Creating Art to Recover from Eating Disorders

Woman getting past shame and creating art

I was naturally a shy, introverted child. Add in an abusive environment, a mother with severe mental illness, substance abuse, and an early battle with eating disorders, and my shyness was lit on fire.

Turning inward to the extreme and developing depression, playdates in my room with stencils, colored pencils and drawing pads were my everything. This was my way to connect to life and imaginary people.

Art as a Coping Tool in Recovery

Most of the time I felt fear, lots and lots of fear. I fantasized and drew pictures of medieval times, complete with stunning princesses because I wanted to feel beautiful. Inside, I felt like a monster.

My eating disorder and developing body dysmorphia were slowing getting out of control. I couldn’t see anything attractive when I looked in the mirror, so I created art that reflected what I wanted to be.

Art has proven to be an extremely therapeutic tool for individuals suffering from trauma and mental illness. Nowadays, social media is a way to create a common bond for both art lovers and those within the mental health community.

Art therapist Jenna Simon’s self portraits became viral on Facebook after she began uploading them and sharing her feelings on recovery from her eating disorder and trauma [1]. It’s a healing experience for Simon that helps both her and the community that shares in her artwork.

Seeking Professional Eating Disorder Treatment

Although art is a healthy coping tool for eating disorders, it is important to remember that they are complex illnesses with no one correct treatment.

ArtDr. Evelyn Attia, Director of the Columbia Center for Eating Disorders at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, says that eating disorders are unique for every person, making them somewhat hard to treat [1]. Dr. Attia states that eating disorders are “psychiatric illnesses that affect one’s emotional as well as physical states. That means we have to worry about two things at the same time.”

As Dr. Attia relays, there is no one right way to care for eating disorders, and I can affirm that in my own recovery. It is important to seek professional help and do what is necessary to get healthy again.


Nikki_Dubose_2015 Web-6About the Author: Nikki DuBose is a former model turned author, advocate, and ambassador. Her debut memoir, Washed Away: From Darkness to Light, details her recovery from trauma, severe mental illnesses and the dark side of the modeling industry.

Nikki has been featured on television shows and networks such as The Doctors, The TD Jakes Show, CBS Los Angeles, and the Oprah Winfrey Network, and profiled in publications such as People, LA Times, Vogue UK, Esquire, India Times, and Inquisitr. To find out more about Nikki, visit


[1]: Jimison, R. (April 13, 2017). Artist’s sketches convey struggles of eating disorder. Retrieved from

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 13, 2017.
Published on