by Vanessa Taaffe

One day before Hilary Elliot marks the four year anniversary of her admission to hospital for anorexia, she joins SURGE for lunch, to discuss her struggles with food and Instagram.

What made you decide that posting food pictures on Instagram was the best way to help your recovery?

I’ve always loved photography and visual arts. Before I got ill, I was a real foodie, I loved my food. Why should I let anorexia take that away from me? If it’s something that you struggle with it’s nice to share and then you get supportive comments and it makes you feel more confident. And, also, it’s fun!

Do you get negative comments online?

My account started out as an eating disorder recovery account and occasionally you get pro-anorexia people. Once this girl commented on a post of a big cheese toastie, one of my biggest fear foods, [saying] ‘All I see is calories’. I replied, ‘That’s a shame. I see a delicious lunch that I really enjoyed’. I’m so glad I’m in a place that I can do that now. I don’t want people to see me as someone who’s had an eating disorder. I don’t want that to be my identity.

What would you say to people that are looking at Instagram and are feeling disordered thoughts?

People need to be aware that it’s social media; you can’t always trust what you’re seeing. I don’t post anything that I’ve not actually eaten. Sometimes you’ll come across people that have posted a picture of something and they’re like ‘I’ve had a bite of this’.I think you need to be aware that it can be an altered reality.

What would you say to the Hilary of four years ago?

Don’t give up and genuinely, it will be ok. Things will get brighter. There was one point when I didn’t believe they would and I just didn’t want to be around anymore You have to be brave and you have to create the change, but you do not have to do it alone. You don’t have to do this journey alone, you can ask for support along the way. There will be moments in your future when you’re just so glad that you held on and you won’t believe how different life is.