Mental Health: Body Positivity and Eating Disorder Recovery via Food Photography

JC Phelps is a Kentucky-based food writer, blogger, instagrammer, and social media influencer. Originally raised on the family farm in Russell County, which was homesteaded in 1798, he now calls Louisville home. He holds a BS in Economics and Finance from Centre College, a MBA from the Gordon Ford College of Business at Western Kentucky University, and is a 2021 candidate for a JD at the University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law. Find his work online at @jcpeats and at www.jcpeats.com.

Mental health is often framed as solely consisting of the mind; however, I incessantly contend that it’s so much more than that. To me, it’s mind, body, and soul – three separate, yet highly correlated, facets of one’s being.

From anxiety, depression via the death of my father, suffering from three eating disorders at different points in my life (bulimia, anorexia, binge eating), enduring eating disorder recovery, obsessively losing weight – I’ve had my fair share of struggles in maintaining my mental health. My journey has been centered around my body, or, rather, body positivity. This is that story.

As a young adult, I lost an obscene amount of weight. After 125 lbs (give or take), the weight loss stopped. Though I was slender, I still struggled with body dysmorphia. I was the same 4XL individual in the mirror; I still presumed that I had little to no worth. Oh, how wrong I was – but, that revelation came at another time.

I spent hours staring at myself, obsessively critiquing my body. I refused to eat. I then ate everything in sight; afterwards, I spent time with my head in the toilet, forcing myself to pay for what I classified as bodily injustices. My body was not a personal temple; it was not an entity to be enjoyed or celebrated. I viewed it as a medium of public critique, a source of ever-present ridicule.

All I wanted was to be valued more. Not more than the next person, but equally. I wanted to be known for more than being fat. I wanted to be seen as something else. What I didn’t realize was that the solution to the problem was my mindset.

How did I start to love myself, my body, my fatness, my existence?

Taking photos of my food.

Now hear me out, y’all.

Photography has always been one of my passions. As the founder of JCP Eats, a food-positive blog, Instagram, and online community, I can say – without hesitation – that taking photos of my food saved me. With the help of my online accounts, the food on my plate is no longer seen as a temptation, an old friend, an enemy. It is culture, an experience, something to celebrate, art, passion, love. It is worthy of being praised by my camera; if my photos help even just one woman, one man, one teenager, one child – all of the work that I put into my content is worth it.

I want to alter the way in which we frame food because I know how life-altering it can be; that’s the main goal of my online presence. Changing my relationship with food has changed how I see my body. My body is to be celebrated. It is worthy of taking up space. It enables me to travel the world, to dance the night away, to swing my golf clubs, to wiggle at music festivals; it supports me, enables me, strengthens me, provides for me. To induce this kinetic energy, our bodies must receive nourishment in the form of food. I choose to document that part of my life on a very public platform – which, in its own way, is a political, radical act.

I am immensely proud of JCP Eats and the community that has developed out of it. My nook of the Internet is a diet-free, hate-free, food-loving, celebration of life. It’s where we talk about local businesses, the culinary scene, lifestyle; it’s also where we have difficult conversations, talk about our bodies, provide support for one another. Through all of this, one thing needs to be made clear: I didn’t transform JCP Eats into what it is, JCP Eats transformed me.

When I realized that my body was worthy, that my fatness was magical, both my soul and my mind changed. It catalyzed a personal homeostasis. It balanced me. It grounded me. It changed my mental health and it changed my life.

While I am still on the journey to full mental health, I am proud of the progress that I have made. I’m proud to be plus-sized. I’m proud to have reclaimed the word fat. I’m proud to visibly influence on social media as a fat man. That’s why I am telling y’all my story. I want to celebrate my victories and I want to celebrate yours; I want to acknowledge my struggles and I want to be of assistance to your respective battles. On my platform, we are all in this together – and always know that I am just a DM or an email (jcpeats@gmail.com) away.

As I always say on my website: Happy Eating, Happy Traveling, Happy Living.

Y’all come back now, ya hear?

My best,

JC

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