Instagram Recovery vs. REALcovery- guest post

My recovery from my eating disorder was singlehandedly one of the most challenging, confusing times of my life. I was left feeling hopeless so many nights. I was left with tears running down my face for years just because of an extra slice of pizza.

My recovery was hard.

But the thing is, my recovery was not like what is so commonly depicted on Instagram. And my life to this day is still not like many of these popular, famous Instagrammers.

When I was in the beginning of my recovery, chickpea pasta was not an option for me. Vegan cheese was out of the picture. There was no exercise allowed- not even walks. I was not allowed to make myself some extravagant oatmeal creation with zucchini and egg whites. I ate the packets of brown sugar oatmeal. Two to be exact. And I dealt with the anxiety from that packaged, brown sugar oatmeal. I dealt with the guilt of not being allowed to do any physical activity. I sat at the dinner table with sweaty palms and a terrified stare when white pasta with marinara sauce was placed in front of me. I watched as my family so effortlessly ate this meal. But for me, it felt like there were bricks weighing my wrist down and I could not lift up my hand to that fork. And when I did, I dealt with the negative thoughts that rapidly entered my brain, causing me to want to run away from the dinner table and lie in my bed with the covers over my head- blocking out my reality. My reality of recovery being eating, feeling guilt for eating, pushing through the guilt, watching the tears drop down my cheeks, and waking up the next morning to do it all again. It was a draining process, but a process that became easier over time… a process that gave me strength.

I wouldn’t change this process for the world. I wouldn’t recover in any other way. I am thankful I was exposed to all foods. I am thankful I was forced to just take a seat and not move my body at all. It so desperately needed that rest, and I knew my body thanked me for giving it that.

But when I look on Instagram now, I see many young girls approaching recovery differently. Working out 5 days a week while still trying to gain weight. Eating, but only eating “clean” foods. Having such a tight grip on what foods are “okay” to eat. This honestly makes me sad, because this is not what recovery should be. Recovery from anorexia should be planting yourself on your favorite chair and not doing anything when all your mind wants you to do is work out. Recovery from anorexia should be challenging yourself to have the cupcake when the thought of having it causes you anxiety- but doing it anyway because in difficult times comes immense growth. Recovery from anorexia should be loosening your grip around control with food and going with the flow- letting others decide where to eat, letting others cook for you, switching up your typical foods and trying something new. Recovery should equate to living a life of freedom from food and exercise. Recovery should feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulder because you are allowing yourself to sleep in, instead of waking up at 4:30 am to workout. Recovery should be a smile on your face after eating a slice of cake with your best friend. Recovery should bring you genuine smiles.

My life to this day is still freedom. My life is not focused around the food and movement I do. My life has more meaning than that. My life is not spending 5 hours a day in the kitchen. It is not going to the gym every single day. My life has more value than what I will eat for dinner tonight. This is what recovery has given me. This is what recovery continues to give me. A life that is so fruitful in other things besides food and exercise… a life that sets my soul on fire… a life that brings me challenges and tears some days but endless laughter and joy other days. My recovery has allowed me to embrace my humanness. It has allowed me to embrace the individual I was always meant to be.

You can find more of Alyssa’s recovery experience on her Instagram at @blissful_lyss29

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