At the height of my eating disorder, my Instagram feed was my biggest enabler. It was filled to the brim with quick workout videos, tiny portioned dinners, 8 oz protein shakes as meal replacements, and huge cheat meals. The absolute picture of health, right? 😉
So when I finally came to terms with the state of my health, the first thing to go was of course my gym membership. But the hardest part of letting go wasn’t the gym, instead it was my bridge to the fitness world: my Instagram. While giving it up took an insane amount of will power and discipline, the harder part was understanding when I was ready to put it back in, and understanding how to ease back into the community without overdoing it.
Now when I initially took all of the fitness accounts off of my Instagram feed, it honestly felt like there was a hole in my day. There was no one to encourage me to eat less, no one to show me quick workouts I could squeeze in on a 5 minute break at work, and no one to tell me I could be better if I just worked more. Those accounts had become such an integral part of my day, that it seemed impossible to lose weight and stay on track without them. So when I decided to start losing weight again, I almost immediately wanted to get my Instagram feed back.
The hardest part about losing weight the second time around wasn’t giving up junk food or getting more exercise, it was taking back all of my old activities and not letting them consume me the way they did before. And while I wanted more than anything to have that community to cheer my efforts on again, I knew it had to be different this time.
Social media can be a powerful motivational tool when it comes to getting healthy. It can be used to give you ideas for exercise and meal planning, and it can also be useful in providing a platform for like-minded people to find each other and be a sort of cheerleading squad for one another. But like anything that seems too good to be true, social media can have it’s dark corners too, where unqualified amateurs spout incorrect and often harmful/dangerous information and methods for weight loss.
So, while I wanted to dive head first back into the community, I also knew I needed to set up boundaries for myself to keep me away from the dangerous path I previously walked. Instead of flooding my feed with every workout and “clean eating” account I could find – I decided to opt for the middle ground: add back some of the better accounts that promote good food and body positivity, while still maintaining a healthy distance from the fad diet and intense exercise accounts that now seem too extreme for my journey. When I truly took a look at what I gained from being immersed in the community, it wasn’t the ideas that I needed most – it was the support.
I didn’t need the constant barrage of buzzwords and 30 second workout videos. I didn’t need people showing me how little they ate, and what kind of likely dangerous detox they were on this week. What I needed most was to have a platform to put my journey to recovery out there, and receive support from people who knew what it truly meant to live a healthy and balanced life.
So while I can say very confidently that I’ve come back to the fitness community and they’ve embraced me with open arms, I can also say that I’m no longer immersed a personal danger zone. Easing back into the community meant understanding where my limits were that lead me to the dark corners in the first place, and setting up caution zones to stay away from them moving forward. Coming back to the lion’s den after doing so much work to recover from the damage those accounts helped cause was terrifying. But once I found my personal balance, it was easier to find my social balance and keep myself happy, healthy, and sane.