Instagram model Alexis Ren made a brave step in her recovery by opening up about her eating disorder to HarpersBAZZAR and on her Twitter and to her 9.7 Million followers on Instagram. Her story is confronting, but it opens up a discussion on a wider issue that is society’s inability to have a proper dialogue about the scope of eating disorders.

Alexis highlights tragic loss as a core issue. Her mother’s death threw Alexis’s life out of order. She was close to her mother who passed away from breast cancer when Alexis was only 17. When Alexis was 18 she took off to model in Australia. It was time for Alexis to mourn and realise that celebrating life was the best way to commemorate her mother’s passing. But coming back to Los Angeles was when Alexis’s weight gain became a topic, and Alexis started the dieting and excessive workouts that would dominate her relationship with her body.

Alexis’s relationship with boyfriend Jay Alvarrez, a model and producer whom she met over Tumblr, coincided with the development of her eating disorder. Jay was a replacement for Alexis’s mother, and he would go on to manage their two-year relationship and partnership, booking exotic modelling gigs for them around the world. They captured their lives in YouTube videos which generated 22 million views. The overexposure morphed Alexis into her worst critic and her excessive dieting and exercise was her control over the situation. Travel threw her out of routine and restricted her food options, and Alexis self-punished for her choices. Every time she returned to Los Angeles her body developed flu-like symptoms, exhaustion and fever, and broke down. She doesn’t blame Jay for spiralling out, but she noted that 11 months of travel a year hadn’t helped. They ended their relationship in the summer of 2016, and after a Twitter scandal wherein Alexis called out the size of his penis, Alexis has said she is over it all.

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It was single life that ultimately forced Alexis to listen to friends and family and confront her disease. Through her Godmother and life coach, Joni Lerner, Alexis met certified personal trainer and health nutritionist coach Maggie Tanielian who has helped coach Alexis back into a healthy relationship with food. Maggie helped with food guilt and grocery shopping, and Alexis has started back exercising every other day. When she put weight back on, Alexis had friends and family to support her and now she embraces the changes.

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Alexis is now happy, but admits that every now and then, like the death of her mother, it will hit her hard. But Alexis has a “Post-It People” (so called because their names fit on a post-it), those in her life she focuses on against the criticism she gets day-to-day. Alexis has taken daily acting classes in preparation for her first film role Tarot and been working on photography and fashion design to create her workout line Ren.

Alexis’s strength in opening up about her struggles adds her voice to other celebrities who have highlighted the cost of “beauty”. The late Princess Diana and Portia de Rossi are other brave women who have been faces of eating disorders. Facing an eating disorder is still a taboo issue, and one that appears so commonplace as dieting and exercise are so highly regarded by society. If you or someone you know may be suffering visit the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) website or contact the NEDA Information and Referral Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.