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‘Social networks reinforced my anorexia, but helped my recovery too’

Student Ruby Tucker highlights complex role of social media in eating disorders

A mental health and eating disorders campaigner told a national conference about the role online communities played in her anorexia and subsequent recovery. 

Cardiff University student Ruby Tucker said young people use social media to share images of their meals and daily calorie intake. She was diagnosed with anorexia aged 13 but recovered and had regained a normal weight by 16.

Encouragement

Ms Tucker told the Responding to Eating Disorders in Children and Young People conference in London how she received encouraging responses from followers when she posted weight-loss images on social media. People told her the ‘hard work had paid off’.

She added: ‘I can still remember that happy feeling. Even though I knew it wasn’t a happy thing, I wanted to keep creating that feeling, so I posted more pictures of myself.’

At one point Ms Tucker had around 4,000 followers on one social networking site. 

Secret codes

She told conference delegates about the codes and acronyms used by online eating disorder communities including:

  • GW – goal weight
  • Ana – anorexia
  • Deb – depression

She said she used private groups to communicate with other people about weight loss and anorexia without her parents’ knowledge. 

But she credited her eventual recovery partly on the friends made in these groups. She said they developed the same mindset at the same time and helped each other to recover. 

Ms Tucker added: ‘I wish I hadn’t found the dark sides of social media. But I made six completely amazing friends who I wouldn’t get rid of for anything. I still talk to them today about how far we have come.’

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