(Trigger Warning: This blog post discusses eating disorders.)
This week is #NEDAwareness Week–National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. In this piece, MEDIAGIRLS Development Intern Annie Kew discusses her eating disorder, her recovery journey, and gives three accounts she follows to support her in overcoming her eating disorder. If you or someone you care about is experiencing disordered eating, is struggling with an eating disorder, or is in the process of recovery, this is a must-read piece.
On August 9th, 2020 I woke up ready to begin a new chapter of my life. The time had finally come to travel back to Boston and begin my junior year of college. I was ecstatic to settle back into my dorm room, adjust to my new role as a Resident Assistant, and see my friends and boyfriend after five long months in quarantine. Everything had finally fallen into place and I was eager to get back to the city and campus I had fallen in love with the year before. From an outsider’s perspective, my life seemed as great as can be, but behind closed doors, I struggled more than ever.
My Eating Disorder
Months prior, I had fallen victim to an eating disorder that completely took over my life. What started off as an innocent attempt to increase my activity each day, quickly spiraled into strict food rules, excessive exercise, and dangerous behaviors. I lost the ability to live in the moment, for all I cared about was making that daunting number on the scale decrease. Instead of counting the memories throughout my summer, I was stuck counting calories.
As August and my return to school rapidly approached, I tried as hard as I could to convince myself that my eating disorder was under control. When a doctor suggested I take the fall semester off to pursue treatment, I laughed. I wasn’t that sick, after all, what was so wrong with losing a little weight and eating healthier. Everyone did it…right? I chose to ignore others’ concerns and my own voice of reason, and instead let my eating disorder call the shots.
I returned back to campus and quickly the harsh reality of my illness began to sink in. My eating disorder was now in the driver’s seat, leaving me a helpless passenger. I had been lied to. Told that once the scale showed a certain number and once I approved of the body I saw in the mirror my eating disorder would vanish, never to be seen again. This was false. My eating disorder had latched onto me and completely changed the trajectory of my life. The notion that I was in or had ever had control was a complete illusion.
My junior year ended after less than two months on campus. I returned home and was admitted into a Partial Hospitalization Program specializing in eating disorders. I was forced to resign from my job, take a leave of absence from classes, and put life as I knew it on hold. It was time to face the thing that had been tearing me apart for months. I needed to prioritize my health before I could work towards creating my future.
The Representation of Eating Disorders on Social Media
The glorification of eating disorders is a societal issue that must be combated. Many teenagers are blinded by their desire to conform to the media’s standard of beauty and are willing to risk their health in exchange for a more desirable body type. As a society, we praise weight loss, encourage dieting, and view thin as synonymous with beautiful. Social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr are flooded with triggering and dangerous material, and with a surge of “pro-ana” or pro-anorexia content emerging online, individuals are now at a risk more than ever to develop an eating disorder or disordered eating habits.
While recovery sometimes feels impossible, it’s necessary to remind yourself that there is life beyond your eating disorder. Social media is a highlight reel filled with only what users want the world to see, and it’s incredibly easy to be deceived by what is right in front of you. The media may place heavy praise on weight loss, but it’s important to remember that we were not made to spend our entire life focused on becoming smaller. I have learned that instead of centering my attention on the triggering content that the media shoves in my face, I actively try to search for body-positive messages and affirmations that lift me up instead of encouraging my eating disorder to tear me down. Here are three social media accounts that are excellent and supportive resources to learn more about eating disorders or support you in your recovery!
- @jennifer_rollin (Instagram) – Jennifer is an Eating Disorder Therapist who has founded The Eating Disorder Center in Rockville, Maryland. Jennifer is active on Instagram, where she shares nutritional information, recovery inspiration, and uplifting messages. Her positive and informational content is helpful for both those struggling with or recovering from an eating disorder
- @brittanilancaster (TikTok) – Brittani is a recent college graduate who in her teenage years struggled with both Anorexia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder. Brittani shares daily “What I Eat in a Day” videos, but instead of promoting dangerous and low calories diets, she encourages food freedom. I am inspired by Brittani’s confidence and believe her body-positive messages are extremely helpful to those seeking to find balance in recovery.
- @encouragingdietitian (Instagram) – Christyna is a Registered Dietitian who uses her platform to spread awareness about eating disorders, and works to help others create a sustainable relationship with food. Christyna promotes the “Health at Every Size” framework and shares her body positive messages with her followers on instagram.
Post from @encouragingdietitian on Instagram!
Recovery has been and will always be difficult. There’s no simple fix for an eating disorder. No magic pills or prescriptions to lessen the symptoms. Every day is a constant battle with yourself, and it’s draining. Many people who struggle with an eating disorder have idolized the sick version of themselves. In a way, recovery feels like cutting ties with a toxic friend. Though it’s obvious that terminating the relationship is for the best, it’s hard to completely let go.
Six months have passed since I returned home from school, and I am still fighting every day to overpower my eating disorder. While navigating social media continues to be a challenge, I find myself constantly reminding myself that self-love and acceptance are attainable. I am so much more than a body, and my appearance is the least interesting thing about me. I have learned that the pursuit of a “perfect” body is unrealistic and that instead of shrinking myself to fit a mold that I was never meant to fit, I should instead work towards creating space in the world to take up.
I never felt ready to recover from my eating disorder, and I have realized that there is no such thing as “not sick enough.” It’s time we let go of diet culture and instead embrace ourselves as the people we were born to be. After all, it’s okay to be human.
It is never too early or too late to seek treatment.
Annie is a junior studying Communications at Emerson College. In her free time she enjoys exploring Boston, listening to music, and watching hockey. Annie is excited to be working with the MEDIAGIRLS team to spread positive messages throughout social media.