This is a follow up post to Instagram, friend or foe? where I talked about the influence of foodie Instagrams on the development of eating disorders and shared my own story. Read that one first if you haven’t already!
So, continuing on, we come to the final tipping point: the recovery account. Sadly, my seemingly harmless food account had become a dedicated eating disorder account, where I would post pictures of the meals I was eating while supposedly trying to “recover” – both mentally and physically – from anorexia and orthorexia.
I began to follow accounts owned by people who had found themselves in similar situations, people who had recognised that something was wrong and were at least ready to acknowledge it. In my case, I felt a sense of relief to have been diagnosed with anorexia. It gave me a sense of closure and gave my problems a name. It wasn’t just me being a horrible, obsessive teenager; I was suffering from a serious mental disorder.
But that’s also where the root of the problem lies.
Too many of us were comfortably identifying with our disorders. Too many of us were happy to acknowledge our disorders and then stop, to do nothing more, as if acknowledging its presence was enough. We could blame our strange eating habits and extreme mental anxiety on the eating disorder and then let that become the norm. “Recovery” was not an active state of trying to achieve wellness, but a static state, a label that said “I’m not quite ready to let go yet”. For me, anything more than acknowledgment of my eating disorder meant that I would have to act, and action meant going beyond my comfort zone, something I (or rather, the eating disorder) was not ready to do. I still struggle today.
One of the most common things to read in the “about me” section on a recovery account was something like:
Diagnosed with Anorexia 12/7/13
Lowest weight: 47.5
Current Weight: 50.7
I just want to be happy again.
Like I said, too many of us were comfortably identifying with our eating disorders. It became a badge, a part of us. I don’t doubt that many people felt the need to “prove” that they were “worthy” of anorexia. And by that I mean that the public displays of weight, height, BMI and so on were there to “justify” that whoever it was needed to recover, that they were skinny enough to be “worthy” of recovering. I’ve heard numerous people (myself included) say that they don’t feel like their physical state justifies recovery or that they don’t’ feel “sick enough” to recover. Do those sound like the thoughts of a mentally healthy person? That they aren’t sick enough to warrant a return to health?
So what really lies at the heart of this concern? Well for me, I think it comes down to two main factors. 1. Control and 2. Feeling valued, wanted, loved and liked. If I couldn’t be the skinniest or the most controlled or the cleanest eater then what was I? Well, nothing it seemed. (More on this later)
But let’s move onto the main point of this post: recovery accounts. Are they helpful, or are they a hindrance to real recovery? Personally, I think a majority of the time the latter is the case. I’ve come across a few inspiring accounts that I genuinely believed to be helpful for my own recovery journey (find them here and here), but I honestly think that most of them are simply a means for people to hold on to their eating disorder. So many people are simply stuck in a sort of “pseudo” state of recovery that they’re comfortable in and their eating habits are considered normal when compared to the rest of the Instagram community. (I was one of those people for a long time – and I still struggle daily with internal battles – so please don’t think I’m pointing the finger!)
Whether or not you have a “recovery” account, ask yourself if you’re really trying to get better. Are you really facing your fears? Are you really trying to return to a normal style of eating? Are you really valuing your health, both inside and outside? Are you too comfortable eating what your meal plan tells you to eat? Does food still consume 90% of your brain space?
If you do have a recovery account, have you ever considered how much time and effort you devote to taking photos of food? Imagine a life where food was something you enjoyed but didn’t obsess over. That life exists! There is a whole world out there waiting to be explored. Ask yourself this: do you really want so much of your life to be dedicated to taking photos of your last meal?* If you’ve reached a stage in your recovery where you feel like you aren’t progressing, you aren’t moving forward and well, you’re not really recovering at all, then it may just be time to let go of your Instagram account and let a little life back in. I don’t know if complete recovery is possible… but I do know that eventually, food needs to take a back seat in your life. I guarantee that when it does you’ll feel a newfound sense of freedom! Yay!
*I’m not saying taking pictures of food is bad, many people do it! Photographers are paid to do it! I still do it occasionally too. What I mean is that, in my opinion, taking photos of food in the context of recovery fosters an obsession with food.