An Instagram post proves people with eating disorders don’t always look “scary skinny”

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The words ‘anorexia’ or ‘eating disorder’ tend to paint a very specific picture in people’s minds of stick thin girls with their ribs poking through their skin and a gaunt face. However, that picture doesn’t always reflect reality, as body positive Instagram user Carissa Seligman showed the world this week.

In a single post, Seligman showed that the stereotypes surrounding eating disorders are often inaccurate and can even be detrimental to those who aren’t thin enough for doctors and others to take them seriously.

Carissa, an IT consultant from Washington, D.C., shared before-and-after comparison pictures. The first was taken 12 years ago when she was struggling with an eating disorder and the image on the right was taken recently, after her recovery.

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. But what you see on the outside doesn't always translate to what is going on inside. . . The minute I saw the photo on the left I said "oh, that was me after my eating disorder." Well that's not true. That's not even kind of true. Yes, this picture was taken AFTER I started eating again… probably the year after… but I was very much IN my eating disorder. 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. 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. So not only was I unhappy without really knowing it, BUT I was gaining weight which at the time was my worst nightmare. And I was doing anything I could to lose it again. . . I wish I could tell you that I solved it; that I found a solution and started to look and feel great VERY quickly… but that's just not true. The photo on the left was taken in 2005. Up until 2016, I was trying to get back to the weight I was during my 4 month starvation period. 11 YEARS! 11 years of having a terrible relationship with food, my body, and my mind. But it isn't like that now! I FINALLY started to develop a healthy relationship with food, which is why i wrote this. Because I really hope it doesn't take you 11 years to start to feel better. . . In 2016, a few things happened. 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 bandaid. 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. AND I'M SO VERY GRATEFUL. . . 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.

A post shared by Carissa S (@carissasweatstagram) on

In her caption, she describes how she struggled with a cycle of binging and restricting food to cope with her emotions at the time.

“I had gone through a four-ish month period of starving myself and surviving solely on caffeine and crackers,” Seligman revealed. “Then, I started eating again and could not stop. 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. So not only was I unhappy without really knowing it, BUT I was gaining weight which at the time was my worst nightmare. And I was doing anything I could to lose it again.”

She elaborated on this period while talking to PEOPLE, saying “If I was sad, I ate then beat myself up for it. If I was happy, I didn’t eat because I didn’t need satisfaction from food. But no matter where I was or what I was doing, how I felt directly related to food.”

While the first picture was taken in 2005, Seligman says her path to recovery didn’t start until much later. It took “11 years of having a terrible relationship with food, my body, and my mind.”

Carissa says the turning point came with realizing her talents at her job, leading to increased self-esteem. This, in turn, helped her to stop using alcohol and food to mask her self-doubt and body image issues.

“I FINALLY started to develop a healthy relationship with food, which is why I wrote this. Because I really hope it doesn’t take you 11 years to start to feel better,” she explains in her post.

Most importantly, Seligman wants other to realize that people with eating disorders aren’t always the ones who look “scary skinny.”

“What you see on the outside doesn’t always translate to what is going on inside,” Carissa writes.

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