health

A very, very different kind of body transformation photo.

We’re tired of being swamped with unhealthy #thinspiration images, how about you?

When a 23-year-old woman named Kara saw people on a weight loss Reddit page uploading their diet progress photos, she decided it was time to share hers.

Like many of the other before-and-after images in the ProgressPics thread – and on the internet more generally – Kara is depicted at home, wearing everyday clothes, smiling down the lens. But that’s about where the similarities end.

Because Kara’s photos don’t reflect a typical weight loss transformation; rather, they document her ongoing recovery from anorexia nervosa.

The first photo was taken 20 months before the other.

In an interview with Today.com, Kara explains there were two main reasons behind her decision to post the photos in a forum thousands of people around the world access every day.

“Firstly it was just to share my story, seek support and provide encouragement to those dealing with eating disorders. When one is in the depth of an eating disorder, the idea of weight gain is absolutely terrifying and seeing examples of people who have [gained weight] and appear confident and reasonably at peace with their ‘new’ body can’t be anything but good,” she says.

Read more: The eating disorder you’ve never heard of that is leaving women comatose. 

“Secondly, it was a way to challenge or balance the abundance of messages telling people that they need to constantly be striving for weight loss. Media seems to tie health and happiness to losing weight when, in reality, it is so much more complex than that. There are so many paths to health and happiness and the journey is different for everyone.”

Clearly the images have struck a nerve; so far they’ve garnered over 1800 comments, mostly supportive of Kara’s ongoing path to recovery.

Kara’s struggle with anorexia began when she was in Year 11; since then, she’s been continuously in and out of hospital. She says her most recent hospital stint differed from those before it because she went in completely exhausted and disappointed by how her life had been impacted by her “vicious” illness.

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“I’m 23 with no real life experience! I’ve never seriously dated. I still haven’t finished the university degree I started at 17. I haven’t seen the world. I know I’m destined for so much more and I know none of that is possible as long as I continue to let myself be a slave to mental illness,” Kara tells Today.

Opinion: #Fitspo: 2015’s most dangerous body image movement.

It’s clear from her before and after photos that Kara has made great progress in overcoming her illness; she credits the endless support of her family as a huge factor in her recovery. But she still has days where she feels weak — particularly during times when she’s been recently discharged from hospital.

“In the hospital you don’t have much of a choice except to eat, but out in the real world you suddenly have the opportunity to go back to bad habits. I have to actively choose, at every single meal and snack, to eat what I know I’m supposed to, while in the hospital I could be a lot more passive and just kind of accept the food that arrived, pre-measured and portioned,” she explains.

Keep reading: Former tennis legend speaks about her eating disorder for the first time.

“I’m not perfect and neither is my recovery. Some days I do find myself slipping. I’ll start counting calories; I’ll scrape a little bit of food away from what I know is the ‘appropriate’ portion, etc. But I usually catch myself and keep it from becoming a dangerous pattern. Every meal is a new opportunity to show my eating disorder who is really in control.”

She urges anyone grappling with an eating disorder – or even the signs of one – to speak up.

“If you feel like you are suffering because of an unhealthy relationship with food and your body, seek help! Don’t deny yourself help because you don’t think your case is serious enough or because you are afraid of change,” Kara says.

For help and support for eating disorders, contact the Butterfly Foundation‘s National Support line and online service on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673) or at [email protected]

This post first appeared on The Glow. You can read the original here.

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