In this interview, Britain Uncovered speaks with Anna-Lucia Parker about the impact lupus has had on her body positivity journey, and Anna also explains why taking part in a naked photoshoot proved hugely beneficial for her confidence levels and helped generate a fresh feeling of self-acceptance.
Britain Uncovered: The concept of body positivity is, for many, an ongoing journey and something that’s not always easy to come by. How would you say your own body confidence has evolved over the years, and how has suffering from lupus had an impact on this? Anna: It’s not been easy to accept the body I am in now – I have gone from a size 20 and worked this right down to a size six. I was in a very unhealthy mental state and didn't realise the impact it was having on my body until I worked through it with a therapist years later.
Originally being diagnosed with lupus (SLE) was hard to come to terms with. I didn't want to accept it, nor did I want to believe or realise my life was about to change for good. My mobility was affected and therefore my weight increased, and having been an athlete for years, I went into depression. My fiancé and friends definitely played a big part in realising who I am now. My body is fighting a brutal illness but I am still going strong and doing what I can to beat it.
Britain Uncovered: Looking through your Instagram posts, it’s clear to see that exercise and staying active is a big part of your life. Have you always been this way inclined, and does regular exercise help you maintain strong levels of mental and physical well-being? Anna: In my days of school and college, I would do anything to avoid exercise! Which is funny, because now I workout and I love it! I first started going to the gym eight years ago, and I haven't looked back since. I lift weights, swim, bike and try to run. Knowing that I am working hard through the tough days definitely makes me feel super proud of what I’ve become, and what I can achieve now is miles beyond what I was told by doctors.
Britain Uncovered: Last month, we hosted our first body positivity photoshoot, which provided some of our friends and followers the opportunity to bare all in the name of empowerment and to embrace their bodies. We subsequently heard that you too have taken part in a shoot like this – how did this come about?
Anna: My nude shoot happened because I had always wanted to do something to prove to myself that no matter any lumps and bumps, curves or scares, I'm fierce, strong, beautiful and loved.
I saw that a local photographer was looking to do a shoot on this particular weekend in July , so I messaged him to ask if he would be okay doing an ‘arty nude’ shoot with a female assistant there with us. So we organised a shoot for 7am on a Sunday down by a local reservoir, and went for it!
Britain Uncovered: What was it that appealed to you about being involved, and how did you feel on the day? Did you feel at ease straight away, or did it take a little time to find your comfort zone?
Anna: It was the fact that I wanted to prove to myself I was worthy of a shoot like this. I was so nervous at first, but after a while I got used to it and felt comfortable and we were joking around, making sure that the local old men who were out fishing didn't see us! I’d say it took me about 45 minutes to really feel at ease.
Britain Uncovered: Reviewing photographs from shoots such as these can often be a confronting experience – how did you react when you saw the images? Were you proud of them and what you had accomplished?
Anna: Brilliant question! At first, I felt uneasy. I was judgmental about my own body, its lumps and bumps in places I felt so uncomfortable about. After a few hours of going out for a walk and mentally processing [the images], I realised I actually loved the results and the amount of confidence I had gained.
My fiancé had gone away for a few days and I hadn't actually told him about the shoot at this point, and was waiting until he got back two days later to show him. He loved the photos and was very proud of me.
Britain Uncovered: Would you say that taking part has helped with your body positivity outlook overall, and do you think this is something you might like to try again in the future? Would you recommend this type of experience to others?
Anna: 100% yes! It has definitely helped me feel a lot more confident and accepting of who I am and how my body is. I have already booked my next nude shoot, but with a different photographer. I would absolutely recommend this experience to others. There are so many different styles to do a nude shoot in, so it can be more PG friendly or more ‘out there’ arty if you feel confident enough. Only do what you feel comfortable doing.
Britain Uncovered: Several of your Instagram posts contain ‘before and after’ photo comparisons, and you’re always keen to point to the lack of filters.
Do you feel that Instagram is playing a key role in helping people to see more real/authentic people, as opposed to the airbrushed models we typically see in the mainstream press and across the web?
Anna: This is true – I am very particular to point out that I don't use filters as I do feel mainstream press/media has negatively influenced society on how we should look and what we should wear. I have had so many people negatively comment about my appearance in the past, so I am very aware of being transparent and honest about what I post now. My lupus has affected my skin a lot and I want to use my account to raise awareness of how hidden disabilities can affect all sorts.
Britain Uncovered: Finally, what are some of the techniques you use to keep yourself feeling body positive; and if there’s one piece of advice you would offer somebody struggling with body perception issues, what would it be?
Anna: Genuinely , I look back at the troubles I have been through in the past seven years – spiked drinks and sexual assault, PTSD, anxiety and depression – and I was undoubtedly on the path to an eating disorder. I have since come to realise that no matter what life has thrown at me, I am stronger than I ever was to have made it to where I am now.
My advice would be to never doubt yourself.
You can follow Anna on Instagram over at @thechronicallyfit.