health

"I became an unwitting poster child for eating disorders."

“I woke up and found my photo had been shared thousands of times. At first, I loved the attention, but then I saw why people were commenting.”

Trigger warning: This post deals with eating disorders and includes images that may be triggering to some readers. 

I was 16, very vain and riddled with a myriad of complicated body image issues only a teenager could have when I inadvertently became a poster child for eating disorders.

As a teenager with a blog, I posted photos of myself from time-to-time, as everyone did. But no one really cared about my photos or my opinion on things. I used my blog to write cringe-worthy prose about what I thought love was and reblog photos of Justin Bieber.

So when I got a new pair of denim shorts that had a Union Jack flag on each back pocket, I didn’t think anything of taking a photo of my shorts and posting it online.

The offending photograph.

Of course, it was posed. You can tell that from the deliberately placed hand on the hip, along with the oversized cross ring. I can’t remember how many takes it took to get the one I ended up with, but I can only assume it was many.

Flash forward approximately 10 hours and I woke up to thousands of people talking about a photo of my shorts. Or, more specifically, my body shape.

Comments like “skinny bitch”, “I want to be her” and “UGH, GOALS” dominated the image, with only a few people saying anything at all about the shorts themselves.

The comments, while concerning, didn’t bother me at first. But when I followed this photo up with another, more revealing image of myself in a bikini that I had just bought, things became dangerous.

Again, I can’t explain why I posted the image. It was a vain attempt at self-gratification. My confidence was in shambles at this point in my life – hell, I look back at photos of myself from this year and finally realise why my family was so concerned for my health –  but I still didn’t think posting something online would make such an impact.

“I can’t explain why I posted the image. But I didn’t think it would have such terrible consequences.”

This image has been shared over 3,000 times. Like the photo of the shorts, people were commenting on my weight rather than the item of clothing.

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Sure, some users said some nice things. But the overwhelming majority were from pro-anorexia blogs that held my body up as a goal weight.

These went on an on. Thousands just like this, holding me up as a goal weight.

This went on and on for days. I was unwittingly branded as thousands of people’s ‘thinspiration’ – a term that has since become so detrimental to body image that it was banned across social media networks like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr, although those looking for these images are getting around the ban.

But this was 2010. And thinspiration was still a socially acceptable term. Except the people sharing my body weren’t kidding. Their blogs were designed to document their dangerous weight loss – many of whom started at ‘healthy’ weights and, with each goal, they were moving towards dangerously unhealthy.

Waking up and seeing my image heralded as a ‘goal’ was incredibly confronting and I deleted my blog soon after. I felt so disgusted by what I had started and while I felt like I didn’t have a problem, I knew I needed to put on weight after seeing these reactions.

But as we’ve learned countless times, when you put something on the Internet it’s bound to stay there forever. As are the millions of other images that are triggering to survivors of eating disorders and those still struggling.

If anything was to come out of this situation, it was a strong reminder that anything you put on the Internet can be detrimental to someone else’s health. We see it with videos, articles and yes, photos.

Even ones that seem harmless at the time.

For a whole range of women all different shapes, sizes and diversity who love their body, click through the gallery below.

If this post has brought up issues for you, you can contact The Butterfly Foundation on 1800 33 4673 or by visiting their website here. 

Have you ever posted something online that you regret? 

For some body positive articles… 

“This is a week-by-week photo diary of my body after the birth of my second child.”

“When I feel like crap about my body, this is what I do to feel better.”

MIA: The unexpected reason I felt crap about my body this summer.