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Pageant finalist offers weight loss advice -- but it's not what you'd expect

<em>(Photo: Instagram/marcielhopkins)</em>
(Photo: Instagram/marcielhopkins)

Marciel Hopkins trained her butt off for the 2016 Miss South Africa pageant. Literally.

The 23-year-old lost a dramatic 14 kg (31 lbs.) in just four months and went from a size 14 to a size 12 in a bid to win the crown. Now, he finalist is offering advice to any women looking to do the same: don’t.

Lately I've received a number of messages around weightloss advice and questions about which diet I followed for Miss South Africa. I want to give you honest feedback: I never followed a specific diet, but I made drastic lifestyle changes and literally trained my butt off. The picture on the left was after 5 months of intense training and absolutely NO carbs, red meat or alcohol. Chocolates, cake and sweets were swear words! I trained 2 to 3 hours a day and I even worked cardio sessions in over weekends. My boobs shrunk 2 cup sizes and my period stopped. On this specific day of the picture, I got home, freezing after the shoot, and I had a baby apple for dinner. From the picture on the right, more than a year later, I want to say, it's NOT worth it to fight a daily battle with food or your body. Bodies are different, we can't all look the same. Instead of having #bikinibody unrealistic-nonsense-goals that are being spoonfed to us on a daily basis, strive towards being the healthiest and happiest version of yourself (mentally and physically). Don't fight against something that is part of who you are. Self acceptance is a relationship that you have to work on daily. Be sure to make your body your new best friend. Light and love! #bodypositive #bodypositivity #bodyconfidence #loveyourbody #dietculture #unrealisticgoals #bebodyaware #healthnotsize #beautybeyondsize #droptheplus #everybodyisbeautiful #swimwear #bikini #curves #iamallwoman

A post shared by Marciel Hopkins (@marcielhopkins) on Jan 4, 2017 at 9:45pm PST

“The picture on the left was after five months of intense training and absolutely no carbs, red meat or alcohol. Chocolates, cake and sweets were swear words!” writes Hopkins in an Instagram post. “I trained two to three hours a day and I even worked cardio sessions in over the weekends.”

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Her sacrifices gave her the bikini body she was looking for, but at a cost — her breasts shrank two cup sizes and her periods stopped.

On the day the photo on the left was taken, Hopkins shared she went home “freezing after the shoot” and ate an apple for dinner.

<em>(Photo: Instagram/marcielhopkins)</em>
(Photo: Instagram/marcielhopkins)

“I want to say it’s not worth it to fight a daily battle with for or your body. Bodies are different, we can’t all look the same. Instead of having [a] bikini body [and] unrealistic nonsense goals that are being spooned to us on a daily basis, strive towards being the healthiest and happiest version of yourself (mentally and physically),” writes Hopkins. Don’t fight against something that is part of who you are. Self acceptance is a relationship that you have to work on daily. Be sure to make your body your new best friend. Light and love!”

ALSO SEE: #DiaARMy: These plus-sized ladies are starting a bare arms movement on Instagram

Her post went viral, receiving more than 20,000 like and plenty of comments praising her for spreading body acceptance.

“The biggest difference I see is in the picture on the right. You look happy. Truly happy.
Good for you. Way to go. You’re beautiful,” wrote one commenter.

“You are traffic-stopping beautiful in both photos, but I’d personally chose curvy and happy over svelte and stressed any day! Congratulations on a healthy food and image relationship!” said another.

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However, Hopkins post also attracted some critics who accused her of normalizing weight gain or promoting obesity.

To her haters, she claps back saying, “You clearly don’t read my posts properly then. I always say strive towards being the happiest and healthiest version of yourself. Only you can look in the mirror and decide, this is the best version of myself. There is no shape or size linked to being healthy or in ‘perfect shape.'”

“Please stop punishing yourself and your body because you are comparing it to unrealistic body goals. You are worthy of love and respect, no matter your shape or size.”

What do you think of Hopkin’s transformation? Share your thoughts with us by tweeting us @YahooStyleCA.