When stories of significant weight loss go viral, it’s not unusual to see a makeover that appears to show someone who’s gone from obese to fit, firm, and flawless. But in reality, weight loss — even extreme weight loss — doesn’t lead to the perfection that’s portrayed in carefully angled and edited photos, and one Instagram star wants people to not only realize that but also accept imperfection and celebrate themselves beyond their bodies.

New Zealander Riley Hemson has garnered more than 75,000 Instagram followers on her account @healthychick101 as she’s shared her weight-loss journey. Once 250 pounds, she has lost nearly 70 pounds by embracing a healthier lifestyle. However, a new post shows she’s also embracing the rolls and cellulite she still has, and she’s encouraging her followers to do the same.

“What started as a mission to lose a heap of weight, turned into a journey of health, love, and happiness,” she writes in a caption for a photo in which she’s showing her shape in an honest and vulnerable way, sharing that she’s learned to love her body during the process of weight loss instead of waiting to love it if she hits a lofty goal.

“If you’re intending on changing your body to ultimately be happy with what you see, you will never be happy,” Hemson says, reminding people that they won’t look like a super-slender, always-edited celebrity. “But you CAN be the best YOU!”

“I’m not just talking health … You are the way you treat others, you are the way you smile, the way you make others smile,” she writes, and she wants that compassion to apply to the way people treat themselves as they try to lose weight as well. “LOVE yourself enough to treat your body and mind with the nutrition it needs. Fuel your journey with love, not hate.”

The 21-year-old’s Instagram account may celebrate her weight loss, but Hemson knows she’s so much more than just the progress she’s made and flattering angles from which she’s been photographed in the past.

“This year I completed my degree in Paramedicine. I’m proud of that,” she writes. “I’m also proud of my outlook on life, positivity always.”

And that positivity is infectious! The post has been liked more than 12,000 times and is filled with comments from followers celebrating their own accomplishments:

“I’m proud that I got into law school and also have kept a gym membership for a year and actually used it weekly!”

“Becoming more confident in who I am as a person, inside AND out!”

“Travelled Europe on my own and left with lifelong friends and the best memories of my life.”

“Proud of myself for battling through depression and feeling like I’m finally winning. Working on that self love and positive vibes!”

When asked by Daily Mail why she was inspired to post such an honest photo and caption, she said, “With social media, we’re always seeing the best photo — no rolls on stomachs, and no cellulite. It’s so easy to compare ourselves to the best of what we’re seeing. I think it’s quite refreshing to see that it’s not always like that. Everyone has parts of themselves that aren’t perfect.”

Hemson may not be perfect, but her attitude is about as close as it gets!

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