My eating disorder “journey” so far has been nothing short of tumultuous. It’s been a long, hard road, and I know it’s not going to get easier any time soon, but today, I’m going to tell you a story.
I’ll set the scene. Imagine an impressionable, 18-year-old girl – studious, passionate, selfless – studying hard at university with the ambition of becoming a surgeon. But beneath this seemingly “normal” exterior, a cultivation of self-hatred and perfectionism (among other things) was brewing.
The girl was rapidly descending into the grips of an eating disorder.
Yes, the girl in this story is me. I have experienced every aspect of eating disorder culture there is – from word-of-mouth weight-loss tips, to the online “pro-ana” (pro-anorexia) community, and this particular story centres on the dangerous, online world of eating disorders.
When I initially decided to start dieting, it was sincerely with innocent intentions. But as with most issues, there was a catalyst which turned this innocent feat into a full-blown eating disorder, and that catalyst was the internet.
I started researching weight-loss tips – exploring various websites about healthy dieting and exercise, but it wasn’t long before I encountered pro-ana content. What still disturbs me is how easily accessible this content is. You can Google some phrase related to dieting or weight-loss, and it only takes a few clicks before you’re on some webpage about tips for starving yourself.
Needless to say, being someone who is quite susceptible to external influences, these websites piqued my interest and I started reading about and trying everything I could to lose weight. On top of this, the popular social-networking website, Tumblr, was probably the easiest avenue for accessing pro-ana content. A simple search of the word “skinny” opened my eyes to thousands of blogs dedicated to weight loss and eating disorders.
At the time, I didn’t see this as an issue – I started my own weight-loss Tumblr and I would repost pictures and quotes to motivate and inspire me to lose weight. It didn’t seem like a bad thing at the time, but in retrospect, I can rationalise that it was an incredibly unhealthy move on my part. But could you blame me? I was desperate to obtain a body that I believed others would deem “acceptable” and “attractive”.
My blogging quickly transitioned from an occasional habit, to a full-time obsession. I would spend almost every waking hour searching, liking and reblogging pro-ana content, purely for my own use. Furthermore, I started to document my own weight-loss journey, posting pictures and regularly writing about my feelings, thoughts and experiences.
Fast forward to late 2015 – I had just come out of my second 5-week hospital admission, and I was still incredibly unhappy with my body. I started to return to my old eating disorder behaviours which resulted in yet another dramatic weight loss. I still hadn’t told anyone about my blog or my online life, but my documentation of my weight loss journey had started to gain a lot of attention among Tumblr’s eating disorder (ED) community.
This attention was like a drug to me – people were praising my progress and complimenting my “will-power”. However, it was when I posted one specific comparison picture that my “internet-popularity” amid Tumblr’s ED community somewhat exploded.