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A bodybuilding influencer quit working out, saying it made her 'miserable' and 'lonely'

Lindsay Dodgson   

A bodybuilding influencer quit working out, saying it made her 'miserable' and 'lonely'
  • Former bodybuilding influencer Sophie Aris quit due to intense workouts and loneliness.
  • Aris, who was a Gymshark brand ambassador, had a following of nearly 700,000 on Instagram.

A former bodybuilding influencer says the lifestyle, which was full of intense workouts and tracking calories, made her "miserable" and "lonely," so she quit.

Sophie Aris spoke with The Guardian about her shift away from being a fitness fanatic, saying she was "so up in my own head."

"On Instagram, all I was seeing was people showing their best angles and filters," she told the outlet. "Behind the scenes, I was lonely and really miserable."

Aris grew a following of nearly 700,000 on Instagram once she started posting about her diet and exercise regime after getting into the scene thanks to an ex-boyfriend.

She told The Guardian she became entrenched in the bodybuilding influencer world around 2015, and became a competitor in various bodybuilding competitions.

She was a size zero, was signing big brand deals with companies like Gymshark, and was making almost four times the salary she earned as a teacher from influencing.

"I had abs, I was macro tracking, eating nuts, chicken and broccoli for meals, and went to the gym twice a day, an hour at a time, seven days a week," she said. "I was supposedly in the best shape of my life."

But behind the scenes, Aris was finding things tough.

In 2017, she wrote a blog post for Gymshark about the challenges of bodybuilding.

"The simple fact is that competing is not for everyone and it's definitely not all glamour, roses and fairy tales like some are led to believe," she wrote. "It's very tough both mentally and physically at times and difficult for those around you to understand."

Aris said bodybuilding competitively meant saying goodbye to a social life, and dealing with the isolation of it being a very "selfish sport."

There's also body dysmorphia to contend with, she said, and developing an unhealthy relationship with food.

"At the end of the day, it's our body that is being judged, so naturally, we become more aware of every little imperfection," she wrote.

The US gym market is worth around $30 billion, according to Gitnux market data, and membership of health and fitness clubs has grown by over 28 percent worldwide since 2013.

The bodybuilding industry is rife with performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) as competitors strive to be the biggest and leanest. The use of steroids and other PEDs, along with intense dieting and exercise, puts a massive strain on the heart and has led to a string of deaths in the sport.

Despite this, many aspiring bodybuilders on social media are still not upfront about the dangers.

A significant number of fitness influencers also use PEDs in secret, a Business Insider investigation found, which both risks their own health and perpetuates body dysmorphia among their followers.

Aris told The Guardian that by late 2017, she wanted to leave the fitness industry behind. She stopped competing that year and then, a couple of years later, stopped going to the gym. She also parted ways with Gymshark.

"Virtually everyone I've spoken to who became a fitness influencer in that 2016-19 era has a similar story," said Aris, who now shares parenting content, having had her daughter, Lyla-Rae, in 2023.

"We lacked confidence, didn't really fit in and took fitness, dieting and training to the extreme because we were, essentially, seeking validation."

She said she doesn't regret her bodybuilding chapter because it gave her the audience she has today. She now has around 543,000 followers. Despite losing some since her change in direction, the engagement is better than ever, she added.

"I still have a large audience," she said. "And if some drop off, that's fine, because what's left is the right audience for now."

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