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How Instagram Changed My Recovery

@nourishandeat

For years, my body didn’t belong to me. It was my disorder’s. Signed and paid for with my own self-hatred; countless hours at the gym on almost zero food; a scrap of paper I kept in my calendar to proudly mark the number of calories I’d burned, far greater than what I’d consumed. My anorexia had had her brittle hands on me for years, and I didn’t want to admit it. She was with me when I tried on wedding dresses, forcing me to choose the one I felt least fat in. She would whisper in my ear every time I bought groceries. She would drag my eyes downward as I watched strangers walk past, comparing their thighs to mine.

Until three years into my anorexia—standing in the middle of my kitchen, with the spatula in my hand, the words “let me help you make dinner” floating in the air above my head like a balloon—the idea of not being able to control my meal sent me into a panic, and I completely shut down. I sat silently for hours, feeling the waves of panic rushing over me, my arms and legs crossed and wrapped around me with muscles so tight my entire body ached the next morning. My husband looked at me with sad, frightened eyes, but couldn’t form the right words. All I could force myself to say was, “I think something’s wrong with me.” Over and over again.

That night I logged onto my computer in the dark, bleary-eyed from tears, and Googled things like “Eating Disorder How to Tell,” “Anorexia Symptoms,” and “Recovery.” Somehow in my searching I found a Tumblr account and recovery handbook started by someone who was going through the same thing as I was. It was like magic—all of my worries and questions were spelled out and answered in a way that made sense to me. I printed out pages at work and kept them in my wallet. I found the creator on Instagram, made my own recovery account and followed her. And a few days later, I made an appointment with a therapist.

During our appointments, she asked me things like, “Why do you feel that way?” which, to me, seemed impossible to answer. I didn’t know why. I couldn’t express it. She would ask me, “But what’s wrong with being fat?” and inside my mind I would be screaming EVERYTHING but I couldn’t say why. I couldn’t explain where my self-esteem issues came from. I couldn’t explain why I felt worthless in my own body. I couldn’t explain why, in a body that was actively shutting itself down, I felt so huge. We met every week or so for a few months, and while our appointments helped open me up to actively talking about my recovery, I still felt lost.

Because the thing was, my anorexia didn’t just appear out of nowhere. She wasn’t just a switch flicked blindly on in the middle of the night. She was a product of every single advertisement, every little comment, every nuance and whisper and Photoshopped magazine cover. She was carefully tended to by flash diets and juice cleanses and guilt-free foods and bikini bodies and thinspo and fitspo; society’s answer to womankind’s insecurity. She had rooted herself deep within me, far before I knew she was there.

Everything around me told me that fat was ugly. That imperfect was unacceptable. That health was restriction. I didn’t even realize I hated my body until it was too late.

So I started a purge of my social media. All the “thinspo” and “fitspo” accounts I followed: gone. I unfollowed people whose bodies or “healthy living” triggered me. I stopped buying “health” magazines. I started paying more attention to the body-positive community; I followed plus-size models, natural modeling agencies, feminist pages and women who embraced bodies of all shapes and colors. I immersed myself in inclusivity. And the more I began to speak that language, the easier it was for me accept myself. Through Instagram I made friends whom I now cannot imagine my life without. Women who have so fully embraced their recovery and their bodies that that love spills out and touches others. The act of changing my surroundings helped me more than all of those therapy sessions combined.

But it can be incredibly hard to change your surroundings when it’s all you’ve ever known. As women, we’ve been taught to be dissatisfied with ourselves, and feeling beautiful is almost a rebellious act. But why does it need to be that way? We need to stop comparing, and start complimenting. Instead of, “I wish I looked like…” it should be, “I love my…” or, “I’m glad I’m…” One of my most profound moments in therapy was when my therapist told me to think about how I would talk to myself as a child. Would I be mean to her? Would I starve her so she could fit into a dress? Would I tell her she’s not good enough, or that her body was wrong? No. I would tell her she’s beautiful just the way she is. I would tell her I love the way she draws, and how she sings, and that she tells great jokes.

This is what we need to do for ourselves. Because we are enough, just the way we are. We just need to be able to see it.

About the Author:

@nourishandeat is a BoPo warrior, ED survivor. Creator of #embracethesquish. Featured on YahooHealth, Buzzfeed, and Marie Claire.