She was a girl from Northern California who grew up hooked on fast food and “despised” eating healthy. Now, personal trainer and fitness blogger Anna Victoria has 1.3 million adoring Instagram followers, who flock to her as a trusted guide for their own fitness journeys. In an intimate conversation with Thrive, Victoria reveals that she would have never predicted her success when she was growing up on a steady diet of McDonald’s and Taco Bell. But over the last several years, she has built a cult following for her workout routines, before and after photos of her followers, and viral “unposed selfies” — photos of herself with belly rolls, no makeup, and commentary about how even the fittest among us have body “imperfections” that are often hidden by strategically posed gym selfies. Victoria, who has also graced the cover of Women’s Health magazine, is the founder of Body Love App by Anna Victoria, which she describes as a “one-stop shop for your entire healthy lifestyle routine” — think customizable meal plans and workout routines that can be done in the gym or the comfort of your own home.
Here, some highlights from Anna Victoria’s Thrive Diary, in which she reveals the well-being secrets that propel her career — and her health — forward. For more of her success tips, watch her video Thrive Diary here.
On how her fitness journey began: I had never been interested in fitness or eating healthy, and to be honest, I actually kind of despised it. But I was having [stomach] problems, and this was what brought me into working out and eating healthy. My boyfriend at the time was telling me, “You need to start eating healthy,” and I was telling him, “No I don’t. I’m fine.” But really, it was the health problems that got me started. Now I always recommend starting a journey for your health instead of for exterior reasons — those will come along with the journey, but those are just the cherry on top.
On her toughest rejection (and the silver lining): I got declined from eight out of the nine colleges I applied for. The one that I did get into led to me moving to China, which is where I found my love for fitness and started my fitness business.
On the moment everything changed for her: I was studying Mandarin for a year in China and there are only so many hours in a day that you can study a foreign language. I spent the rest of my day researching anything that I could learn about health and fitness. It was something that was so completely foreign to me. I grew up eating fast food and I loved it — but eating so poorly is what was contributing to my health problems. This was coincidentally when Instagram started getting popular. So I created an Instagram account to motivate myself. I didn’t post photos of myself for a year… I was completely anonymous. Back then there was no such thing as being an Instagram influencer or being “instafamous,” so that’s not why I ever created an Instagram account — it was genuinely because I was in a foreign place where I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t have any support other than my boyfriend’s at the time, and so I created this Instagram account to post things that motivated me. It was the only place for me to connect with people that were on this same journey.
On the three things she can’t live without: My husband, my cell phone, and my community.
On how to find fitness success: One of my main focuses is to encourage people to start a fitness journey because they love their body, not because they hate it. I noticed that when someone starts a journey because they hate their body, it’s actually really short lived because they’re only focusing on the physical.
On what people don’t know about her, but should: I think that people perceive me as a softy — but I’m actually really big on tough love. I think that getting tough with yourself is the best way to build yourself up and overcome your struggles.
On the person she follows on Instagram for inspiration: The Rock. I think he’s such an inspirational human being, both personally and professionally.
On the biggest challenge in her life right now: Learning how to manage a team, while also managing myself.
On the perils of comparison: I don’t want anyone to ever look at my progress and say, “I can never do that.” I want them to look at me and say, “if she can do it, I can do it too.” And I’m going to provide them with the tools to be able to do so. I think looking at someone’s progress can be really overwhelming, because you tend to look at just how long it takes. I will openly share, “I’ve been on my journey for five years now.” Not that a transformation needs to take five years, but time’s gonna pass anyways, so you might as well be doing something good with your time.
On the most amazing transformations she’s seen: The most amazing transformations are not necessarily the ones that are physical, but the ones where women tell me, “I was able to leave a job I hated because of the strength that you gave me through your programs. I was able to leave an abusive relationship because of the strength that your programs gave me.” Those are the transformations that I think are the most important, no matter the physical aspect. The physical aspect is great; there’s nothing wrong with it. It does give a lot of confidence, but that shouldn’t be the priority. If you’re doing it for your inner strength and confidence, then that is what is going to allow for a much more successful and long-term journey.