How Instagram Saved My Life

Most people would say that food and eating disorders are on polar ends of a spectrum. It’s actually quite the opposite, though. Suffering from an eating disorder for almost all my life taught me that. Food becomes the center of your life, and you can’t help it. When you starve yourself, all you can think about, fantasize about, and dream about is food because it’s pretty much the closest you’ll get to allowing yourself to eating the actual food.

For me, Pinterest and YouTube were two platforms that fed me. The amount of #foodporn on these sites satisfied my hunger, while I was continuously losing weight. I got to an all-time low weight that should’ve put me in the hospital. But my body is a warrior, and now I am so thankful for that.

I was miserable and felt very alone. The only “person” there to comfort me was “Ed,” the name I gave my eating disorder later in my recovery journey. I learned from a book that giving the disorder a name helps dissociate the disorder from yourself. At the time, though, before knowing exactly what I was suffering from, we were one. It was hard to identify which thoughts were me, and which were Ed. I suffered through anorexia, bulimia, exercise addiction, and orthorexia. My head was absolutely chaotic.

After an intervention by family and friends, I finally made a promise to myself on December 31, 2013, to start recovery. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, and I definitely didn’t foresee the emotional roller coaster I was about to embark on. But it was the best decision of my life, and I wouldn’t have the coping mechanisms I do now without the roadblocks and obstacles I learned to overcome.

But before that day, I began stalking “recovery accounts” on Instagram, which were accounts by people who posted pictures of their food, or before-and-after pictures with honest captions of how they were feeling about recovery and about themselves. The night that I made my promise, I made a recovery account for myself in hopes of connecting with those people that I looked up to and who understood exactly what I was going through.

hana-post-imageAs I became more engaged in the recovery community, I got better myself. I discovered the art of plating my food, and started to have fun with making my meals look a little more epic than a sad plate of boiled vegetables. I discovered a whole new world of nutritious and not-so-nutritious food (but that’s just called balance), and I’ve never felt so free.

Now, three years later, even though I post a lot of food, something that’s never changed are my posts about recovery. I’ve grown out of being ashamed and secretive about my eating disorder and instead use my experience to help others as others have helped me.

I really do believe this account saved me. I met inspiring women and men who encouraged me on the days I felt torn apart by my eating disorder. They also praised me for when I overcame thoughts and challenged myself to a “forbidden food,” set by my eating disorder. Of course, therapy helped a lot, too, but if it wasn’t for my personal online cheerleading squad and the close friends I’ve made in these couple years, the recovery process would be a lot harder.

I’m at a healthy weight now and finally got my period back, but I also gained my life back. I found the joy in food and just living life again. I’m still working on loving myself, and there are times that are extremely hard to get through. But as I go on my recovery journey, the hard times get further apart.

Through vigorous and emotional therapy lessons, I’ve learned how to pick myself up from each temptation and each relapse, and I have become a stronger woman today as a result of it. I’ve learned, and am still learning, that food isn’t the enemy. Our bodies are smarter than we give them credit for. They can adjust really well, and you can truly enjoy things deemed “unhealthy” in moderation. I enjoy eating fruits and vegetables, but I also really enjoy eating hamburgers and ice cream.

Life isn’t about restricting the things you enjoy. I am so glad I didn’t give up because I wouldn’t have the wonderful opportunities I do now had I let myself fall into Ed’s death grip.

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About the Author | Hana Brannigan

Hana Brannigan is a fourth-year communication student at the University of California, Davis. She keeps very involved by being the Social Media Manager for The Body Project, a mental health club, at UC Davis; the Bike-A-Thon Chair for the Vietnamese Student Association; and the Editorial Director for Spoon University, a food publication. She thrives in meeting all sorts of unique people and learning their stories and being inspired by them. Hana wants to pursue a career in journalism so she can keep hearing people’s stories and helping people all around the world. She is hoping that could be through writing for a health magazine or having her own TV segment so she can make a large-scale impact and raise awareness around mental health and well-being.

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