Look up #edrecovery on Instagram, and you will find thousands of pictures of meals artfully placed. Click on the accounts, and you will see the account’s feed is full of nothing but these pictures. Within these images, you can easily find some trends. Protein bars run rampant along with the unfortunate newer invention of low-calorie “ice creams.” In fact, it is more likely to find pictures of food in that tag than it is to find a recovery based quote or anything else of the sort.
So what is the problem? An eating disorder, on a very surface level, is an obsession with food. Yes, with food. Not, without, even in the case of restrictive eating disorders that center around self-starvation. When I was deep in my eating disorder, I went to bed obsessing over every single bite of food I had or had not put into my mouth that day. I would lay awake planning out the next day and what food I could and could not eat. Even now, in a healthier place in my recovery, my mind focuses on food more than I care to admit, although I am constantly relieved that this happens significantly less than when I was severely ill.
It does not take up every waking thought, and with each recovery focused day my mind continues to open up to new discoveries and begins to re-enjoy old activities. I am learning how amazing it is to have space in my mind that is free from thoughts of food, calories, and numbers. Documenting my food, artfully arranging it, making sure the lighting is beautiful, and posting it for likes would take so much of this away from me. It is still a preoccupation with food, thinly veiled as something healthy, and I fully find it extremely problematic.
The nature of eating disorders are obsessive and thrive off of comparison. Food pictures are yet another way of finding a way to compare. It is a secondary hierarchy. Instead of displaying photos showing the idea of “I am the thinnest” these pictures send out silent, yet still deafening claims, “I am the most recovered.” In all of my time in treatment, where I have met individuals working through recovery from more than just eating disorders, a common theme has occurred. Many women commented on the fact that they were not recovering as fast as someone else or they counted their relapses against others. I know I have done it myself before.
These pictures further the notion that food (or lack of food) comes with some sort of reward or punishment. Every like or lack of like says something to the disordered part of the mind about the decision on whether or not to consume food. I am all for support in recovery and having a healthy recovery community. Some of my closest friends are ones that I have met through recovery. Having individuals in my life who I can relate to regarding my mental health struggles helps me feel less isolated. I am blessed to have people in my everyday life, and I recognize that not everyone has the strong support I have been given.
I prefer to still share aspects of my recovery outside of the specific foods I am consuming, however, because that is what real sustainable recovery truly is. Recovery happens outside of the safety net of a treatment center and beyond the screen of a smartphone. Yes, it happens every moment I make a choice to take a bite, but it also is going on in my choices to go to therapy appointments. It happens in deciding to leave the house on days when my body insecurities make me want to do nothing but pile blankets on to hide the body I hate more days than not. It happens in the moments when I spend time doing things that do not seem connected to recovery at all because in truth those are the moments when recovery is actually occuring the most.
Food is just food, and it does not need or deserve to have so much power over our lives. So, let us all put down the phones, delete the hashtags, and truly experience our lives in recovery knowing we have worth regardless of the food choices we make or the likes/comments/views we get on social media.