I got stretch marks after Covid but embrace them – Im not scared to show them

A person who put on weight after contracting coronavirus opened up about how they went from hating their changing body to flaunting their curves and embracing their stretch marks.

Sarah-Justine Ward, 24, from South Africa, started creating social media content around a year and a half ago.

The curve model, who identifies as non-binary, has since attracted more than 21,000 Instagram followers – and they have continued to post body positive content as so many people relate to it.

READ MORE: 'I spent thousands reducing my 44H boobs as they were so big I couldn't breathe'

Speaking exclusively to Daily Star, Sarah-Justine admitted that at first they started creating the content for personal reasons.

But once they started making content about fashion for people with curves, and all that promotes self-love, they noticed it was what a lot of people actually wanted to see.

Sarah-Justine said: "I got really sick with Covid last year.

"I was on an oxygen tank. I was gaining weight because of the medication I was on as a result of that.

"I started seeing my body in a different way – seeing stretch marks I had never seen before, and feeling bigger than I ever had before."

Sarah-Justine admitted it led to them developing a "difficult relationship" with their body.

Although they know their body had done so much for them to get through the illness, it had also changed in so many unexpected ways.

Speaking about what they felt like after contracting coronavirus, they added: "Your energy levels just aren't the same anymore.

"I still feel different. There are a lot of people who feel they are just not the same after.

"It's a complicated relationship – you are so grateful to your body for getting you through the horrendous experience, but it's a very complicated relationship."

They also admitted, when it comes to social media, they used to spend a lot of time editing pictures in the past, and hiding parts of themselves they didn't like.

Looking at their pictures now, you'd never think Sarah-Justine would be self-conscious about their body, as they often flaunt it in gorgeous crop tops and pretty lingerie.

But they weren't always so confident about showing off their natural bod.

Speaking about body image, they added: "For me, before all that, I would stand in a way to hide my stomach or not show my stretch marks.

"I would Photoshop a lot of my pictures to make myself look like pictures I would see on Instagram.

"I got a much better response when I started being authentic.

"When I started being honest – it connected better with a lot of people."

For Sarah-Justine being "honest" involves sharing real pictures of themselves that are natural, unposed and that show off their curves and stretch marks.

They're no longer afraid to be real, and embrace the skin they're in, and they look super confident in the gorgeous snaps on Instagram.

Speaking about why they decided to post about fashion, Sarah-Justine added: "There are a lot of plus-size women in South Africa.

"The plus-size ratio is probably bigger than other places, but a lot of places cater for smaller sizes.

"They really only cater for smaller sizes."

But Sarah-Justine wanted to show people they can be "stylish and experimental with fashion" at any size, so they use their platform to show others how to make this possible.

They advertise brands that are suitable for curvier people, and show how people of all shapes and sizes can feel and look great.

And – even though Sarah-Justine admits they're not in the perfect place – they know how far they've come.

They've learnt how to embrace their body and love themselves and, even though we all have down days, they said it's been a big lesson to take away from the last year or two.

Sarah-Justine added: "I'm not in a perfect place, but I feel confident in myself.

"Things that I didn't like about me – like stretch marks and stomach rolls – those are things that I'm proud of now.

"I feel like I can embrace my body, and always be proud of it.

"I'm proud of my body."

To find out more about Sarah-Justine you can find them on Instagram.

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