Instagram Helped One Woman Overcome An Eating Disorder, And Now She's Inspiring Others

“I didn’t know it was an option to embrace a round belly.”

There's a side of social media that can cause some serious anxiety; you know, that space where you scroll down timelines of perfectly curated lives filled with cute lattes, luxurious (and frequent) vacations, and flawless hair? — unlike the imperfect reality most of us actually live. But then there's this other side of social media  — an empowering side, full of vulnerable truths and relatable content that helps us breath just a little bit easier. Body-positive influencer Megan Crabbe straddled between the two worlds of social media before ultimately finding a space where she could uplift others and find healing from her own pain.

Throughout her teen years and early 20s, Crabbe suffered a years-long battle with anorexia and bulimia. In 2014, the Colchester, England native took to Instagram to engage in the budding body-positive movement in hopes of recovering from her eating disorder, and feel better about herself. After discovering a community of influential body positive personalities, Crabbe decided to do away with yo-yo dieting and begin a new journey of self-love. Years later, the now 24-year-old is author of new book Body Positive Power and a beacon of inspiration to her 900,000+ followers on Instagram under her @BodyPosiPanda account. 

In her personal essay for Cosmopolitan, Crabbe shared how she overcame her eating disorder through social media.  Her @BodyPosiPanda account is a gallery full of body diversity, powerful images redefining beauty, and intimate photos of Crabbe proudly flaunting her curves. "While researching bopo accounts, I saw women of different shapes showing off their stomachs on Instagram," Crabbe wrote about her discovery of the #bopo movement. "I was shocked. I didn't know it was an option to embrace a round belly — and I certainly didn't think it was possible for me to love mine if it wasn't flat."

While from the outside, the body-positive activist appears to be the epitome of confidence, Crabbe admits that her insecurities still plagued her. "When I started @BodyPosiPanda, named for my love of pandas, in February 2014, I vowed never to diet again, and used Instagram to stay accountable by becoming friends with others in the bopo community," she told the publication. "They encouraged me to keep up the body-positive posts and to love myself just as I am. But at the time, I was still insecure: I wouldn't load a picture if I didn't think I looked good and I posed to make myself look better. I loved the message of body positivity, but I still had a hard time seeing my weight as a positive thing."

Crabbe succumbed to the pressure of social media's obsession with perfection, something so many people can relate to.  She found herself conflicted between posting popular content and things she truly cared about like body-positive community who have disabilities." As BodyPosiPanda gained more followers, Crabbe realized she had to decide to be true to herself and to all of her followers. "I had to fight tying my self-worth to my number of followers, likes, and comments — just as I did with the number on the scale," she wrote in her essay.  After posting content more authentic to her interests, albeit less crowd-pleasing, Crabbe saw that it did no harm to her page. "Being inauthentic is more stress than it's worth," she said.

Her authenticity is what truly inspires her followers anyway as commenters frequently express how her openness helps them in their own lives.

"Good message you're giving. You're a great motivator beautiful inside and out," said one follower. 

"Such an amazing story, I also struggle with this,"said another.

"I needed to read this! I've been struggling with the same feelings my whole adult life, even more so since having my daughter. Last night I jiggled my soft, floppy tummy around in the bath with her and it made her laugh uncontrollably. It made me accept it that bit more! I need to take a leaf out of your book and stop obsessing and start living fully," shared another commenter.

Crabbe's story reminds us a lot of other body positive influencers who've bravely spoke out about their struggles with self-esteem and health. Owning her entire being —not only her physical appearance but also all that she is on the inside, too — through expressive posts and beautifully unapologetic photographs, Crabbe has found a safe space, and, in turn, is helping create a safe space for others. "Healing from an eating disorder is a strange thing," she wrote. "Because sometimes I think that I'm completely healed, and something will happen and I uncover a bit of pain from my past and have to deal with that. But after three years of BodyPosiPanda, it's clear to me that I'm never going back to dieting."

Read Crabbe's full essay on Cosmopolitan

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