At Aflete we know that just as many strive for the perfect body that can mean many different things to different people but protecting our health must always come first.
Mental illness and health and fitness aren’t often spoken about together but through the brave story of a young woman from the UK we can see how important it is to acknowledge and raise awareness of illness.
Anorexia nervosa and bulimia are amongst the most damaging conditions, particularly for young people, and are often coupled with depression and low self-esteem. Eating disorder can affect both men and women and cases in the UK and around the world are rising.
However there is very little media coverage of eating disorder and even less of the hugely positive Recovery communities where people who have overcome or are still overcoming eating disorders can find community and support in each other.
Aflete was very fortunate to speak to Hannah, an inspiration young woman not just recovering from her own struggles with eating disorders but also actively supporting and helping thousands of other young people through her positive recovery social median accounts.
Hannah is a truly special person and Aflete wanted to recognise her amazing recovery and support of others through this interview…
Q For those that don’t know you from your social media can you give us a quick intro?
Hello ^_^ My name is Hannah and I’m 18 years old. I’ve been officially diagnosed with an eating disorder since the age of 14 but my problems with food and weight started at a much younger age. Throughout my childhood I suffered with severe anxiety that caused me to vomit with nerves multiple times a day. At 14, I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, depression and social phobia and just before my 18th birthday, I developed bulimia nervosa too. Anyways, right now I’m in the strongest place I’ve ever been in and I can definitely say I’m almost fully recovered. I’m at a healthy weight, I absolutely love food again, I have a job I adore and I grow in confidence every single day. I’m obsessed with Japanese culture and anything cute, colourful and kawaii.
Q We found your page so inspirational and uplifting and you have a lot of cute food pictures – what are your favourite foods to eat?
Oh my gosh, thank you! My favourite foods… Hmm, this is tough because I love so many! I would say pizza and pasta because who doesn’t love Italian? Also I’m addicted to protein bars because they taste like you’re having a treat but they’re actually really good for you!
Q Do you do any cooking yourself? What food do you enjoy making?
I love to cook but since I got my job (I’m a dental nurse so sometimes I don’t get home until late) I’ve had to hand over some cooking responsibility to my Mum. But that’s been a good thing for me because it’s enabled me to trust other people to make me food. Previously I wouldn’t let anybody even touch my food and it used to cause a lot of silly arguments. I’m glad I’m a lot more relaxed now, I’ve come to realise that it can be wonderful to have others cook for you! When I do get the chance to cook I make comforting, simple home favourites like spaghetti bolognese or stir fries. I’m a vegetarian so Quorn products are my saviour! I also love to bake with my Mum and now I’m recovering I can lick the spoon and not feel guilty because that’s the best part of baking, right!
Q Did social media play any part in your recovery?
Social media, particularly Instagram, has played a monumental part in my recovery. Before I joined Instagram I was trapped in “pseudo-recovery”. I wanted to be happy and enjoy food again but I wanted to do so without gaining any weight. I was still quite heavily restricting my calories and still worryingly underweight and terrified of gaining even a single pound or eating even a single extra calorie or gram of fat. But when I discovered the Instagram eating disorder recovery community, my life changed. I connected with thousands of people all over the world going through the exact same things as me. I saw how other people were using food to aid their recovery and repair their bodies and wanted to do the same. So I did just that and started to document my journey towards building a positive relationship with food.
Q Do you find the community aspect of social media to be helpful?
Extremely helpful. Instagram made me realise that I am not alone. No matter what time of day or night, there is always someone I can turn to for advice, to rant to or just to chat with. At the same time, sometimes Instagram can be a little bit triggering and arguments can erupt because people don’t take as much responsibility for what they’re saying and sharing when they’re safely hidden behind a phone screen or computer keyboard. Also, being in a community of thousands and thousands of young people, all with mental health issues… It can make you feel like having an eating disorder is the “norm” and you can kind of become obsessed with taking pictures of your food and checking how other people are doing. As long as you remember that the internet is just a small part of your life and you have other important interests besides social media, you’re fine. You have to remember that having an eating disorder or other mental health issue doesn’t define you, you can’t let it poison your mind and take you over. I’ve also used Instagram to meet recovery pen pals from Asia, Africa, America and Europe! It’s so great to write letters to people and send special little gifts. Pen palling is a dying day these days so I’m proud to say I’m one of the few people keeping it alive.
Q Do you think existing social media is mainly positive or negative factor in people having a healthy body image?
Dang, another tough question ^_< In a world of cyber bullying, “pro ana” websites and the like, there are always going to be problems. Especially when young people are so fragile and easily influenced. But while the internet can be used to make people feel bad about their bodies, in the case of the Instagram recovery community, it can also be used to build a positive body image and aid recovery from a mental illness. It depends how you use social media and what types of things you seek out and associate with.
Q You have a really awesome and positive profile – was your motivation to use social media to showcase your food, life and recovery for yourself, for other people who have had eating disorder (to inspire them) or a combination of the two?
Thank you again!! I like to keep my pictures colourful, cute and cheerful by using photo editing apps to apply little stickers, stamps and borders. I mainly do it for myself, because it helps me to retain a positive attitude towards my food and my progress. At the same time, I love interacting with my followers and friends. When people tell me I’ve inspired them, cheered them up or made them think, it absolutely makes my day!
Q Do you think a social platform dedicated to food, health and fitness could be a positive influence for people with eating disorder and people who have recovered from eating disorder?
Absolutely. As long as the platform isn’t too focused on weight loss and strict dieting, it can definitely be used by people who are recovering or recovered to gain and maintain a healthy, happy relationship with food, their bodies and their mind. Sharing tips on staying healthy, building fitness and feeling well can benefit everyone!
Q Is there any key feature you would like in social media that we don’t have? What would improve the experience for you?
Hmm… I’ve always thought it might be a good idea if there was some way you could key in your interests (such as favourite films, hobbies, likes, dislikes etc) and search for others with similar interests so you could pair up and make friends with people just like you.
Q What advice would you have for someone who may be experiencing eating disorder or in early stages of recovery – were there any websites or information that was beneficial for you that you would like to share?
Some websites other than Instagram that have helped me to no end are youreatopia.com and fyoured.com. Both provide positive encouragement and advice about gaining back weight and rebuilding healthy relationships with food and body image. If you think you’re struggling with food or weight at all, I would wholeheartedly encourage you to speak to someone. Don’t let it eat away at you (if you’ll pardon the pun). Your parents, a close friend, your doctor. You deserve help no matter what your weight is, don’t eve believe that you aren’t “sick enough”.
Q How can people keep up to date with you and follow your recovery motivation?
My Instagram username is @nomnomfreedom and I also have a recovery/positive affirmation Twitter account (@posirecovery) as well as a personal Twitter account (@superhantendo). I’d be so, so grateful for new followers ✿◠‿◠
We are incredibly thankful to Hanna for giving us such an open and honest insight into her life and her views as a young lady recovering from eating disorder.
The fact that she supports so many and in turn receives their support shows that social media can actually be beneficial in building positive communities.
We wish Hanna every possible success with her recovery and her career, and we how to be back with more from Hannah soon.
Make sure to follow Hanna on Instagram @nomnomfreedom She has 3,871 followers and Twitter @posirecovery which she has 2,115 followers on, to keep up with her recovery and help with yours!