Recovery Instagram... we need to do better
Today I wanted to talk about the Eating Disorder community on Instagram to share my experiences and open up a discussion about what is and isn’t helpful to post in these spaces. Before I get into the specifics I wanted to say how helpful I have found many influencers to be and how big an impact they have had on my recovery. If you follow me over on Instagram (@the_recovery_bean) I will be sharing some of the creators I especially love over the next few days!
The sort of content I have especially benefited from in my recovery is that from individuals who are either fully recovered or who have been in full committed recovery for a long time. This is because they are able to show me the other side of recovery and so on the days where it’s especially tough and the urges to engage in ED behaviours are strong their posts remind me why I’m fighting. In addition to this, despite everyone's journey being unique, often they have faced similar struggles to those I’m encountering and so it is useful for me to be able to pick up tips or adopt their mantras for myself. Finally, I find these accounts the best to follow as I can be way more confident that they won’t share anything that could be overly triggering as having gone through recovery themselves, they are aware of how our ED’s can interpret information and so are careful not to post the kind of things they would cling onto and use as fuel. Of course this is a generalisation as not all accounts will be this positive and aware, however I have found the likes of @megsy_recovery and @talyngracee absolutely amazing and revolutionary to my recovery, so definitely check them out if you haven’t already!
The flip side of this however, is the part of recovery Instagram that is populated with the likes of body checks, before and after photos, FDOE’s, weights, measurements, calories and hospital stays. This is where the platform becomes toxic.
In the depths of my ED I actively sought out these accounts (not that they’re hard to find), as because they were sold as recovery accounts and not “pro-ana”, I fooled myself into believing it wasn’t too disordered. I used them to compare both my body and intake and depending on what I saw was subsequently validated or invalidated in my illness. In this blog entry I therefore want to talk about why we need to speak out against these actions and in order to evidence why this is necessary, I want to outline the reasons why it can be so damaging and detrimental to individuals recovery.
I feel that as a community we are now pretty much all agreed that body checks and before and after photos are a no-go. This is because whilst we may be proud of how far we’ve come, we recognise that posting photos of our sick bodies can not only be triggering, but also invite comparison as well as feeding into the stereotype that people with eating disorders are all emaciated and all experience weight loss. Furthermore, it suggests that weight gain evidences recovery, and whilst for many sufferers it may be part of their journey, this is not universal and nor does it show any other parts of the process. Consequently, I firmly believe that if you are going to have a recovery account, you must take on board the responsibility of protecting your vulnerable audience and not post these photos.
Another way in which these spaces can sometimes be unhelpful, is when they are full of #fdoe (full day of eating) posts. This is because even if you are eating an adequate amount for you and your body, it will not reflect the nutritional needs of all your followers and so even though you did not set out to trigger anyone, seeing your intake may encourage disordered behaviours in others. On top of this, more often than not, if you are of the mindset that posting all your meals is a good idea you will not be in full recovery and the promotion of quasi is something to avoid. When speaking about this previously I have been met with opposing views from those who enjoy seeing them as they inspire their own meals. Whilst this may be valid for some, I feel that there are other much better places to find fun recipes, and often if you find yourself constantly seeking out food pictures it may be a sign you are restricting. Therefore, if you are someone enjoys looking at #fdoe's I invite you to check in on why this is and consider whether this is reflective of your true passions or just what your ED wants?
Along the same lines, I have seen many accounts posting their challenges and fear foods and whilst this is okay as a premise, the celebration of the 3 extra almonds you ate is not. This is because whilst it may have been a big step for you, it is a choice that was more than likely still influenced by your ED as I find it hard to believe that that’s what the real you actually wanted to eat. Therefore, whilst you can celebrate these little wins yourself, I feel it is inappropriate to share them with your vulnerable following. This extends to sharing details such as the length of time you have gone without eating a certain food, as you can document this victory without risking invalidating others struggles. This is something I have previously been guilty of and so I apologise for any part I may have played in encouraging comparison in another sufferer.
I’m going to end this post here as I don’t feel I need to explain why posting numbers in your bio or feed is wrong, It just is. This is not intended as an attack and nor is it targeted at specific accounts, it is simply a bid to raise awareness of these issues so that we can come together as a community to overcome them.
More from me soon,
Mais// The Recovery Bean <3