TikTok fitness fame overnight

Sarah Van Den Berg poses for her before and after photos, showing her followers the outcome of her dedication. Sarah Van Den Berg/Instagram

A young OC local posts her 120 lb. weight-loss transformation on TikTok and becomes an internet sensation by the next day.

A typical weekend afternoon for fitness guru, Sarah Van Den Berg, involves devouring a greasy In-N-Out Double-Double with extra spread and french fries on the side. The healthiest thing about her lunch is arguably a medium diet coke. After chowing down, she answers a flood of direct messages from hundreds of followers on TikTok, asking how to calculate their individual calorie deficit and lose weight properly.

Weekends are cheat days for her. For most of the week, Van Den Berg is posting pictures of her lettuce-wrapped chicken tacos and videos of her workout routine on TikTok. She gets up in the morning, makes a pot of coffee and then heads to her backyard to set up her tripod and yoga mat, all while assuring the lighting and camera angles are post-worthy for her over one million followers.

Life wasn’t always like this for Van Den Berg. In February of 2019, she started her weight-loss journey and lost over 120 pounds in twelve months. She eventually decided to cave and download the video-sharing social networking app that so many of her friends were raving about.

Van Den Berg scrolled through the recommended video section of the app, where she saw people posting their physical transformations and sharing their diet do’s and don’ts. Her first thought was that she could totally do that, but she felt rather anxious at the thought of revealing her pre-weight-loss photos on such a popular platform.

“It was kind of a big deal for me because I had never posted my before and after pics anywhere,” she says. “No one besides my close friends and family knew that I had gained so much weight, so it was a huge step, mentally, for me because I knew anyone could see that.”

Despite her apprehension, she went ahead with posting a before and after glow-up video. By the next morning, she received text messages from her sister’s friends who had recognized her on their recommended video section of TikTok. When she opened the app, she saw her video had amassed over a million views and she had gained over 200,000 followers.

“I never thought it would blow up,” she says. “At that point, I knew that anyone I know that has a TikTok was going to probably see it, and that was kind of hard too, because these are people I went to high school with and they’re seeing my most vulnerable picture of me.”

A flood of positive messages and support from strangers on TikTok helped Van Den Berg overcome these anxieties. Over the course of three days, she had over 10 million views on her initial post and her follower count skyrocketed.

Since starting her TikTok account, Van Den Berg’s popularity on social media has been on a constant upward trend. She now has a fanbase to consider and tailor her videos to. She has received paid partnerships with various health food, clothing and workout equipment companies.

Van Den Berg’s biggest accomplishment has been the impact she has had on everyday people like herself that struggle with confidence, health and body image positivity.

“One of the biggest success stories I’ve heard from my followers is from this girl who wanted to lose weight for her wedding,” she says. “She regularly sends me progress photos and updates me on her journey, which I repost to inspire others. She’s lost over 50 pounds so far and she tells me that I inspired her to start.”

Van Den Berg says that it can be difficult to view likes and analytics as anything other than numbers, so when she receives messages about successful personal stories, it gives her a sense of gratification and purpose. A majority of her followers are women that are similar to her in age and tend to be like-minded in style and interests, which makes her feel attached to them.

Though, not all of this sudden fame is glitz and glamor for someone who was previously living a normal life. Van Den Berg often feels pressure to create content, even if she feels emotionally and physically drained.

“At the beginning, I was in shock and really excited about my huge following,” she says. “I hit a stage where I was getting a lot of anxiety and started seeing a therapist because it was really affecting me. I don’t want to let people down, because I know a lot of them rely on me for guidance and understanding.”

Van Den Berg finds that, whenever she is honest with her followers and posts about needing to unplug and take a break from posting, they almost always encourage her to take whatever time she needs.

To lighten the load of never-ending direct messages, she has recently published a successful e-book that answers her most frequently asked questions and provides simple workout routines for beginners. As she basks on her success, she’ll be enjoying her Double-Double and fries on weekends and continue trying to inspire others during the week.