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What This Instagram Model's Eating Disorder Recovery Story Is Missing

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There has been a news story circulating about Instagram star, Alexis Ren, and her battle with an eating disorder. The pain and body shaming described in the article is heart-wrenching and painful, and I’m happy she’s opening up and sharing her story.

But then the article goes to describe her recovery life, and that is what just doesn’t seem right.

There are many paths to recovery and nobody’s is the same, but she describes hers as mainly seeking help from a personal trainer and life coach, rather than a therapist and/or dietician. Additionally, what really gets me about the article is what they describe her “recovery diet” to look like: “a well-rounded diet that includes carbs, proteins and veggies.” She also tells Cosmopolitan that she still works out every other day.

I’m happy to see that she is eating as she describes herself as someone who experienced a restrictive eating disorder. However, by telling her story and preaching that recovery is working out every other day and eating what seems to be a limited diet, she is sending a very wrong and disordered image of what true eating disorder recovery looks like.

I’m all for eating healthy and working out if it’s something you enjoy. However, as someone who has struggled with a restrictive eating disorder, too, reading this doesn’t resonate with my recovery. Maybe deciding you are only going to eat certain foods and work out every other day is progress in your recovery, but I see setting these guidelines for yourself as still being disordered and not nearly as free as your life could be.

This article especially upsets me because I know how many people are reading it, and likely many of them have clicked on it because they too are struggling with an eating disorder, and might think this is what recovery is. That this is as good it gets. And it’s just not true. When I was eating what I needed to without using behaviors, but not truly eating a wide variety of food I enjoyed, I was still very much in my eating disorder. It was only until I let go of the judgments I had of more fun foods that my life truly became more free.

I would love to see someone who has struggled with an eating disorder promote freedom, relaxation, joyful movement, acceptance of all foods in moderation in the media. Like Demi Lovato, Alexis Ren has taken a courageous step in telling her story and to that I say, “Thank you.” But to the other people out there reading this and thinking that lean meat and exercising every other day is as good as it gets — it gets so much better.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Lead image via Alexis Ren’s Facebook page

Originally published: May 26, 2017
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