Anorexia survivor turned body positivity blogger helps thousands of Instagram followers love themselves

'One teenage girl struggling with eating disorders told me that thanks to body positivity she'll have cake on her birthday for the first time'   

Kashmira Gander
Wednesday 08 February 2017 12:45 GMT

Megan’s Jayne Crabbe started hating her body when she was just five-years-old.

“I remember thinking that all my classmates were so much prettier and thinner than I was, and idolising all the popular representations of beauty around me at the time,” she recalls.

“Barbie, Disney princesses, '90s pop stars and famous actresses. They all had one thing in common: they were thin. And I learned fast that if I wanted to be beautiful too, then I wasn't thin enough.”

Megan's issues with her body started when she was a pre-teen (BodyPosiPanda)

By the age of 10, she was dieting and restricting her food more and more obsessively. Aged 14, she was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, and became of the 725,000 people in the UK affected by an eating disorder. At her darkest point she weighed 65lbs, and was being tube fed in hospital.

“It took two years of hospital visits and psychiatric unit stays before I began to claw my way out,” says the 24-year-old based in Essex who is a full-time carer.

But her anorexia soon morphed into binge-eating disorder, a lesser known but equally debilitating condition.

“After nearly tripling my weight in a year I was left in a body I hated more than ever, that's when the dieting started again. I cycled through starvation diets and binge eating episodes for years.”

During these years, Megan’s identity became bound in her mental illness.

“When you're in the depths of an eating disorder you lose every part of who you thought you were. I was convinced that my only purpose in life was losing weight, nothing else mattered.

“After a while I started to believe that I wasn't anyone beyond 'the anorexic girl'. Now I realise that I am so much more than how many calories I eat or how much weight I can lose.”

Megan's recovery began, she says, when she discovered body positivity, or "bopo": a movement which rejects obsessive calorie-counting, regimes to sculpt unachievable bodies, and self-loathing. Launching an Instagram two years ago as a space for her to deal with her body image issues, she now has over half a million followers and is a key voice in the movement. “Body positivity is the only thing that ever allowed me to heal my relationship with food, learn how to eat intuitively and stop torturing myself for how my body looks."

Her Instagram page is filled with photos of her glowing with confidence, demonstrating her weight gain and recovery, and images and illustrations trying to eclipse body shaming messages.

Megan was 65lbs at her lowest weight

“I started @bodyposipanda just over two years ago after stumbling across the online body positive community. At first my page was a space to heal my own body image issues and be inspired by other people in the community. I had no idea that it would become what it is today, but I'm so thankful to be able to give other people a space to heal, like I had.

But Megan doesn’t only blame her eating disorder on the messages that she digested from the media as she was growing up.

"Eating disorders are complex, multi-dimensional illnesses and the media isn't to blame for them entirely,” she says.

However, she argues that popular culture - from adverts to magazine covers - link happiness to thinness, and promote disordered eating patterns in the latest diet trends, from "clean-eating" to paleo.

Megan’s Instagram acts as an antidote to the ‘before’ and ‘after’ body shots, smoothies and intimidating fitness accounts that have flooded the platform. And her fans are grateful for that.

“I've gotten thousands of positive responses from people telling me how body positivity has changed their lives. One comment I'll always remember was from a teenage girl who'd been struggling with eating disorders for years, she told me that thanks to body positivity, this year she'll have cake on her birthday for the first time. She sent me a picture of the cake too, it looked amazing!”

Megan has half a million followers on her body positive Instagram (BodyPosiPanda)

Part of Megan’s message is one of honesty, and she admits that she still has "bad days” as she tries to unlearn “a lifetime of negative lessons about our bodies”.

“It helps to surround yourself with people who are on the same self love journey," she says. "Curate your social media feed and fill it with other bopo babes instead of things that make you feel like you're not good enough. Unlearning those lessons is hard, but it's so worth it.”

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