When Sophie Gray started posting pictures of her physical and emotional transformation to Instagram, she never expected a career to come out of it.
Her goal was never to become the next YouTube star. The now-21-year-old holistic nutritionist and certified personal trainer simply wanted to share her journey of self-harm to self-love.
With more than 396,000 followers and a booming subscription-based fitness and nutrition company, Way of Gray, it’s clear this message resonated with the online world.
Now Gray is being heralded as a “feel-good social media maven,” by Greatist, one of the leading online sources for expert health and fitness content.
“I’m so fortunate to be able to have such a large audience. It’s a really interesting way how it came about,” she says about her almost accidental success.
Ironically, the Instagram account was started as an online portfolio for Gray’s modelling career. It was her time as an aspiring model that helped her gain a more positive image of herself, but not in the way one might think.
Modelling was a very negative experience for the St. Albert native. She began restricting her calories during the day and binge eating at night and would work out obsessively.
“I wanted to look a certain way,” she explains. “I was trying to do absolutely everything I could do to look that way.”
Until one day she realized that exercising and eating healthy was about “so much more than the way you look.”
More than being named No. 94 on Greatist’s list of 100 most influential people in health and fitness, she is thrilled that the recognition is based on feel-good approach to fitness.
Gray believes there is a lack of positive and inclusive messaging when it comes to fitness.
This is especially prevalent on social media, where individuals can pick and choose the moments – usually positive, comical or exciting – they wish to share with the world.
“Mental well-being isn’t really discussed, but I feel like a lot of people struggle with their own version of that,” says Gray. “Something I’ll always say is that I’m a regular person; I’m not super into fitness; I have my own struggles. I find that no one is sharing that, but people really need that connection.”
Gray is careful to use positive, but realistic, language in her social media posts, excluding terms like “cheat meals” from her vocabulary and putting an emphasis on self-love, rather than perfection.
“Through my channel, I make it very clear: I cry, I eat nachos, I sit on my couch. These are my struggles, but this is also how I lead a healthy life. And I think people really respond well to that,” said Gray.
Way of Gray is a fitness and nutrition philosophy that focuses on creating a positive relationship with your body, as well as food and exercise.