Anorexia Survivor Shows Disordered Eating Doesn't Always Look 'Scary Skinny'
Carissa Seligman wants people to know that eating disorders look different on everyone — and not every person afflicted appears “scary skinny.”
The body positive Instagrammer and IT consultant from Washington, D.C., shared two photos of herself on Sunday — one from 12 years ago, when she battled with disordered eating, and one now, when she has a healthy body image.
Seligman’s food issues started at a young age, and developed into an eating disorder as a teenager.
“I thought that thinner meant better,” Seligman, 29, tells PEOPLE. “I had been a dancer since I was 3 years old and spent a lot of time comparing my body to the bodies around me in full length mirrors five days a week. I remember watching girls and women be praised for losing weight or being small so I thought that meant skinny was better.”
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For four months at age 17, she “starved” herself with meals of caffeine and crackers. She eventually started eating again, but that triggered a cycle of disordered eating for 11 years.
“It felt like everything thing I did and everything I was centered around food and my size,” Seligman says of those years. “If I was sad, I ate then beat myself up for it. If I was happy, I didn’t eat because I didn’t need satisfaction from food. But no matter where I was or what I was doing, how I felt directly related to food.”
It was only last year that she started her recovery, which succeeded in part thanks to her fitness community.
“I got back to what felt good to me,” Seligman says. “I started to exercise six days a week, and that felt really good.”
“I struggled in the beginning because I was not eating enough to fuel my workouts or daily activities. But thanks to my fitness community, I started to learn what real food can do for your body. I started to see the value of being strong and realized that only with the help of food could I feel my absolute best. I began to value things about myself that had nothing to do with my appearance. The aesthetics came second, and feeling whole inside came first.”
Now in a place where she “loves” her body, Seligman hopes to help people who are struggling.
“If you are struggling with your body image, talk to someone,” she advises. “This isn’t something you have to deal with alone … If you are waiting to look a certain way before you prioritize your health, you may miss out on your life.”