Every new year, social media becomes cluttered with content about diet and exercise, which can quickly become a dangerous situation for those who have struggled with eating disorders or low self-esteem.
I chatted to Adrienne Rennie, 24, from Airdrie, who has lived with an eating disorder since she was a young teen to hear more about her story and why she feels so passionate about speaking against unhealthy ‘fitspiration’ online.
“I was having problems at school and having issues with my family, so I wanted to find a way to seize control of my life”.
“I always had a negative body image, but my actions were about having control. I’d think ‘I like my body in this particular way – if I see it in another way it’s going to impact my running’”.
In the toughest moments of Adrienne’s eating disorder, she would over-exercise and restrict her food and go to great lengths to hide her issues from her loved ones.
It wasn’t until university that Adrienne received support from the school counsellor for her mental health problems. Even now, Adrienne feels recovery is not a destination but a journey for her.
“I’d rather say ‘I’m in recovery’ instead of ‘I have recovered’.
Adrienne describes her eating disorder as a voice in her head which she must continuously retrain herself not to listen to.
“I’m always going to be in a state of recovery, I’m always going to have those voices. It’s about ignoring those voices. Even acknowledging I am relapsing – a big step of recovery is just being aware”.
Recovery in a digital ‘fitspo’ age
A vital part of Adrienne’s recovery was finding National Lottery funded Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity, who she is now an ambassador for.
“Beat has been lifechanging. It’s kept me on a path of recovery, speaking about my journey has opened my support network. They’ve given me a voice.”
With support from Beat, Adrienne now lends her voice to empower those who are struggling with eating disorders, whilst sharing her own inspiring story. As a result, Adrienne is vocal about dangerous trends like the irresponsible diet and exercise culture peddled online.
“Eating disorders are masqueraded as wellness, like with advertising detox teas and appetite suppressors.
“Your life is graded by how you look and what you weigh, it’s saying ‘Let’s kick start the New Year with cutting things out’, which is causing people to relapse or develop symptoms of an eating disorder”.
Adrienne can sometimes still find herself taken aback by the damaging content and pressure from online.
“There’s sometimes – which I can recognize now – things that say ‘transform yourself into this healthier person’, that impacts me because I think to myself ‘Right, this year is a New Year and I can change.’ That can happen when it catches me off guard”.
What is it that helps Adrienne keep herself on track with recovery when faced with toxic internet noise?
“I describe it as – there’s me, and then there’s the eating disorder. It’s about trying to externalise that eating disorder from you – so you don’t lose your identity”.
“Each person is different [with eating disorders], it’s about asking yourself ‘Is this my worth? Does this actually make me happy? Is this a choice?’. It’s easier said than done, but it’s important to ask yourself those questions if you’re struggling.”
Beat were awarded £1,092,983 of National Lottery funding for their Early Intervention services in Scotland and the North West. You can view their full press release here.
For more information on Eating Disorders you can visit Beat’s website here. For information and support you can call Beat’s helpline: 0808 801 0677, their Studentline: 0808 801 0811 or Youthline: 0808 801 0711 for free.