By Martha Hewett @martha_hewett
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Videographer / director: Daniel O’Connor
Producer: Martha Hewett, Ruby Coote
Editor: Tom Buckman
Eva Butterly, a 28-year-old personal trainer from Dublin, Ireland, is using her personal experience to help others with similar conditions.
At age 12, Eva was diagnosed with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis after a schoolteacher noticed her shoulders were slouching to one side.
Eva’s condition was so severe that she underwent a major operation to fuse her spine and have two rods inserted either side.
Instead of letting this define the rest of her life, Eva used exercise as a way of strengthening her mind and body.
Eva told Barcroft TV: “A scoliosis warrior is someone who gets up every single day, no matter how much they’re suffering or what adversity they’re facing in their life.
“They don’t let it define who they are, they don’t identify with it and they battle on both mentally and physically.”
Before Eva began training, she had a successful career in acting, even appearing in Game of Thrones.
But her condition stopped her from believing she could strengthen her body.
“I did not see myself having the level of fitness that I have now – I was pretty much told I can’t do contact sports,” Eva said.
“I thought I was really delicate and that if someone brushed me it might knock some metal out of place or something.”
After her brother got her into weightlifting, Eva realised how much it benefited her – on the inside and outside.
She said: “The training has really helped. I’ve really been able to even out the symmetry [of my back] – it’s not perfect, but it’s much more improved than what it was.”
When Eva was first diagnosed with scoliosis, she felt resentful at having to give up her childhood: “I didn’t want to rest up in bed, I didn’t want things to slow me down.”
After spending a large part of the year at home recovering, Eva was home-schooled, and then moved to a different school entirely.
“I kind of just wanted a fresh start,” she explained.
“I didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me or to know my history.”
For any young person growing up, body confidence can be challenging. But for Eva, spending a year in a body cast was more difficult than she realised.
“I did feel like a bit of a freak. I could never find any nice fitting clothes for the way my body was shaped. It was difficult for sure.”
But it was fitness that helped make her grow confident in her own skin. And looking at her now, you’d never think she’d had self-esteem struggles.
She said: “I would say when I started getting heavily into fitness and my body started changing, I was more comfortable.
“I took control of my own body.”
Eva’s Instagram is full of powerful posts on self-love and health, and she’s not shy when it comes to showing off her body.
“I don’t ever feel self-conscious over my scars, I kind of see them as my war wounds from my times battling in the trenches.”
Thankfully, for Eva, the response online has mostly been very positive.
“You can be a bit apprehensive about showing your body on social media due to the judgement or negative comments you might get from people.
“But funnily enough, it doesn’t really affect me because I am genuinely very comfortable with my body.”
This sense of confidence is something that has motivated Eva to teach others who may need a little help.
Two years ago, Eva began training other people with scoliosis and similar conditions.
She now runs a personal training company, Warrior Fitness.
Eva said: “It’s really had a phenomenal impact on my life.”
Eva understands how people with conditions such as scoliosis can feel about themselves, and loves watching them grow stronger – mentally and physically.
“People with scoliosis tend to have poor body image and low self-confidence,” Eva explains.
“I would see them struggling and suffering through their workout.”
Helping her clients with their fitness journey has been rewarding for Eva.
“You’re not only getting someone fit but you’re getting someone mentally tough and that’s going to stay with you forever.”
Appearing on a series like Shake My Beauty is a ‘wonderful concept’ for Eva: “It’s not often in the world you celebrate people’s adversities.
“Particularly in this day in age where people are so looks focused.”
She wants to continue spreading self-empowerment through exercise, health and well-being.
“[Body positivity] is just coming to terms with accepting the way that is it.
“Living in your own body and being at peace with it.”