Influencer Ali Bonar says she’s putting the “Insta” back in Instagram. She makes an effort to talk to her followers about the things she’s going through in real time, rather than waiting until she’s come to terms with them.
For the past two years, that’s meant talking about the stages of recovering from an eating disorder.
Bonar, who’s 26, tells Health that “it started as a really innocent love of eating healthy food” and a “passion for being creative in the kitchen.” But then she left for college at University of California, Berkeley to study nutrition, and that innocent love turned into an obsession.
“I think it was a combination of studying nutrition, starting college and being away from home, and just being a woman in today’s society,” she says. “It’s really freaking hard to love your body. It’s such an uphill battle.”
Bonar recalls one night, after she got home from dinner with friends, she realized that she couldn’t remember a single thing they talked about because she was obsessing the entire time over whether her order was healthy enough. She drove herself crazy making sure everything she ate was perfectly clean.
Another common topic of Bonar’s Instagram posts: “not feeling sick enough.” For awhile, she knew she had disordered eating habits, but she also knew she wasn’t anorexic or bulimic, which made her feel isolated. She didn’t know how to open up about what was going on because she didn’t fit the standard definition of an eating disorder patient.
Then Bonar found Molly Alliman, or @balancebymolly on Instagram. Alliman's message of helping women heal their relationship with food resonated with Bonar, who decided to reach out.
“She really changed everything for me,” Bonar says. The two did therapy sessions for about six months, and Bonar eventually learned to see food as a source of enjoyment, not stress. Yet Bonar emphasizes that “recovery is up and down; it’s not a linear road.” She shares the good days and the bad, and in doing so she’s formed a community of followers.
For those who reach out to her saying they’re going through something similar, Bonar says she always urges them to tell someone. “It’s the hardest thing, and I know people don’t want to hear it, but it can help so much.”
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