7 Top Influencers to Follow for Eating Disorder Recovery

You're not in this alone

Each year, the National Eating Disorders Association celebrates National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, a movement intended to support those at any stage of their eating disorder (ED) and to educate communities on EDs, which are often overlooked and misunderstood mental illnesses. While there are common traits that exist among the many different types of eating disorders—such as bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and anorexia nervosa—each person's experience is unique.

Education on EDs is often curtailed by cultural stigmas about body image, weight, race, gender, economic status, and more, leaving many people unaware of what they are and whom they affect. Misinformation often prevents someone with an ED from asking for help or even feeling that they deserve it.

While society's troublesome framework surrounding food and body image plays a role, in reality, EDs are brought on by a combination of biological, social, psychological, and environmental influences—people don't simply choose to have them.

Social media can be triggering for those with EDs, but there's also a ton of inspiring content out there if you know where to look. Here’s our list of the top seven influencers to follow for ED recovery; they'll remind you that no matter where you are now, you can have a more positive, accepting, and loving relationship with food, with your body, and with yourself.

1

Ryan Sheldon

Ryan Sheldon

Instagram / @realryansheldon

Ryan was already in therapy for years and his eating disorder was never a topic of conversation—that is, until a friend suggested it to him. “When I was diagnosed, there were no men publicly speaking about their eating disorders, so I wasn’t able to relate to anyone.” His journey includes struggling with binge eating disorder and body dysmorphic disorder.

“My biggest motivator to enter recovery was when I hit rock bottom. I lost my job, I was in debt, and I hated myself—and all of this was due to my eating disorder. I thought that there was nothing I could do.” —Ryan Sheldon

Ryan's messaging on Instagram is to love yourself just as you are without conditions. His captions detail some of his “darkest and most vulnerable moments” that tell how he's learning to respect himself through it all: toxic relationships, fat shaming, weight stigmas, and false tropes about masculinity. Ryan says, “The reality is, is so many people struggle with mental health issues and eating disorders are a mental health issue.”

Ryan is the chair of the ambassador program at NEDA, a brawn model, and a motivational speaker. He also has an upcoming digital series called States of Perception: Body Image.

2

Nia Patterson

Nia Patterson

Nia was diagnosed with bulimia nervosa after she found herself struggling with a consistent cycle of bingeing and purging by restricting the food she ate following a binge. Finding a support group near her was crucial for her to understand her ED and learn to empower herself for recovery. “It really showed me what eating disorders look like and how so many different people can have them.” 

“My support group challenged me on what I thought was normal behavior to see it as behaviors that were part of my eating disorder.” —Nia Patterson

Nia emphasizes the importance of sharing everyone's stories in the ED community. “We need to get people to see that fat men, trans people, ‘average-bodied’ black women, and more, can and do have eating disorders. When we're sharing these people's stories, we're letting other people in marginalized bodies see that they can start recovery, too.”

3

Sam Dylan Finch

Sam Dylan Finch

Instagram / @samdylanfinch

Sam opens up about how difficult it can be to realize that you need treatment for your eating disorder. In the midst of struggling with anorexia, he got a promotion at work and his doctor even praised him for his weight loss, which reinforces the idea that your environment may never reflect what's really going on with your ED.

“It’s such an important reminder that a number on the scale doesn’t determine our health, our happiness, or our worth. If it did, anorexia should’ve made me stronger. In reality, it robbed me of everything that made my life worth living.” —Sam Dylan Finch

He notes that Instagram, when used thoughtfully, can be a useful tool during recovery. “I believe that Instagram can be hugely helpful in recovery as long as people are mindful of how they use it. I focus mostly on following fat positive and 'Health at Every Size' accounts, as well as mental health advocates and therapists that offer an uplifting and empowering perspective.”

As a transgender person with an ED, Sam's account is full of his own original, meaningful thoughts about recognizing stigmas, releasing insecurities, feeling the pain and joy of healing, and honoring yourself above all. “EDs are so, so prevalent in our [transgender] community, but it can be difficult to find people who are able to talk about it openly.” 

4

Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C

Jennifer Rollin

Instagram / @jennifer_rollin  

Jennifer speaks to us about the most effective ways she was able to challenge her own eating disorder. By reframing her thoughts and reshaping her environment, she gained a better perspective that would actually serve her and benefit her healing. Now, she uses these same strategies to help her clients. Jennifer is an eating disorder therapist and founder of The Eating Disorder Center.

“The most rewarding parts were being able to get glimpses of freedom, to challenge some of my fears around food and exercise…and eventually to be able to feel a sense peace around food, my body, and ultimately myself.” —Jennifer Rollin

Jennifer knows through experience that it's key for anyone with an ED to find the right support system for themselves, whether that is following encouraging Instagram accounts (avoiding fitness accounts that perpetuate disordered or unrealistic ways of thinking about food) or finding a therapist or a mentor.

5

Gina Susanna

Gina Susanna

Instagram / @nourishandeat

Gina's struggle with anorexia and sharing it on social media led her to many realizations, among them, her own privilege. Plenty of people, she notes, struggle to be heard by their doctors or therapists that they have an eating disorder. Since there's a stereotype that EDs only exist among thin, white females, Gina became more aware of the need to counter that.

“Yes of course my struggles are real, and of course they matter," she says, "but they don’t matter more than the millions of people who are actively harmed and erased by a society that only listens to people who look like me.”

How does Gina recommend navigating Instagram for ED recovery? “Diversify your feed! Follow people who don’t look like you. Follow fat activists, plus size models, people challenging the beauty ideal, people who are rioting against oppressive racism, ableism, and other harmful standards," she says.

"I think recovery has to be something you choose for yourself. If you don’t believe you’re worthy of recovery, deep down there’s always going to be a part of you that wants to stay sick, and that voice will always keep trying to sabotage you." —Gina Susanna

At the same time, Gina warns, "Unfollow people [on Instagram] who promote diet culture mentality, sell skinny teas, or participate in rhetoric that’s harmful or hateful.”'

6

Vaughn Darst, MS, RD

Vaughn Darst

Instagram / @allgendernutrition 

Vaughn Darst is a nonbinary and trans nutrition therapist. In his TedTalk, In a World That Isn't Right About Us, he opens up about his personal experiences with an eating disorder since childhood. Vaughn discusses how he was aware by the age of eight that his own gender identity was being silenced by the world he lived in. He began binge eating as a way to "fill the empty spaces."

Put on a diet and gym regimen by the age of 10, Vaughn's relationship with food became restrictive when he realized that, to exist as he was, he was rendered completely invisible. In order to be noticed and accepted by society, he could restrict his eating and compulsively exercise to present as a more typical "female" body.

“In our culture, we’re taught that being fat is a personal flaw.” —Vaughn Darst

“The most beautiful things about me are my broken pieces,” he says. His experience with recovery from his eating disorder and his journey toward identifying as a trans person enables him now to coach kids of all ages in the LGBTQ+ community, who are four times as likely to develop eating disorders as the average child.

7

NEDA

NEDA

Instagram / @neda

The National Eating Disorders Organization was founded in 2001, and since then, has made strides in raising awareness and building a support community for those with EDs. Chelsea Kronengold, communications manager at NEDA, speaks to us about the organization's goals. "The eating disorders community has made so much progress over the last five to 10 years," she says, "yet we still have a long way to go until folks recognize:

  • Eating disorders are not a fad or choice; they are serious and complex illnesses that stem from a variety of biological, psychological and social factors.
  • Eating disorders do not discriminate; anyone in any sized body can have any type of eating disorder."

NEDA approaches eating disorders through a "social justice lens," meaning that they appreciate the intersection of EDs with other aspects of a person's identity such as race, gender, sex, socioeconomic status, and more.

Chelsea says, "My hope is that people will begin to understand and respect the experiences of folks who are different from them, and find inspiration and hope from the stories that resonate with their experience."

Want to be a part of the change? Try visiting the Get Involved section of the NEDA website. NEDA hosts annual awareness campaigns like NEDAwareness Week and Weight Stigma Awareness Week, as well as regional conferences, NEDA walks, legislative advocacy, and more, all supported by their NEDA Ambassadors.

If you or someone you know is struggling with body image or eating concerns, feel free to call NEDA’s toll-free, confidential Helpline by phone (800-931-2237) and their click-to-chat message. Crisis support is also available via text message by texting NEDA to 741741.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.