To anyone struggling with an eating disorder, body dysmorphia or their confidence: Social media isn't always toxic for us. Here are four women who inspire me to love myself every day.
In light of my last article, "What An Eating Disorder Is Really About," I wanted to share with you some of my favorite body-positive Instagram accounts. One of the steps I took in bettering my recovery was unfollowing all the Instagram accounts that constantly made me hate my body, and following those oriented around recovery, self-love, and body-confidence.
I have nothing against most Instagram models. I'm sure they're all nice people, and it's not like they caption their photos, "Haha, look at me! I have the perfect body and you don't!" They just do their thing. But what society has done is program our brains to just accept that perky boobs, a big butt, and a flat stomach are how everyone is supposed to look. That if we don't look exactly like the girls walking down the runway at a Victoria Secret fashion show, we're not special.
Though I will commend a number of brands like Target, American Eagle's Aerie, and Rihanna's Savage x Fenty for casually incorporating models of all body-types into their ads and social media accounts (without making a big "Hey! See, we're inclusive too!" statement), I still think we have a long way to go in realizing how diverse our bodies are, and how all of them are beautiful.
Anyways, I unfollowed a lot of toxic Instagram accounts and found others that are run by some amazing and empowering women. Here are my top 4 favorite body-positive Instagram accounts:
I confided in Jen when I first began my recovery journey. I found Jen through her YouTube channel, and I fell in love with her content. In her vlogs, Jen shows what she eats in a day and talks about a lot of ED-recovery topics, including dealing with weight-gain, how to stop counting calories, and her experience with binge-eating. Having recovered from an eating disorder herself, Jen gives an immense amount of advice in her videos.
Her Instagram page has the same message. From before and after photos, comparing how miserable she was in her ED to how happy she is in her natural body, to utilizing the #thickthighssavelives tag, Jen's journey through self-love and letting go of her eating disorder emanates through her Instagram posts.
Jen expresses her confidence but doesn't hide the fact that sometimes she has bad days, too. Her journey was non-linear, and I think that's a good message to send. She's had ups and downs, but overall she symbolizes that life outside an eating disorder can be truly wonderful.
I look up to her in so many ways and I hope one day I'll be able to thank her in person for helping me start my own recovery journey.
I also found Kelly first through her YouTube channel. Though she is not super active on it, she has made some very insightful videos I suggest anyone struggling with an eating disorder to check out.
My favorite thing about Kelly's Instagram is how authentic she is. She is not afraid to post photos of herself in a bikini, a tight-fitted dress or in lingerie. She embraces the way her body has changed since letting go of her eating disorder and the gym, and you can tell her smiles are always genuine.
Not only does Kelly talk about nourishing the body, but also the mind and the spirit. On her Instagram stories, she often posts videos sharing the lessons she learned in her own therapy sessions with her audience. She also preaches about self-care and why it's important that sometimes, we need to choose ourselves first.
Kelly is a burst of confidence and pride, and her posts are a constant reminder of why recovery is worth it.
Mary has a very positive attitude toward herself and her body, and every time I scroll past one of her Instagram posts, I am re-inspired to accept myself all over again.
In her posts, Mary does a lot of comparing between who she was when she was a teen, competing in bikini competitions, and who she is now. She admits that when she was a teen, though she had an "acceptable" body, she hated it. She was miserable and battling an eating disorder all at the same time.
But now, she expresses time and time again how life-changing her decision to recover was. She says with confidence that she is happier and loves her body more than ever. Her Instagram posts show off her body from all angles, and really give her audience an accurate representation of what a majority of women look like in the world. And I think that's very powerful.
Mary's Instagram captions often pose questions to her audience about self-love and body confidence. She frequently challenges us to practice self-love in ways as simple as learning to accept compliments or focusing on how amazing it feels to be alive, rather than the parts of our bodies we hate.
Mary's positive energy never fails to put a smile on my face and confidence in my heart. I often scroll through her page and follow her journey from the bottom up, just to see how far she's come, and how I, too, can do the same.
Neva's username is a command I hope I'll be able to follow one day. Ditching the diet is like telling diet culture to go f*ck itself, and one day I really want to be able to do that. Diet culture sucks it gives us all a false idea of what we're supposed to look like, how we're supposed to treat our bodies, and labels us as horrible people if we don't listen.
The outrageous expectations diet culture has put upon our society is one of the many reasons why the recovery has been a hard journey for me. Accounts like Neva's help to pull me out of that toxic mindset and realize that diet culture is the problem, not me.
One of my favorite things about Neva's account is her "Reel vs. Real" series. In these posts, Neva will find photos of models posing in a swimsuit and put a photo of herself wearing the same suit next to it. She does this not to bash the model or her body, but to show us that peoples' bodies are just different. And just because some of us may look different than a model, it doesn't mean we don't deserve to buy that swimsuit and rock it.
Having been through an eating disorder herself, Neva talks a lot about ED-related thoughts in her posts and ways that we can counteract those thoughts with our recovery and self-love at the forefront. Instead of looking at a plate of food and thinking, "I can only eat X amount," we can turn that around and think, "I can have as much as I want" and "My body will balance itself out."
Sometimes I forget how important it is to challenge distorted thoughts, and Neva's account constantly reminds me that I need to work on that. I love how real and down-to-earth she is, and her Instagram posts showcase her spirit perfectly.
This is not an article dissing fit Instagram models. I don't have a grudge toward them because they have the body they were given. Their bodies look like that, and that's okay. And I need to accept that although my body doesn't look like that, that's okay, too.
I'm not going to pretend I have accepted the way my body looks because I haven't. I admit that once I've got my eating disorder more under control, I am going to eventually start incorporating the gym into my life again.
But my goals and approach are going to be different this time. I'd like to build some muscle and get stronger because right now it's hard for me to lift anything. But I'm going to try my absolute hardest to not push myself. I'm going to love my body in the process no matter what. And after a few months if I realize I'm done with the gym, then so be it. I'll still love my body then, too. And I really hope you do the same.
If we're on a journey to accept ourselves and love our bodies no matter what, we don't have to say goodbye to Instagram forever. Instagram doesn't have to be such a toxic place if we follow the right people. There are hundreds of body-positive accounts on the site, and their messages go hand-in-hand with what these four lovely ladies have to say on theirs.
I challenge you to unfollow any accounts whose posts make you feel insecure and maybe follow one of these accounts instead. I know it can be difficult, but even the smallest steps can turn into the biggest strides in your recovery.