Social media gets a bad rap - especially Instagram. Critics will talk about how it’s only used for narcissists to post selfies. Instagram has also gotten flack for only displaying the positive parts of people’s lives, which could be harmful to young impressionable people. However, we don’t often consider the positive sides of social media that can be used for good in the world. Emelle Lewis’s story is just one example of this.
Emelle Lewis is a 22-year-old woman from the UK. From the photo she looks strong, healthy and confident, but she also has a dark past. She began suffering from a severe eating disorder at age 15. She’s since turned her life around, but her road to recovery has certainly not been easy.
Lewis was a young teenager when she began to feel inferior to her school friends. She says she always felt fat and unattractive when most of her friends started to get boyfriends and she didn’t. It was at this point that she began dieting and exercising. She joined a gym, but just wasn’t seeing the results that she wanted, so she took more extreme measures.
Lewis began gradually eating less and less to lose weight, and also developed an unhealthy obsession with exercise. When friends and family questioned her about her weight, she brushed off concerns, saying simply that she was thin because she was vegan. Her diet at this point consisted solely of rice cakes, Weetabix breakfast cereal and salad.
Lewis would also exercise obsessively. She took her dog for two 30-minute walks every day and did constant yoga and intense ab workouts. She even admits that she wouldn’t allow herself to sit down until 4pm every day, in order to burn calories.
At her worst, Lewis weighed a shocking 70 pounds. She dressed in children’s clothes because of how thin she was. She was hospitalized seven times, yet she continued to convince herself that she could continue living at such a low weight and still live a normal life.
“When I was ill, I didn’t believe there was anything really wrong with me,” said Lewis. “I genuinely believed I could maintain at that weight and still live a fairly normal life. I didn’t want to get rid of my eating disorder.” This just goes to show how loud that little voice in your head can be when you have an illness.
Even after Lewis was admitted to the hospital, she says she refused to comply with the treatment. “[I was] convinced that everyone was against me, lying to me and trying to ruin my life,” she said. However, then a switch flipped in her head...everything was about to change.
Lewis began following Instagramers who had also battled eating disorders and felt inspired. Suddenly, something in her head clicked: she woke up one morning with a realization that she didn’t want to die. “I remember lying in bed one day feeling like I was really dying and realizing I had achieved nothing in my life and this is not the way my story is meant to end,” she said.
She made the decision to try to recover through weightlifting, as she had seen other young women do on Instagram. She slowly started eating more and working out in a healthy manner. “I made a promise to myself that I will fight and I will recover,” she wrote in an Instagram post.
A huge recent milestone for Lewis was getting to eat her mom’s cooking again. She posted on Instagram about how she was finally able to eat a delicious chicken roast meal her mom made after seven years.
“Anorexia tricks you into believing some shocking lies, she even turns you against your own mother,” she wrote. “But really, the only thing you can’t trust is your eating disorder.”
Lewis is currently documenting her health journey on her own Instagram handle. She decided to create an Instagram account because of how inspiring she found others’ recovery accounts. She’s eating tons of delicious healthy foods and showing off her guns! She’s also currently a psychology student in university.
And perhaps most importantly, she’s the happiest she’s ever felt!
Lewis describes on Instagram how the only person who could force her to get better was herself. She remembers struggling to convince herself that she was indeed worth it. “When nobody else believed in me, I believed in myself,” she wrote.
Lewis has made remarkable improvements, not just physically, but also with her mental health. “Just over a year ago, I was ready to end my life,” she said. “I was so lost, so trapped and so consumed by my eating disorder that I forgot about the real me.”
In the end, Lewis wants to inspire other sufferers of eating disorders to get healthy just like she did, and she hopes that her Instagram account can help. “All those years of suffering taught me some valuable lessons and made me the person I am today,” she wrote in a post. “My goal now is to help and inspire everyone else to love themselves and love being alive.”