Alyssa Bossio just posted a picture on Instagram.
About 10 minutes later, her post had over 1,000 likes and dozens of comments telling her how attractive she is.
Bossio, a senior majoring in English, is also known as @effortlyss. On Instagram, she’s a fitness icon with nearly 900,000 followers, and growing fast. In the past month alone, she’s gained over 100,000 of them. And this summer, Sofia Vergara complimented Bossio’s beach-selfie skills in Women’s Health magazine.
Bossio generally posts three types of things: selfies, inspirational quotes and food. The pictures of herself are often “transformation” pictures comparing how her body looked then to how it looks now, to demonstrate the effectiveness of a particular workout. Inspirational quotes get people’s butts off their chairs and into squats. And with pictures of food, she attaches delicious, nutritious recipes.
It’s not a vanity thing — Bossio wants everyone who wants a healthy lifestyle to be able to get it. She wants to show them the light.
“I get a lot of emails every day from girls that struggle with eating disorders, or they don’t know the proper way to diet, or they don’t know the proper way to exercise,” Bossio said.
@effortlyss started on Instagram “a couple of summers ago,” said Bossio, when she saw that the app had an active, encouraging fitness community. Personal health complications made her want to improve her wellness with a holistic mix of dieting and exercising. For many people who want to have an active lifestyle, it often takes a lot of encouragement to accept the “no pain, no gain” mantra. On Instagram, Bossio found encouragement everywhere, and the fitness lifestyle was — and still is — growing rapidly.
“The fitness community on Instagram inspired me to get more active and more involved, and to change the way I eat, and to change the way I workout,” Bossio said.
The goal of @effortlyss, though, isn’t to make a nation of fitness freaks, it’s to promote a healthy way of life. For Bossio, the ideal body isn’t a ripped one or a skinny one, it’s just a fit one.
“There used to be a skinny image that used to be prominent, and dominating pop-culture,” Bossio said. “And now it’s a fitness image, which is really awesome, because now everyone is getting involved in it.”
Bossio has expanded @effortlyss to Facebook, and has an independent website in the works as well. In addition to her main profile, she has five other Instagram feeds for more specific fitness-related things, like @Squatpics, which consists of pictures of people squatting, and @muscleguide, which consists of just fitness tips.
She knows that Internet celebrity is fickle, and doesn’t have vague, far-off plans to monetize her brand. Bossio plans to develop her own training programs based on what’s worked for her.
“I want to come up with my own programs, and I want to promote my own type of high-intensity training,” Bossio said. “Because those are the workouts that I do, and that’s how I see the results.”
Even though Bossio is something of a star in the Instagram fitness community, she doesn’t hold herself aloof from the plebeian gym rats. Those emails she gets from people asking for fitness advice? She responds to them. She’s also built some real friendships through the community, meeting up with people who live near her hometown and helping to promote other people’s fitness accounts. Bossio often finds recipes to post through users who tag her in pictures of the food they make.
“Everything that I post is something that I’ve tried, or something that I would personally eat,” Bossio said.
One cross-promotional strategy is called a “share.” The way it works is that Bossio will share another user’s post with her followers — usually a recipe — and will leave it exclusively as her latest post for a certain period of time, usually an hour. That way, someone going to her feed would see that post as the latest one. The same thing works the other way around — the account she’s sharing from will also exclusively post something from her for a period of time. That way, they can help each other get the other user’s followers.
Bossio makes @effortlyss distinct from other fitness accounts by adding a personal twist. She’s not satisfied with just posting pictures of Paul Ryan on his P90X with the Valencia filter. Most fitness accounts, she says, have pictures of random muscular bodies and kale smoothies. Bossio puts up pictures of herself, like the professional personal trainers she admires, and takes the time to interact with her followers. She treats @effortlyss like a fitness diary, posting what she does on a daily basis. Bossio attributes her profile’s quick growth to that intimacy. On the Internet, personal connections can be elusive, but she wants to transcend that.
Based on the accounts of people who leave notes and comment on her posts, Bossio estimates that “around 90 percent” of her followers are female, and her profile is attuned to that audience.
But this, of course, is the Internet, and Bossio has her haters.
“I’ve been in a position where I was really unhappy with my body, and that’s also why I’m doing this, because I’m in a good place now and I want to show people that it’s possible to get into this place,” Bossio said. “I posted a transformation picture a couple of weeks ago, and girls were writing on it, ‘You’re still fat,’ ‘You still look bad’ and all that stuff. There were a couple of comments like that. Like, ‘I don’t see a change. This is bullshit.’ They’ll just say stupid things like that.”
Surprisingly, the haters are usually women, Bossio says. She often deletes offensive comments, but at other times, the always-positive fitness community comes to her defense.
“It’s kind of like real life, too,” Bossio said. “There’s always going to be someone who talks about you behind your back. That’s just how life is, so I try not to let it affect me, because I think it’s silly. It’s the Internet, too. You don’t know these people. I try not to take it to heart.”