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It's hard enough to seek help for an eating disorder, a complex mental illness with all of the accompanying stigma. It's especially hard if you don't fit the popular notion of what an eating disorder patient looks like. Many struggle silently for longer than they need to, believing they aren't "sick enough" or fearing they won't be taken seriously if they do ask for help.
In a recent Instagram post, fitness influencer Carissa Seligman took the opportunity to remind us that you can't always tell what's going on inside by what you see on the outside. Seligman, who struggled with disordered eating for 11 years, used before-and-after photos to challenge beliefs about eating disorders and appearance.
"The girl with the eating disorder isn't always the one who looks 'scary skinny.' In fact, she may not even be the thinnest in the room," Seligman, an IT consultant from Washington, D.C., wrote. "But what you see on the outside doesn't always translate to what is going on inside."
Seligman's first photo depicts her at a time when many — including her, at first — believed her to be recovered from anorexia. In reality, her ongoing mental health issues were just masked by new, yet still problematic behaviors.
"I had gone through a 4ish month period of starving myself and surviving solely on caffeine and crackers. Then, I started eating again and could. not. stop," Seligman explained. "I felt awful. None of the things that spurred my starvation period had been solved, discovered, or discussed and I began to use food to fill a hole."
Seligman spent a whopping 11 years trying to fight her way back down to her starvation weight. But last year, something finally clicked, and Seligman began to embrace what she calls a truly "healthy" lifestyle.
"In 2016, a few things happened," Seligman wrote. "I got serious about my career and realized that I was good at what I did. Having that, contributed to my self-worth and self-esteem. I stopped drinking and using alcohol as a Band-Aid. I was finally free to find things that brought me joy. I got back to moving, getting stronger, & feeling better. Food became an ally in my life. And now, here I am feeling and looking better than I ever have."
She added, "Self-love is WORK. I wish I could tell you otherwise, but I can't. There's no quick fix or simple solution. The inside has to be good before the outside will be anything you can love."
Since being posted on September 24, the post has gathered more than 2,300 likes.
We applaud Seligman for so vulnerably sharing her journey. Here's hoping others can find comfort in her words and inspiration from her newfound sense of balance.