathology major. "We were always compared."
Kennedy didn't make a change, however, until her doctor told her she had an unhealthy relationship with food.
Over the course of three years, Kennedy lost 60 pounds and gained an online following of more than 2,800 on her Instagram, using the social media account to inspire and motivate others in their weight loss journey.
But it wasn't in full speed at first.
"I was really self-conscious with going to the gym," she said. "I would get so intimidated with the big stairs at the UCF gym and all the people who walk around like they own the place."
Instead of going to the gym, she used her Wii to follow tutorials, which helped her lose the first 25 pounds. She has since become comfortable at the gym and recently ran a half marathon.
Just as she motivates others online, she has found motivation in her friends, family and boyfriend Steven Mahendranauth, who called her beautiful when she was 140 pounds and 200 pounds, Kennedy said.
Her online journey began after she lost a considerable amount of weight, and sent a before-and-after photo into iputtheforkdown.com. It was featured on its front page, and she then received hundreds of new followers and recognition on her Instagram.
"I chose [@redemptiverebecca] because I feel like, after all the years of living my life overweight and never being happy with anything or myself, I wasn't living to the fullest," she said. "Right now, I am living life and it feels so different — I am redeeming myself from those bitter, negative years."
She hopes that when her Instagram followers see her now, they don't just see a physical change, but that they see how she has changed emotionally.
Losing weight can be an isolating journey, but by using the platform of Instagram for inspiration and motivation, Kennedy was able to join a fitness community, where she met one of her closest friends, Mallory Minor, a 2015 UCF graduate and a current personal trainer.
After Kennedy purchased a fitness tank from Minor, they found out they went to the same school and agreed to meet up.
"One of the things [Kennedy's] really worked on the past two years is self-love and acceptance," Minor said.
She helped bring Kennedy through her eating disorder by teaching her intuitive eating, which helped her enjoy foods she loves, in moderation. Kennedy was able to get back to a better relationship with food, her mind and her body.
Once she started weightlifting and wanting to lose more weight, Kennedy would count the number of macronutrients she consumed, which is called IIFYM, or flexible dieting.
"There would be times where I would obsess over the numbers," Kennedy said. "I wasn't really happy until I realized it's not just about losing weight. It's about loving myself and going to the gym because I love the way it feels."
For inspiration and motivation, check out Rebecca Kennedy on Instagram at @redemptiverebecca.
Macey Colavecchio is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.