Eating Disorder Survivors Are Removing The Stigma Using Social Media
If you asked the average person to say the first word that pops into their mind when they think of eating disorders, they would likely answer with words like “weight” or “thin”. But, if you asked a person who has actually lived with an eating disorder, their answers may be quite different. Instead you would hear things like “shame,” “guilt,” and “embarrassment.”
Eating disorders are heavily stigmatized, pushing those who suffer from the compulsive need to restrict food intake, binge, or purge to hide their struggles from even those closest to them. In many cases, parents and close friends will have no idea their loved one is living with a serious illness until the situation is dire.
Even after they’ve recovered, most eating disorder survivors prefer to keep their experience private rather than face the stigma.
Slowly, this is starting to change.
I’ve noticed a growing trend of young men and women who are tired of hiding their eating disorder and their experiences. Instead, they are taking their stories and sharing them with the world through social media.
The most common way eating disorder survivors are sharing their stories is with photos showing their bodies before and after recovery. More and more young people are using these side-by-side photos to show the transformation of not just their bodies, but their minds as they went through rehabilitation.
The images are therapeutic in their own way for many who post them, but they are also meant to send a message. The comparison images are almost always accompanied by a caption detailing the survivor’s trials with eating disorders, body shame, dysphoria, and ultimately recovery.
“I know the world wants you to believe that the less you weigh the happier you’ll be. I know I’m supposed to feel ashamed of this transformation,” says Megan Jayne Crabbe in one such photo. “I’m supposed to vow to lose the weight, I’m supposed to spend my life chasing the body on the left and buying into the idea that I’ll be more valuable once I get there. But I’m not going to do that.”
Crabbe is just one of many women who are refusing the pressure to be ashamed of her body, or her experiences. A community devoted to eating disorder support and community has grown on sites like Instagram and Twitter, where survivors can connect with each other without feeling stigma.
Julia Grigorian, a blogger who documented her transformation on Tumblr, explained to Motherboard, “I realized there was an entire world of people out there, just like me, struggling with the same demons.”
While this form of sharing can be helpful to both those who share them and those who are inspired to seek help for their own eating disorders, some on social media take it a step further.
A small number of brave women have taken to using social media to document their eating disorders and how they impact their lives in an unabashedly honest way. They show everything from their weakest personal moments, even posting photos from hospital beds as they enter recovery and treatment.
✨As feared they had me admitted to hospital since the #anorexia had gotten so #crucial. I have no idea how long I will have to stay but it feels good to be getting #help, even thought its really #tuff. The staff is anyway really friendly so far and my contact person is great, so I feel #safe here which they said is really important! They got me going with #food and #shakes straight away to stop the #weight loss, I will find out tomorrow if we've had any #progress. My pulse is still far to low and I'm not allowed to move around much, but my #mum and #sister are coming later to keep me #company a while which will be nice✨
For many of these people, sharing their experience is a way to find support from others who have been through the same in their lives. These pictures are a part of a growing community of people who have been affected by eating disorders, where they feel like they can talk honestly about their trials.
For the rest of us, however, these images serve another important function. They are boldly striking out at the stigma and taboos surrounding eating disorders, encouraging an open conversation about the deadliest mental illness in the world.