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By Bakkila
Updated Jun 18, 2018 @ 6:00 pm

Far too often, we associate weight gain with indulgences or other slip-ups in our routines. But for Sara Carlucci, a 22-year-old fitness influencer in Erie, Pennsylvania, being 15 pounds heavier is reflective of the strides she’s made with her mental health.

In a before-and-after post, Carlucci opened up about her struggles following a restrictive diet and her previous unhealthy relationship with food. Showing how much has changed from August 2017 to now, the bodybuilder’s vulnerable message is both positive and emotional.

“There is so much I wish I could’ve told myself back then,” she wrote. “For starters, I would’ve told myself that bags big enough to carry groceries under your eyes isn’t normal. That 1,200 calories isn’t a ‘magic number.’ That you can’t work to change yourself from a place of hate. That food is your fuel. That things were going to get better. Hell, that things were going to get incredible.”

She wrote that adding 15 pounds hasn't made every day easy, but she loves her “crazy self.” Not only has her body changed in the past 10 months, but her attitude has shifted, too.

“Looking at old pictures feels like I’m looking at a stranger,” she continued. “But the person I am now is strong, hungry, ready, and making every day count.”

Carlucci tells Health that she wasn’t always so candid about her mental and physical health.

“For so long I hid my struggles thinking I was alone in them,” she says. “The more I reached out for help and found my strength within me, the more I opened up about my story. I need and want to be for others what I wish I had then.”

There isn’t a dramatic difference between Carlucci’s two photos, but her smiley “after” presents the positive changes she’s made–inside and out. By focusing less on the number displayed on the scale and more on living a balanced lifestyle, she embodies how much you can truly gain from self-love.

This Story Originally Appeared On Health