how feminism has become a tool for my eating disorder recovery

*Trigger Warning: Eating Disorder 

My eating disorder started in my junior year of high school when I was just 16 years old. At the time, I would have told you “No, you’re crazy I’m just dieting.” In hindsight, my diet and intense calorie counting turned into an obsession and before you knew it, I had dropped 35 pounds in less than a year and my BMI was a 17.6, which doctors told me was underweight. In a world where I feel as though thinness is praised, hearing the news that I was severely underweight, almost to the point of becoming infertile, I was over the moon. This should not be a normal reaction. Even though doctors told me I needed to gain weight to become physically healthy again, I didn’t understand why. When I looked in the mirror, I still saw the same “chubby” girl and I so desperately wanted to look like all the thin girls I saw on Instagram and magazines. This was the time that I realized I also struggled with body dysmorphia. Since my junior year of high school, I have struggled immensely with my eating disorder and body dysmorphia. However, after going to treatment and therapy, one tool that I have utilized to help me battle my eating disorder is feminism. I know that might sound confusing but let me explain. 

Photo by Danya Gutan on Pexels.com

To understand how feminism has become a tool for my recovery, it is imperative to know how society has a massive influence on body image. Between models on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and other media platforms, pop culture and the patriarchy has planted seeds in people’s mind of what an “ideal” body image is for all genders. The patriarchal system is oppressive and has continuously put women and minorities down for centuries. I am guilty of playing into the media portrayals of idealized body images and it has taken a toll on my mental health and fueled my eating disorder. Although I succumbed to the patriarchal system of telling women that in order to be “good enough” you essentially must not weigh enough, I am not a “bad feminist.” It has taken me awhile to come to terms with this but by acknowledging the contradictions in my life I have a better understanding of how to deal with loving myself when I feel as though the patriarchy is knocking at my door. Feminism has the power to begin to dismantle this flawed system. 

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

In my opinion, feminism at its core sincerely believes that regardless of our gender, age, race, ethnicity, abilities, and socio-economic status we are all human beings who deserve to see advances and equality in society. Knowing there is a group of people like this that I can identify with has opened my eyes to the fact that I am more than my eating disorder. In taking my step toward recovery, feminism has become a different lens I see my eating disorder through. Within society, there are many injustices that people face, politically and mentally. By having a feminist way of thinking it has revealed to me that I have a better understanding of the setbacks that I, myself face and the underlying reasoning behind it. It has taken me years of self-reflection and therapy to understand that the reasoning behind my eating disorder is the images that I consume on social media, which causes me to become extremely insecure in my body. While I am not saying that feminism is the “cure” for eating disorders, it has given me a new mindset to view myself and dig deeper into the feeling of loving myself, the same way I wish all other people can be loved. Which in the end, comes back to the basic principle of feminism.

3 thoughts on “how feminism has become a tool for my eating disorder recovery

  1. This blog post resonated with me because I also experienced body dysmorphia due to the content I absorbed on social media in high school. I believed my body was so ugly and convinced myself I needed to change in order to have the “perfect body”. I was really depressed in high school due to my weight, and after years of hating my body, I eventually stopped eating hard foods for long periods of time to lose weight. I LOVED having weight fly off of me and I began to see results really fast, and like you, this made me feel excited. I wanted to be like all the women I saw on my Instagram feed.

    Thus, I agree that society had a HUGE impact on young women’s body images. However, I am also guilty of playing into portrayals of ideal body images, in fact, in high school, I would even edit my posts so that I would appear, skinner, because like you said, “thinness is praised”. It has also taken me years of self-reflection to get to where I am now, I love my body and I preach to those who hate on themselves to LOVE their bodies, and that it is perfectly okay if your body doesn’t look like the Instagrams models they see on their feeds.

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  2. I relate so much to this post – I also had a very serious eating disorder at 16 and gaining more of a feminist thought about the situation as I got older helped ensure that I would never slip down that path again. This is an incredibly written post and providing a trigger warning was very thoughtful, my only suggestion would be to not discuss numbers when talking about eating disorders in the future. Stating how much weight you lost or what your underweight BMI was could send the wrong message and possibly effect somebody else with an eating disorder, even if they’re recovered. I know 100% that you didn’t mean to cause any harm by stating numbers, I just think it’s important to discuss eating disorders outside of labels like BMIs. You speak about this topic very well and you should continue telling your story and how feminism helped your recovery, I think it could help a lot of people!

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  3. I never thought about how thinking in a feminist perspective when it came to things regarding myself could be beneficial, but I really like how you put this. Living in a social media driven and male-dominated world, it can become very easy to start doing things such as dressing for the male gaze, or working out in hopes that you get thinner and more desirable. Using the lens of feminism to understand your own setbacks can help you be your own advocate.

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