Social media are littered with images showing seemingly picture-perfect people, but one Instagram star whose glamorous lifestyle has amassed over 9.2 million followers is finally revealing her truth.
In an interview with Cosmopolitan.com, Alexis Ren, 20, revealed she suffered from an eating disorder for several years.
"I kind of was just like, 'I’m just going to be upfront with everyone,'" she told Cosmo. "I have nothing to hide."
Ren explained that she began having trouble with food after her mother’s death, and the loss was compounded when she entered the modeling industry, where her body was constantly scrutinized. Ultimately, she felt like she lost control of her life.
In her interview, Ren told Cosmo about a time when her modeling agency gently nudged her to lose weight.
“They were like, 'You did gain weight and if you could start working out a little bit more,” Ren told Cosmo.
So Ren did just that, and began restricting her caloric intake and exercising. Then she met and fell in love with fellow model Jay Alvarrez. The pair became famous on YouTube as they documented their lives together, jet-setting to exotic beaches and hanging out on Manhattan apartment balconies.
But as Ren’s fan base grew, so did her sense of self-doubt.
"I was my worst critic ever,” she told Cosmo. “The only sense of relief I had was to be able to monitor my eating and my workouts. It was a vicious cycle where when I did eat, I just felt worse, so I didn't want to eat, and ate less and less and less. I was scared of food."
According to the Ntional Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, Inc.,about 30 million people in the United States suffer from an eating disorder, such as bulimia, anorexia and binge eating disorder. Every 62 minutes, at least one person dies from one.
In restricting her eating and over-exercising to punish herself, Ren was not only putting her physical health at risk but also that of her mental well-being. She tied her self-identity to the responses she’d receive on social media, she explained to the site, and in turn, she felt objectified for her physical features rather than valued for who she was a person.
“I felt like my body was the only reason why people liked me,” Ren told Cosmo.
Fortunately, she got help and has since recovered. Today, Ren has a healthy weight, she told the website, but she’s speaking out to help empower other women to get help if they need it.
“It's OK to not be OK,” she said. “It's all about how you feel because your body will react to how you feel. Chemically, if you are not happy, your body will not look or be happy."