Why did this worry me?
As someone who is awkwardly tall and thin, I have received my fair share of condescending weight comments and have always been self-conscious about it. Thus, when I started seeing all these Instagram followers, I freaked out. My thought process was as follows: Is my blog the new hangout for teenage girls with eating disorders? What does that say about my blog? About me? Do they think my blog is diet food? Do my friends and family think that my blog is diet food? Do my friends and family think I am eating oatmeal to diet?! Do my friends and family think *I* have an eating disorder!?
I suffered silently with these thoughts for months until I collaborated with Charlotte, May’s Oatmeal Enthusiast. She wrote:
I have struggled with an eating disorder for 8 long years, but it got very bad in 2011. My anorexia took over my life, and I was no longer able to enjoy food. I found Lauren’s blog in 2012, and even though I was still very much in denial and did not want to get better at all, there was something about those delicious looking oatmeal recipes that caught my attention! I suddenly had an interest in food again, which was both scary and exciting. I started experimenting with my breakfasts, and although I was too afraid to follow the actual recipes, it was still a step in the right direction.
I went inpatient for 4 months in the summer of 2012, and as I was getting better all I could think about was going home and finally be able to try all of the recipes on The Oatmeal Artist’s blog. Unfortunately I had a very bad relapse, but even through that relapse I continued to eat oatmeal almost every single morning, and that was without a doubt one of the reasons I made it through. Today I consider myself recovered, and Lauren’s blog has definitely helped me get to where I am now.
I heard similar narratives from many other young ladies, all with the same point: my blog helped them recover, not fuel the disorder. I then recognized that the Instagram handles I was seeing all discussed recovery; these were victims of EDs who were using online communities to overcome their tough relationships with food.
I recently read this article on Buzzfeed called “Teenage Girls are Using Instagram to Fix their Relationships with Food.” By the title alone, this article struck a chord with me. Considering that the majority of the pictures tagged #oatmealartist on Instagram also contain hashtags like #EDrecovery, I have personally witnessed this trend. The article states:
“I think sometimes that people (me included) get so caught up on having what some might regard as the perfect and healthy diet, that they forget that it is also very important to have a healthy mentality towards food and not be obsessive,” wrote 15-year-old Tina, who recently shared a bowl of oatmeal cooked with artfully displayed raspberries, banana, sesame seeds, cacao nibs, medjool dates, and homemade chocolate almond butter to her 45,000 followers.
[…] Aside from purported health benefits — less bloating, more energy, clearer skin, etc. — popular users said the practice was therapeutic, not just because it helped suppress the urge to diet but because it made eating fun instead of traumatic.