Size doesn’t matter: This plus-size yoga instructor is shattering fitness stereotypes

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“For a long time, I just wanted to not be seen. I wanted to wear bigger clothes and hide,” says Maria Odugba in a video shared by The New York Post. This was before she took to yoga in 2014.

Since then, the 23-year-old Florida girl has achieved what many say is impossible: She tilted the weighing scale needle from 186kg to an impressive 131kg. In an interview to the Daily Mail, she said, “I’ve been overweight my whole life, ever since I was a kid and my dad owned a pizza restaurant. I didn’t actually have an oven in my house until I was probably 15, so everything I ate came from a restaurant.

After being diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) at 13 and, more recently, hyperthyroidism-both of which can lead to weight gain as a side effect — Odugba tried different ways to lose weight. But all her efforts were in vain.

A Master’s student of Exercise Physiology at UCF, Maria is also a yoga-instructor, breaking the notion that being fit means being thin. “Society has this horrible perception of bigger people. People see me and have no idea of my huge accomplishment… they only see that I am still ‘fat’. It doesn’t matter if you just lost 200 pounds or if you just started your journey to health… you’re still gathered in the group of people who “let themselves go” or “made the choice to be fat” ” she writes in an Instagram post.

Now, not only does she motivate her over 74k Instagram followers, Maria also inspires many struggling with their body weight to love and accept themselves, whatever their size, with her blog asapyogi.com.

“Most people think if you aren’t seeing physical changes then whatever you’re doing isn’t working, but that isn’t the case,” she writes in her blog. “As much of a physically journey that weight loss is, it is also mental.”

Today Maria is a natural at performing splits and twisting like a pretzel. “Yoga is the best thing that has ever happened to me,’ she says. ‘It’s not just a hobby, it’s allowed me to open new doors that I never thought were possible for me.’

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