Hayley Kremer, a 20-year-old student at Colorado Mesa University, believes that her eating disorder first began in high school—but she’s struggled with body-image issues for much longer. She’s been in recovery for a few years, and sees both a nutritionist and a counselor. But on top of these more traditional recovery resources, she largely credits her Instagram account for the significant progress she’s made in getting better.
Kremer’s account is devoted to her recovery, and her feed is filled with colorful photos of carefully prepared meals and occasional treats, as well as pictures of herself as she’s progressed through and beyond her eating disorder. Most of Kremer’s posts include lengthy descriptions of her personal recovery story, attracting a wealth of comments from others with similar experiences. There’s a substantial community of recovery accounts like Kremer’s, and hers has amassed more than 18,000 followers since she started it in 2012.
Troubling “thinspiration” and “pro-ana” (as in anorexia) posts that promote disordered eating with glamorized photos of emaciated bodies and words of encouragement from fellow sufferers have long existed on social media and elsewhere online, but recovery accounts such as Kremer’s show another side of these disorders entirely: the hard work of getting better. (For the record, Instagram has an official policy banning images or hashtags promoting self-harm.) These recovery accounts are usually maintained very regularly, mostly by young women and girls in various phases of their eating-disorder recovery. They function as both a food journal and documentation of the process from disordered eating toward healthy habits. Some include recipes and detailed descriptions of meals; many feature “body progress” photos comparing before and after photos of users as they begin to recover. Most take on a confessional tone—detailing fears, accomplishments, and anxieties about food and body image.