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This Woman Is Hoping To Normalize Bloating By Showing How Her Body Changes Over 24 Hours, And We're Erupting With Applause

"I posted my real body [so] everyone could see me as I am. I had nothing to hide or try to 'live up to.'"

This is Bree Lenehan, a 25-year-old health and lifestyle influencer whose Instagram series, Real Me Monday, encourages others to post unretouched images of themselves.

Recently, Lenehan kept the body-positive vibes going on TikTok by posting a viral video of how her body naturally changes over 24 hours:

@breelenehan

I filmed my body’s changes across 24 hours & this happened… 🤷🏻‍♀️ #bodyimage #bloating #thisisnormal #loveyourself #selflove #bloatingisnormal #fyp

♬ Nobody - Mitski

In the video, which has been viewed over 1.6 million times, Lenehan logs her body's appearance after bathroom breaks, mealtimes, and snacks in an effort to normalize bloating and daily weight fluctuation.

@breelenehan/ / Via tiktok.com

Speaking to BuzzFeed about what inspired her to create the candid clip, Lenehan reflected on how she perceived her body's natural changes when she was the same age as many boys and girls online. "No one talked about how much their body changed and tummy expanded throughout the day, so I thought the way mine did was abnormal and something to be ashamed of," she said. "Turns out, it happens to most of us; we just don’t talk about it openly and know how to 'hide' it. So I wanted to show just how real those changes are and that it’s nothing to be ashamed of."

And she's right — everyone does experience daily bloating. In fact, the average adult's weight can fluctuate up to 5 or 6 pounds during the day. But topics related to weight gain, such as fluctuation, continue to be so taboo that many commenters were surprised to learn through Lenehan's video that they weren't the only ones seeing daily changes.

One person said, "Wow why did it take me this entire video to realize that this is normal?"
@breelenehan / Via tiktok.com

"I believe [weight fluctuation] isn’t talked about as openly because many of us feel a pressure to meet a certain beauty standard, and being bloated isn’t part of that standard," Lenehan said.

And nowhere is this standard of "perfection" more prevalent than online, where filters, editing, and snapshots reign.

According to licensed clinical therapist Jessica Brown, who specializes in treating both teens and adults, social media can create a false sense of reality when it comes to people's bodies and lifestyles. "We often neglect to remind ourselves that most of these images are carefully curated and crafted for public consumption. Therefore, much of what we see on social media is not real," she told BuzzFeed.

"However, perception is reality, meaning ... our minds create realities based on what we see or want to believe despite its legitimacy. In turn, this false reality may cultivate unrealistic expectations that young boys and girls may measure themselves against," Brown continued. "This can skew how we view ourselves and others, developing symptoms of low self-esteem, internalized lack of belonging or acceptance, anxiety, and depression."

Lenehan can remember a time when having similar unrealistic expectations for her own body dominated her life. "I spent years picking myself apart and trying every single fad diet out there," she said. "I learned in the end that those were all Band-Aid fixes. You can’t hate yourself into a body you’ll love. So I ... focused on learning to accept my body, truly."

She continued, "I stopped following people online who left me feeling worse and followed people who posted things that made me feel good about myself. I posted my real body more and more, which definitely helped, because everyone could already see me as I am, so I had nothing to hide or try to 'live up to.'"

Brown appreciates Lenehan's viral video and the vulnerable glance at her body's personal progression that the influencer offers viewers. "So often, we don't offer ourselves enough grace," she said. "It's natural for our bodies to shift and change over the course of the day, especially as we eat, drink, sit, stand, etc. Much of what we see on social media are contorted body figures enhanced by angles, lighting, filters, post-editing, and even makeup. [Lenehan's] video offers a different perspective of how we can view our body — and all of its glorious bloating over the day."

The more we see it, Lenehan told me, the more normalized bloating becomes. But she doesn't want to rush anyone — becoming comfortable with your body in all of its forms takes time. So she suggests starting the journey by following those who are. "Once you start seeing things you’re insecure about on someone else, someone who is confident and unafraid to show them to the world, you might start to see the beauty in those things and start to accept them about yourself," she said.

If you want to keep up with Lenehan's series, you can follow her on TikTok and Instagram. Similarly, Brown can be found running Nia Noire Therapy + Wellness, her private mental health practice that offers therapy and coaching to young women of color. She can also be followed on Instagram here.