By, Kelly Kennedy, Social Media Editor
This past week was National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and one Jasper athlete is using her platform to raise awareness and promote both a healthy lifestyle and body positivity. Freshman Nicolette Caneda started the Instagram page @nickifit22 this past January, to tell her story and inspire others.
“I started the account because I know I didn’t have anything like that for myself. And I just wanted to make something for maybe someone else who was feeling the same way I was and didn’t have that kind of outlet,” Caneda said.
NEDAwareness week is an opportunity to raise awareness and improve the care of those suffering or at risk of developing an eating disorder. Over 28 million Americans have suffered from some form of disordered eating, according to hhs.gov.
“Raising awareness about eating disorders is extremely important. Eating disorders are often subconsciously developed, which leads to a lack of proper treatment. This is why it is so important to raise awareness and provide education on how to establish a healthy relationship with food,” said Caitlin Lambe, a LWGRC student worker.
Caneda is one of many who have suffered from disordered eating, and her Instagram is something she uses to not only hold herself accountable, but inspire others to work on their relationships with eating and fitness.
“I believe a healthy lifestyle is different for every person. So I just want to help increase a positive outlook on eating and working out,” Caneda said.
When the pandemic was at its peak in 2020, Caneda found herself and her teammates unable to compete in games or train together. Feeling static and craving change, she turned to unhealthy habits.
“We weren’t having games and I just wanted to get better, but not getting to actually train and see my growth on the field was really getting me back and confusing me mentally, because I wanted to see results. And so the only results that I could get were seeing the numbers going down,” Caneda said.
Caneda knew she had to change these habits for both her own mental and emotional health, but also to be able to compete in the sport she’s passionate about.
“I didn’t realize how much my mental health and my relationship with food completely influenced my game — they actually go hand-in-hand. And I also had to realize that I’m not going to look like the girls on Instagram,” Caneda said. “I’ll never have that physique and I really don’t want that ever again. I’m much happier with myself and how I look now.”
Caneda believes that social media can be a harmful place, the posts she saw from influencers made her believe that she needed to change the way she looked.
“Social media encourages diet culture with ‘thinspo’ and remedies for how to stay skinny. It has also created and perpetuated a standard of beauty that is unrealistic, through photoshop and lack of representation for all shapes and sizes,” Lambe said.
For Caneda, this was something that she found harmful, and she sees her account as a break from that toxicity and give insight to a sustainable and healthy way to live.
“My account started as something that really only my friends and teammates follow. But I started to get plenty of DMs [direct messages] from people that I don’t even know, and people that I do know reach out to me to say ‘Thank you so much for doing this because like this is exactly how I’ve been feeling’,” Caneda said.
Those close to Caneda have seen her journey first hand, and find it inspiring how she not only changed her own mindset but has also been able to make a difference.
“I think that Nicolette’s new Instagram account @nickifit22 is an amazing idea. She has found a way to turn the things that hurt her into a way of helping people who are currently going through the same things she once did,” Aarron Gitelman, Caneda’s boyfriend, wrote in an email to The Quadrangle. “She is constantly speaking about it in such an excited tone and she cannot wait to keep growing it along with herself. She has already begun to help individuals and by doing that, she is also helping herself with some issues that may still try to creep their way back in. Nicolette is doing an amazing thing and I know she will help people for as long as she possibly can.”
Caneda’s former coach, Peter Turos, coached her from ages 11 to 15, and since then the two have remained close.
“I certainly think it’s a great thing because not many people show the back end of being a high level athlete. Everyone shows the highs but they don’t show the lows, which is what I think she’s exemplifying for him through her Instagram page,” Turos said. “Hopefully she receives enough traction and following that people can actually see what she’s talking about, because I do think it can be inspirational for those types of kids that are going through the same thing.”
Caneda hopes to continue posting on her account and inspiring others along the way.
“It’s a process, which is very important for people to know, nothing’s going to change overnight. Having this account and it’s kind of holding me accountable, and helping me just as much as it’s helping the next person,” Caneda said. “I know I’m like one person that may not be able to make a huge difference, the majority of people may not ever even see my account. But if I can help one person who is thinking the way I did or like or feels the way I do sometimes, then I’m happy.”