"It takes work, but it is worth it."


Recovery from an eating disorder is a very personal, individual challenge. But last week, 11 Instagram influencers embarked on a group effort, joining forces to share intimate photos of themselves and explain their own experiences overcoming an eating disorder. Their campaign honored National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (February 24-March 1).

Aaronica Cole, a mother of two in Atlanta, explained to Health why the campaign was so important to her and the other women who took part. 

"I think for so long we’ve shied away from talking about things that are deemed taboo," Cole tells Health. "As a black woman, it’s not as common for us to deal with eating disorders so I wanted to give a voice to that. And then show that that self-love and acceptance is an ongoing thing that requires work."

Cole shared her story in a post on Instagram, posing in pink lingerie on her bed. She explained her history with disordered eating and how her peers would tease her as a child for her larger size. That led her to start dieting, which she did by stealing and taking diet pills and starving herself. 

“There was a time where I equated my worth with what was on the scale and would fall back into starving myself in unhealthy ways. It wasn't until I was pregnant with my oldest that I realized I had work to do,” she wrote. “I never want my kids to hate their bodies the way I did for so long. I never want them to have the internal dialogue I once had. I never want them to have the hateful relationship with food that I once had.”

The other women had similar stories, sharing how their disordered eating began after they faced teasing and mean comments for their weight.  

“It was the summer of grade 10. The last couple days of school I was told by a peer that ‘I would be prettier if I was skinny.’ This one comment changed my life,” Kristen Gottwald, another influencer involved in the campaign, wrote in her caption. “I started to throw up everything I put in my body that summer. I became obsessed.”

Ashley Dorough, a body positive blogger and Instagram influencer, explained the extreme lengths she'd go to just to lose a little more weight.

"There were times I would exercise 3 hours a day. I’d only eat protein shakes for most of my meals and I’d log EVERYTHING," she wrote in her caption. "I’d weigh morning and night, measure every body part daily and keep the measurements at my bedside in a notebook."

Thanks to intuitive eating and a lot of work, Dorough is learning how to ditch those unhealthy habits.

"I still struggle with loving how I look, but I’ve learned that how my body looks doesn’t define me, what I’m worthy of, or how healthy I am," she said.

While each of these women's stories are highly personal, the campaign had one united goal: that other women would see these posts and know that recovery from an eating disorder is possible—and there's a community of others who know what they're going through.

"I want people to know that they are worth the recovery process and that it’s possible to heal. It takes work but it is worth it," she says. "Don’t hide. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. The more people know, the more people can help."

To see the rest of the photo series, check out the Instagram hashtag #my_ed_recovery.

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