Eating Disorders and Social Media
In 2014 I created what I initially believed to be a Recovery Instagram account. I would check in several times a day to see if those who I followed in the recovery community (#edfam) were doing well and offer encouragement when things didn't quite go to plan, because recovery isn't straight forward – there are slip ups, but it was about making sure that they didn't last and encouraging one another to keep going. We had hashtags to get everyone involved like #ChocolateChallengeMonday #FearFoodFriday #PintParty and, more recently, #MakeDecemberSparkle, all with the aim of building a strong recovery network.
Instagram was an amazing tool. I never felt alone on my personal journey in recovery. I would take pictures of my meals and occasionally outfits of the day (#OOTD) and ask for help from the exact people going through recovery. The pressure began to build up, wanting each meal to look picture perfect and to be the best. The nature of the eating disorder, that competitive streak, the one that meant you had to be sickest of the group quickly escalated. It felt like we were all competing with each other to have some badge of honour, which was to live with our eating disorders for as long as possible.
It was campaigns like #BoycottTheBefore (created by Lexie Manion), a hash tag to end the “before” image and replace it with the words “I am so much more than a before photo” but to show your “after” picture, which went viral during Eating Disorders Awareness Week, that made our community stronger. It was also a way of ensuring that others didn’t show their lowest weight, of not encouraging a stigma that you have to look a certain way to have an eating disorder. It only takes a few people to help others see that this is no way of life, to put you back on the right path and show you that you have to persevere and fight, but it is in your hands. There are some great accounts for those in recovery: people like Christie (@MeandMyed.art) who captures what you feel going through recovery in powerful cartoon style images, or Amalie (@amalielee) whose page is so honest and frank.
Instagram is such a powerful platform in recovery; it’s the people who you follow that can influence your next meal or your next mood. People like @TheFoodMedic and @doctors_kitchen have played a part in how I see food, which is to heal and fuel and to boost my mood and energy levels. Now I am able to work out for fun, not for punishment or a picture; I’m able to eat for enjoyment, not to restrict or panic that it doesn’t look good. I still have my Instagram account – I started over many times to find a balance between food, fitness and fun, to ensure that recovery was my priority and not how my food looked on a plate, not an impossible yoga pose, and not to feel crap for taking a picture of a Cadburys fruit and nut bar.
Don’t be scared to un-follow those who trigger you, because the people you surround yourself with on Instagram have just as much influence as those who you are friends with in your day to day life. If the community isn’t making you stronger and helping you in your journey then it no longer serves the purpose in your recovery, but you have the power to change that.
Contributed by Sophia
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