Nope, Photoshop wasn't one of them!
As a personal trainer, I'm expected to have a flawless physique. And while I train hard to be as lean and toned as possible, back-to-back pregnancies left my stomach covered with deep stretch marks that I was ashamed of for years. Here's how I overcame some pretty ridiculous expectations and learned to see the beauty in my so-called imperfections.
1. Giving It Time
Just as time heals (almost) all wounds, it also helps heal giant stretch marks. For me, the bold purple lines creeping across my stomach began to fade a few years after they appeared, and the color has continued to fade even more since then. The actual lines are still there—and they're still pretty deep—but my skin tone eventually evened out, which has allowed me to feel more confident. So be patient!
2. Getting a Tan
Whether it's fake or real, a decent tan can temporarily mask all kinds of discoloration on your body. Applying self-tanner has become a regular part of my photo shoot preparation, and you can try it whenever you know you'll be in a bathing suit or sports bra. My go-to product is Banana Boat Summer Color Self-Tanning Lotion...but a professional spray tan never hurt anybody!
3. Considering Them a Trophy
Pregnancy is a magical, beautiful part of life, and focusing on the fact that I have brought two amazing human beings into the world really puts things into perspective. Giving birth is a privilege that unfortunately not all women have. Yeah, my stomach doesn't look exactly like it did when I was 20, but look what I got in exchange: two teenage sons who make me proud to be their mom every single day.
4. Realizing I'm Not Alone
Let's call it the 'everybody poops' philosophy: More people than you'd think have stretch marks hidden away under their clothes. These suckers are equal opportunity offenders, meaning they can strike on any body type or skin tone. I've found that simply talking about stretch marks with my friends and clients in our normal conversations has opened up a dialogue and, at least in my world, has turned stretch marks into an everyday topic that no longer has a negative connotation.
5. Letting Everyone See Them
Instagram is my favorite social media platform, and I often post snaps of my abs. Why? Because for starters, I’ve worked incredibly hard to develop my abs, and I’m proud of my muscles. But also because putting myself—including my perceived 'flaws'—out there actually relieves the stress of constantly trying to hide them. It's like finally revealing the truth to someone you've been keeping a secret from. By publicly accepting my body from head to toe and not relying on strangers or followers for approval, I am in clear control of the situation. (I never, ever edit my stretch marks out of photos, but I usually post the most flattering shots—I've found that when I stand up and take a photo looking down my stomach, the marks don't stand out as much.)
Erin Oprea is a Nashville-based celebrity personal trainer whose clients include Carrie Underwood, Jana Kramer and Lee Ann Womack. She is also the author of the best-selling 4x4 Diet: 4 Key Foods, 4-Minute Workouts, Four Weeks to the Body You Want. Follow her on Instagram for quick workout videos and other tips for treating your body well.