In a previous article, I discussed ways in which social media may trigger individuals who are trying to recover from an eating disorder. For example, social media further propagates the already-prevalent diet mentality and thin-ideal in society, and emphasizes the shaming culture of exercise and fitness. I also noted that social media often fails to represent a diverse range of body sizes and types, and provides a highlight reel of individuals’ lives, rather than the reality.
While these various hazards do exist, completely cutting out social media may not always be a feasible or desirable option, as it may offer certain advantages in our daily lives. Fortunately, if you have an eating disorder, social media can offer some benefits that may be conducive to your recovery process.
Realizing You are Not Alone
Having an eating disorder can make you feel different, isolated, misunderstood, and lonely. Relating to others can be extremely challenging if you do not feel heard or understood, and because individuals without eating disorders have a hard time grasping your experience. You might find yourself stuck in the belief that you are the only one that is suffering from an eating disorder. Fortunately, through social media, you can find and connect to others who are open to sharing their own eating disorder experience. Various individuals have personal recovery-focused social media accounts where they share their journey (struggles and milestones) and provide inspiration to others. Others are well-known advocates or spokespeople for eating disorder recovery and body positivity. There are also online groups you can join, such as on Facebook, where individuals provide one another support during their recovery. By having access to others on a similar journey as yours, you may feel more understood, heard, and supported, and less alone in your own recovery process. To find others that share your experience, use keywords such as “eating disorder recovery” or “body positivity” in your social media searches
Gaining Access to Resources
Not only can you gain online support and inspiration from others who are working through their eating disorders, but you can also become informed about other resources that may facilitate your recovery. Social media advertisements and marketing from various treatment centers, mental health professionals, or dieticians can provide you with information about eating disorders as well as guidance towards services that can help you, such as individual therapy, support groups, dietician referrals, etc. Social media in itself can serve as a resource, as various applications that you can download are specifically devoted to providing tools and expressive outlets for recovery. Some of these applications include Recovery Record, Rise Up + Recover, and Eat Breathe Thrive.
Exposure to Body Positive and Anti-Diet Messages
Although this is a work in progress, social media has allowed for individuals representing a diverse range of body sizes and types to combat narrow stereotypes of beauty and proudly come forward in a way that celebrates and accepts their bodies. As individuals in recovery deal with body dissatisfaction and body changes during the treatment process, being exposed to a variety of body types can normalize body diversity and help facilitate acceptance of one’s own body. The body positivity movement portrays realistic images of bodies and emphasizes that no one type of body is superior to the other. Moreover, eating disorder recovery advocates tend to preach an anti-diet mentality and emphasize having a peaceful relationship with food without self-imposed rules or restrictions.
Bio: Bahar Moheban, M.A. is a clinical psychology doctoral candidate and registered psychological assistant in Torrance under the supervision of Dr. Nazanin Moali. She provides individual and group psychotherapy to adults and adolescents presenting with disordered eating, negative body image, and cormorbid disorders. To cultivate a peaceful relationship with food and body image, contact Bahar for a counseling appointment.