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20.07.2022

Sophia Thiel before and today: From 1.3 million to zero with just one click

She is and was a digital pioneer: Sophia Thiel. With her YouTube fitness videos, she not only created a new trend, but directly a new profession, that of fitness influencer. In the meantime, Thiel is doing pioneering work again, but this time on the subject of failure as an influencer. Why this is extremely important for her today and how she herself deals with her biggest defeats, she told us in an interview.

CAMAO TEC

You were one of the first to really generate a lot of reach as an influencer and especially as a fitness influencer. And then you pulled the ripcord about 3 years ago and disappeared from the scene from now on, as they say. What exactly happened there?

Sophia

So I never planned to kind of go offline and go underground now. But I just couldn’t take all the pressure anymore, because being an influencer isn’t always this “perfect world” that glitters, where everything is easy and you’re only on luxury vacations – it’s not like that at all. There may be completely different issues going on in the background. I had to fight more and more, also with myself and how shall I say, also with my demons from the past. I’ve always had a difficult relationship with food since I was a kid, and then I just tried to control life in the very perfectionist approach of bodybuilding. Yes, and then at some point, of course, there was also the bill for it, because I was very extreme with myself. And of course, a lot of things happened in my personal life that in 2019 I said I can’t do it anymore.

My body and I, we were not a team – it was enmity!

Sophia Thiel about her eating disorders
Image: Andrea Zitt

CAMAO TEC

The bill that your body has issued you. What did it look like?

Sophia

As a child and teenager, I was always the chubby one who liked to be bullied. And I wanted to lose weight pretty early on, come what may. Then I realized, okay, I can shape my body with weight training and I can also calculate and control my diet accurately. And control gave me a feeling of security somewhere and so I always did everything very extremely. But if you try to trim the body so forcibly, it will fight back and at some point sooner or later take back everything you have taken from it.

Then there may be seizures and weight gain, perhaps even more than before. For me, it started back in 2015 that I first got involved with food, but at the time I ignored it. I thought, I just need to exercise more control, I just need to get stronger and more disciplined and kind of subdue my body. But you just can’t screw with the body and I realized that, hardcore. Diet plans and workout plans suddenly stopped working and just nothing was happening. That’s when I said to myself “okay, my body is totally against me and my head right now”. There was me and my body, so to speak – we were not a team, it was an enmity. I just had to get to the bottom of it and then I kind of just took off the day before FIBO 2019.

CAMAO TEC

During this time, which you have just described, you were perceived incredibly often in the media. You were a guest on a lot of talk shows, gave a lot of interviews, were of course very active on social media, and then you shut it all down from one moment to the next. How did this period of social media detox feel, compared to this completely contrarian period before that as well?

Image: Andrea Zitt

I asked myself, “Am I even a good influencer?

Sophia Thiel on her time without social media

Sophia

When I suddenly didn’t post anything at all, so not a single picture on Instagram, no Stories, no YouTube videos, suddenly the day was totally long. It was, after all, what I wanted and yet I felt bad at first because I didn’t miss it. I asked myself, “Am I a bad influencer?” It has never been difficult for me to put my cell phone away or hand it in, but of course it is somehow also my professional tool, my instrument. And then when I didn’t need my phone at all, I thought to myself, “Am I even a good influencer if I don’t have that now?”

There were times when I had very, very strong doubts and at the same time I questioned myself a lot. Perhaps also a little too much. After all, what makes a good and bad influencer? Numbers have nothing to do with the quality, but the content of his contributions. But I didn’t see it that way back then. At that time I tried to fill my day spasmodically with other things. I was as bad as I’ve ever been – I thought I had nothing left. Then I no longer understood the world, because I suddenly had what I was longing for: Time for myself, time offline, no diets and workout plans for a change. But in truth, I felt even worse because I had no grip at all. It was probably kind of an identity crisis because I was like, “Okay, I’m Sophia, I’m an athlete and an influencer, a public figure – who am I now?”

CAMAO TEC

How did your environment deal with it?

Sophia

My family was also shocked by my spontaneous decision, which came out of nowhere, but they were totally supportive and very happy when I accepted therapy during my time off. It was only there that I could really take the steps I had wanted to take. I simply could not have done it alone. I also had hardly any friends left, my reference persons, those were my ex-coach and my ex-boyfriend and they both broke away. At that time, I isolated myself because I didn’t want to be recognized. Because it wasn’t like when people saw me, “Okay, Sophia’s been spotted! How is she?” But mostly “Sophia has been spotted! What does she look like?” And that was the reason for me that I was actually just in my apartment.

CAMAO TEC

What tips can you give to young people in particular? How do you deal well with difficulties, with problems, such as shitstorms in social media?

Sophia

When you’re on social media, even as an influencer, you have to get used to hate by now, unfortunately. There will always be people who find fault with you. If it’s not the content of the thing, then they don’t think you look good enough. You’re too fat, too thin, or your outfit looks like crap. There is always something that people have to criticize, you have to deal with that. Over the years, I have already learned to deal with it and reckon with it. If there are comments about my weight or my body now, it’s water under the bridge. The basic mood on my channels is actually always very, very positive, since I’ve been open about my weaknesses and mistakes.

I’m just trying to show with my failure, you don’t have to go through that.

Sophia Thiel on her own failure
Image: Andrea Zitt

CAMAO TEC

You’re proactively addressing your perceived weaknesses, so to speak, and taking the fire out of the story?

Sophia

Exactly, because I think that disarming cordiality and being open about your weaknesses takes the wind out of the sails of the agitators. Because I also had a shitstorm, that was in my fitness time back then, where it was also about my body. That’s when I was compared to my own poster, to the competitions, how I look and why I gained so much weight. No one knew what was really going on inside me or what was happening in my personal life right now.

CAMAO TEC

You have 1.3 million followers on Instagram. It is conceivable that a lot of young people will take you as an example and get a lot of guidance from your values, your personality and your development. Is that a big responsibility for you?

Sophia

I think responsibility is something you can never really feel, that I find very difficult to grasp. But you’re automatically in it. I think you automatically take responsibility when you communicate with yourself. So I would never advertise products myself that I don’t think are great. I would never tell any lies myself that could harm others if they were not good for myself either. And that’s why I’m going to try American style. In America, it is already a predicate if you fail. You first have to have failed so that people don’t take you seriously, and then you have to get up again. In Germany, failure is a very bad thing. Best never to fail. And then I just try to show, like in the American counterpart, with my failure, you don’t have to go through that. I want you to take a different path than I did. That’s what happened to me and you can do better right now.

CAMAO TEC

It’s obvious that the topic of mental health is something that drives you crazy. What do you mean by that?

Sophia

Health or healthy nutrition alone can be defined in many different ways. It’s difficult to generalize and lump it all together. I think mental health is knowing not only your strengths, but also your weaknesses, and knowing at what point you might not be able to do it on your own and need to get help. I see it the same way, like if you break your arm – you go to the doctor and if you have personal problems, including mental health challenges, you go to the therapist. And I think it’s always important that you gain clarity, that you reflect on yourself, deal with yourself, and also simply call certain things by their name and not be ashamed of them.