Instagram star Alexis Ren has hinted before that her real life isn't always as perfect and enviable as it looks in her filtered, curated photos. But in a new interview with Cosmopolitan, Ren got real — and revealed that she is recovering from an eating disorder that she hid for years.
Ren told Cosmo that her struggle with disordered eating began after her mother passed away from breast cancer, and she began modeling. After she had gained some weight while abroad in Australia, her modeling agency pointed out it out and chastised her.
"They were like, 'You did gain weight and if you could start working out a little bit more…'" she told Cosmo. "I just felt so out of control."
After the criticism, Ren began to exercise more frequently, and, for the first time, dieting.
Around the same time, she also began dating Jay Alvarrez, a model and music producer with whom she began to book modeling jobs in exotic locations, and with whom she filmed popular lifestyle YouTube videos.
However, constantly being subjected to public appearance began to take a toll on Ren.
"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," she added. "I was scared of food."
As a result, she began having flu-like symptoms, such as exhaustion and fevers, and after an intense breakup with Alvarrez, began listening to concerned friends and family members who suggested she get help. For about eight months, she took a break from traveling, and sought help from a health nutritional coach and certified personal trainer.
Though she occasionally copes with food guilt, she said that she now has a much healthier relationship with food and exercise, and has come to embrace her weight gain.
"It's not obsessive, it's just something I do now," she told Cosmo about her exercise routine.
Mostly, she just wanted to share her story to be more open with her fans, and to let them know that "it's ok not to be ok" — as long as you reach out for help when you need it.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder and are in need of support, please call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. For a 24-hour crisis line, text “NEDA” to 741741.
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