Amalie Lee developed an eating disorder in 2012 but it was not until 2013 that she was severely underweight resulting in her health rapidly declining. The “Redefining Healthy” blogger knew in order to save her life she needed professional help. In 2014, the 20-year-old college student decided to document her harrowing journey with anorexia in an attempt to help others suffering from eating disorders. The Instagram star, who currently has 50,000 followers, spoke to FOX411 about her quest to “inspire others, spread awareness, and break societal taboos.”
FOX411: Why did you decide to share your eating disorder struggles on social media?
Amalie Lee: I decided to be open about my recovery process in the hopes that it would help and inspire others in the same situation. It was, and still is, important for me to be honest and open to show people they are not alone in their struggles. I have shared very personal and unglamorous things including photos of my bloated stomach and some of the delusions I experienced when I was sick. Exposing myself in this way has been challenging, but I do not want to create a fake image of myself and recovery. And when I receive feedback that my story has helped others, I know showing my vulnerabilities is worth it.
FOX411: What is the current status of your recovery?
Lee: Like the majority of people living with eating disorders, I was not always visibly sick. Most are actually normal weight or overweight. I became weight restored in 2014 but recovery is an ongoing process, and the mental recovery is the hardest and most enduring part. I am now better than I have been in a long time, but traces and scars of my disorder remain. A healthy body does not necessarily equal a healthy mind, but in my case my mind is healthier than I could ever have wished for three years ago.
FOX411: How have people responded to you?
Lee: Most reactions to sharing my story have been positive – an overwhelming majority, in fact. People are very respectful, positive and supportive. This makes it easier to deal with the rarer rude and abusive comments I do receive at times. I care very much about my Instagram followers. I communicate with them, listen to them, I have even met several of them. They are not numbers, but human beings. Some of the people I consider my closest friends today; friendships with people whom I have spent countless hours actually began with an Instagram follow. How amazing is that?
FOX411: Do you think the fashion industry and media for placing an unrealistic body standard on women?
Lee: I do not believe the fashion industry or media cause eating disorders. Nevertheless, unrealistic standards, heavy photoshopping and lack of body diversity is a problem, and can trigger vulnerable individuals to pursue unhealthy behaviors. When the media is focused heavily on promoting only one male and one female body type – far removed from the average person – it can send a message that we must conform to these ideals in order to be happy and feel accepted. This simply isn’t true. I believe people can be healthy at different shapes and sizes. Some people are naturally thin, others are naturally bigger. It is okay – and so normal – not to fit these biased templates society portrays as ideal.
FOX411: The Internet is chock full on “thin-spiration” and “pro-anorexia” sites aiming to encourage unhealthy lifestyles. Do you think they should be banned?
Lee: I believe pro-eating disorder sites should be banned as they create toxic environments in which eating disorders thrive. Tips and tricks are shared, and photos of emaciated bodies are praised. Eating disorders must be fought against, not promoted. Despite social media platforms attempting to ban pro-eating disorder content, it is a difficult endeavor. To counter the pro-eating disorder community, I created a movement through the hashtag #realcovery to promote and share the potential everyone has for achieving a healthy and full recovery.
Diana Falzone is a FoxNews.com reporter. You can follow her on Twitter @dianafalzone.