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05/01/2018 13:03 EDT | Updated 05/01/2018 13:03 EDT

Eating Disorder Campaign Shows That Recovery Is Hard, But Possible

The campaign comes just in time for Eating Recovery Day.

The hashtag #MyRecoveryLetter is changing the conversation around eating disorders. Rather than raising awareness of the illnesses, the social media campaign wants to let those who are struggling know that recovery is possible.

"We see pictures of people at very low weights with warnings about not engaging in eating disorder behaviours. I'm not convinced that helps anyone," Dr. Ashley Solomon, the executive clinical director at Colorado's Eating Recovery Center, told Teen Vogue.

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"It's crucial for people to see recovery reflected in others," she continued. "While recovery will look different for every individual, seeing what it means to be recovered in other people is a starting point for envisioning it for one's self."

The Eating Recovery Center, a facility that helps people with eating disorders, started the social media campaign to mark Eating Recovery Day on May 1. While the hashtag is new, it's already encouraged some people to open up about what recovery looks like for them.

"I think what recovery is at the end of the day, is learning how to live in a world where your life is a flexible definition of 'OK,'" U.S. writer and recoveree Lindsey Hall revealed in a blog to support the campaign. "To live presently in the hazy grey of the non-black and white life you've chosen through recovery."

I live in the gray - and today it was a surreal feeling to see a letter of mine published on @neda, in support of @eatingrecovery #MyRecoveryLetter campaign. • In 2013, I wrote "I'll die if I keep living this way. I'll lose everything. Have to make my life better. Do whatever you need to do to make your life better. Run for f*cking ever if it'll make it all better." • Flash forward 2018: sitting here waiting on cookies in the oven, smiling sadly as I write this - because those feelings were once all so very real. • And, I hate to admit, still creep into conscious. Anorexia is always still real. This published letter comes on the cusp of one of those eating disorder battles we often deal with in recovery: exercise. To work out or... work out 3x, eat ONLY this or that, and MUST-SEE-RESULTS-IMMEDIATELY-SO-I'LL-EAT-LESS. • I am prone to this sort of behavior. • My friends noticed; my partner; my parents last weekend. I knew - but haven't cared - until I saw their eyes. • It's the way this cycle goes. Manipulation. I think if I work out a couple times a day, but do "different" exercise - it's not the same. • It's "eating clean," it's "more alert" at work. • It's a battle - the mentality. When your brain feels one way about hunger - easy to revert. • Want to be honest, because otherwise - what's the point in having anything written or published. • Admittedly, I waited until I "dug out" of this little shit storm to write about it - but I think, sometimes, we can't depend on others to reframe our situations. • You have to want to do it differently. I didn't want to for a month. Now, I do. Tired again by the inflexibility of 2-3x work outs and google searches. • Wasn't worth it - but had to remember it for me - bc damn sometimes it feels like it is. • Perhaps, I grew a lil bit stronger for the next round. Punching and flowing through what it means to be present and alive in this one tiny life. • Forever in the grey - love you all, and everyone out there "digging out" and living the flexible okay. • #edfam #recovery #edfamily #edrecovery #prorecovery #flexiblerecovery #edrecovery #recoveryfamily #anarecovery #anorexiarecovery #bopo #bodypositive #pcos #recoveryfam

A post shared by Lindsey Hall (@lindseyhallwrites) on

Kara Whitely, another recoveree, used the hashtag to pay tribute to the sun, which she thanked for helping her on her journey.

"As long as you are there, showing up every day and shining as you do, it is worth doing the work of recovery," she said, according to the Eating Recovery Center.

In addition to encouraging people to celebrate their recovery, #MyRecoveryLetter also lets others know that they are not alone.

"Recovery happens in community," Dr. Solomon told Teen Vogue. "Whether that's an eating disorder treatment community, a family, or another type of community, connection is an important ingredient in creating a life outside of the eating disorder."

Eating disorders are characterized by being obsessed with food and body weight. The most common disorders include anorexia, bulimia and binge eating.

In 2005, more than 500,000 Canadians suffered from some type of eating disorder, reports the Canadian Mental Health Association. According to CTV News, eating disorders were on the rise in 2013.

That year, the news outlet reported that hospitals and clinics said there had been an increased number of adults, teens and children seeking help for eating disorders, with most patients being women.

A 2016 study confirmed that women are more likely than men to have brain activity related to negative body perception, thus making them more vulnerable to eating disorders. Additionally, a 2004 study found that the media contributes to body dissatisfaction in women and girls, and can also contribute to the development of eating disorders.

However, there are resources available for those who are struggling. The National Eating Disorder Information Centre, for instance, has a helpline (1-866-633-4220), a service directory that can be searched by province, and an instant chat function on their website for people looking for immediate help.

Additionally, the National Initiative for Eating Disorders provides links to resources for treatment and support.

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