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Written By: Rose Fong

Victoria’s favorite coffee date is her fiance Regan. Both are hard-working and dedicated individuals, and making quality time together is so important.

“When I see someone who is proud to be exactly who they are and who have embraced who they are, I find that beautiful. When people follow their dreams regardless of expectations placed on them to achieve something, I find that beautiful. I also think it’s beautiful for people to be comfortable with what they look like at all times as their body progressively changes with age or whatever they go through naturally -- to embrace stretch marks and cellulite, not basing their happiness on how they look.”

In so many parts of society, there is resistance to the natural waves of change a woman’s body sees -- lifting and tucking away to an ideal ‘youthful’ appearance. As a competitive swimmer, Victoria began to wrestle with the standards that dictated that the changes in her body were wrong.

“When you’re a swimmer, most of the standard body type is tall and skinny and square-hipped,” she says. “And when I hit puberty, I got more of a woman’s figure -- I got curves, I gained more muscle and more body fat. I was insecure because I was different.” Young and very vulnerable, Victoria developed body image issues that led to depression and anxiety.

At eighteen, Victoria’s depression peaked. She was suicidal, but she spoke up. With the help of her parents, she got medical attention and therapy. “I thought if I can beat this, I can beat anything.” Of her parents, she says, “They are still both extremely supportive. As long as they see me happy, they support [me].”

“I want to be able to encourage women to not work out to change who they are… From my own experience, you get into working out for the wrong reasons. It can get very unhealthy -- many women have severe eating disorders and bad body image.” Victoria spent some time as a competitive body builder, and she had to take a step back when she recalculated her reasons for extreme fitness and dieting. “I was constantly chasing, constantly thinking something else would make me good enough. Instead of putting that focus and energy into changing myself, I want to put it into accepting me.”

“With the fitness industry, you’re constantly obsessing over the way you look, especially with social media and Instagram. Before you’ve even achieved your goals, you’re already setting up more goals.” The competitive and comparative nature of social media has proven to be toxic to many people. Victoria wants to turn that around and build a network of women encouraging women to take care of both their mental and physical health -- both are so tightly interwoven, and the conversation matters.

“One thing I like to say to myself is that I am worthy. I am worthy of love. I am worthy of success. I am worthy to be happy. Even on the darkest days, the sun will still come out the next day. As much as you can’t think you can’t overcome things -- those things are not so big at all. Stop chasing this idea of perfection, and allow yourself to focus on the inner beauty that you have. Focus on how incredible of a person you already are. Whatever you are going through, you’re never alone. You are capable of being happy, and whatever sadness you’re feeling in this present moment isn’t going to last forever.”

To see more of Victoria and her journey please follow her @victoriadariano or her website www.victoriadariano.com

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