Eating disorder survivor calls out 'extreme' fitness Instagrammers

Mandy Velez
Contributing Writer
One influencer is calling out people who tout extreme fitness on Instagram. (Photo: Stocksy)

Scroll through the Instagram account of anyone interested in fitness and you’re bound to find different images of women with six-pack abs or thick glutes. Many have thousands of followers on the social media platform and usually post blog-type updates about their extreme routine or eating habits. But one influencer is now calling them out for it.

Jen Bretty of Ontario, Canada, who has over 200,000 followers on Instagram, got fed up with seeing women share potentially disordered fitness habits that they pass off as “dedication,” so she addressed the issue on Twitter.

“I’m sorry but I feel like there’s so many ‘IG fitness people’ who use being dedicated to hide their disordered behaviours,” she wrote on Wednesday. I’m sick of fitness people normalizing behaviours that people in (sic) who suffer from eating disorders are fighting so hard to break.”

She went on to explain that working out every day and meticulously counting calories should not be perceived as dedication if it’s linked to disordered and unhealthy habits associated with orthorexia (over exercising) and anorexia.

“So many people use fitness as a way to control their disordered behaviours in a more acceptable way and we can’t let that be normalized,” she wrote. “Fitness shouldn’t mean having to workout everyday or weighing your damn lettuce. Cmon.”

Bretty tells Yahoo Lifestyle she enjoys fitness and that she used to follow many of these types of social media influencers before — she started her account in 2014 to document her recovery from an eating disorder — but stopped when their intense fitness messages affected her mental and physical health. Those messages included working out to eat certain foods or preaching “no days off.” “[Or other] very extreme behaviors that otherwise would be classified as problematic, but because they are into fitness, we brush it off like it’s ‘just dedication.’” she says.

“These extremes eventually led me to having a very disordered look at food and my body.” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Working out should not negatively impact your life, and these types of things is what personally impacted my own fitness journey because it made me second-guess every time I ate something that wasn’t ‘healthy’ or took a rest day.”

As an eating disorder survivor, Bretty says she doesn’t want to see disordered behaviors become normalized. So three years after her own recovery journey began, and after still seeing these types of posts, she decided to speak out.

As she wrote on Twitter: “Just because someone looks fit or dedicated doesn’t mean they are healthy. Your mental health matters too. So be careful who you look up to.”

The internet is obviously scary terrain for women and how they view their bodies— social media has been linked to eating disorders — but Instagram is especially risky. A survey found that of all the social media platforms, Instagram is the worst for mental health. Not good news considering that over 75 percent of teens ages 13-17, an especially vulnerable age for developing eating disorders, chose “IG” or “Insta” as their platform of choice.

Other Instagram influencers have brought attention to the “real” and “posed” images in our feeds, but Bretty is one of the few who has called out the way certain behaviors and language, specifically, can trigger disorders.

She certainly isn’t the only one who feels this way. Her tweet got over a 800 likes, and she’s continuously praised on Instagram for her self-love and recovery-focused posts.

Her latest message: It’s OK to unfollow people who are harmful to your mental health. Bretty would know, because she’s been there.

“I know how it feels to be on the other end of the screen beating yourself up over not looking like these Instagram models do,” she says. “I want to show people that you don’t need to count your calories or sacrifice enjoying your life to be fit or healthy. A healthy lifestyle means more than abs, and I hope that by talking about this stuff that it can help people realize that.”

We’d heart that if we could.

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