Here’s how Instagram helped me with my eating disorder recovery

This is one woman’s personal account of dealing with disordered eating. It is not meant to be taken as medical advice. If you are dealing with an eating disorder, please seek the advice of a doctor or counselor. 

Oh, Instagram. Good old Instagram. Everyone’s favorite escape when we are supposed to be studying, working, or walking the dog. While I love to use it to look through photos mindlessly, too, for me, Instagram has also become a really great recovery tool.

My recovery process has been one filled with hard work. It’s different for everyone, but I’ve found that it’s been an exhausting process, with a range of emotions. There have been triumphs, sure, but there have also been times when I’ve felt extremely sad. There have been as many tears as there have been smiles.

While in recovery for an eating disorder, I was desperate for normalcy. I wanted to view food as fuel, and not as my enemy. I wanted to be able to go to the market and choose food because I enjoyed and appreciated its taste, and not because I knew the exact calorie count and was striving to hit a certain mark.

During the time I was suffering from my eating disorder, I was living in Hawaii, far away from my friends and family in California. One night when I was feeling particularly homesick, (this was before the app had reached the popularity it has grown to today), I decided to download Instagram.

Generally, when you are on Instagram, you tend to search or browse through things that you can relate to. That said, in basically no time at all, I stumbled upon #recovery hashtags. To my surprise, there was a whole recovery community of people dealing with various stages of eating disorders. My feelings went like this: confused, interested, and then, intrigued. I scanned through pictures and comments from these accounts. Their Instagrams were filled with pictures of food (#recoverymeal), their trigger foods (#fearfoodfriday), and their feelings surrounding it (#anxious).

I instantly felt like I could relate, and at the same time, I admired their bravery. Looking at pictures of their meals I thought,“Hey, if she can do it, I can, too.” My favorite tag that I immeditately found so much truth in was #foodisfuel. Because, really, what is food if not fuel for our bodies? Food is almost like gasoline that needs to be added to our car (body) so that we can function, and experience all the amazing things life has to offer.

Though I never personally talked to or met any of these girls on Instagram whose posts I liked or commented on, I always felt connected to them and their struggles. Soon enough, I was eating ice cream in bed, photographing meals to post myself, and using the hashtag #foodisfuel (as well as actually believing it).

Now that I am at a healthy weight, I am finally feeling recovered in the sense that I no longer obsess about food or feel the need to browse through recovery posts for motivation. I know there is a lot to be said about social media apps or websites being time wasters, energy crushers, or tools for isolation – but in my experience, they were all of the opposite. The recovery community on Instagram was nothing but inspirational, and I have a plethora of my own #foodisfuel posts to prove it.

Florence Ng is a type-A wallflower from the bay area who’s perfect day includes turning kittens into lap cats and over-sampling frozen yogurt. She can be found staying up past 2am writing about mental health issues, eating disorders, and pop culture whilst baking oatmeal cookies. You can follow her and her ragdoll on Instagram.

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