Tis the season of BellLetsTalk and Eating Disorder Awareness Week! Please don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the idea of spreading awareness, it’s a huge part of what I do and what I believe is important. That being said, awareness has to be real.
In the body positive sphere I have seen countless young people posting before-and-after photos of themselves when they were at their ‘sickest’ or lowest weight, and where they are now. These photos are posted side by side, eerily similar to those before-and-after weight loss ads. At face value, these seem somewhat harmless, empowering even. People can show how far they have come, how hard you have worked to become healthy! But there is another side to those photos that have to be considered. Here are 5 reasons to not post that before-and-after photo:
- You cannot ‘look’ like you have an eating disorder
Posting before-and-after photos perpetuates the idea that there is a certain way you have to look to have an eating disorder. Eating disorders come in literally every shape and every size, you could post two photos of you at the exact same weight and it could show an illness just as serious as any other thin photo could. The stigma that only thin people suffer from eating disorders is deadly, and by posting that photo you are maintaining that idea. Your body is not an indication of your illness, it never was.
2. People compare themselves
Eating disorders are really good at telling you that you’re not sick enough or thin enough to deserve help. Seeing photos of others at their lowest weight fuels this idea. To really raise awareness talk about what you felt, what you thought, the challenges you overcame, and the stereotypes you met that have to be erased.
3. Recovery is more than weight gain
Weight restoration, for some, is a huge part of recovery. Eating disorders are mental disorders with physical side effects, weight loss is just a side effect. To pretend as though gaining weight is the only work that has to be done to recover from an eating disorder seriously undermines the immense effort that it takes for people who suffer from disordered eating to overcome it.
4. You don’t need that validation
Validation and words of affirmation can feel so so good, and there is nothing wrong with wanting support in recovery. However it can become problematic when you are showing photos of yourself in your lowest weight with the concept of ‘look how thin I got’ in your mind. Focus instead of words of affirmation that don’t have to do with your body at all. You are kind and smart, and deserve to hear that from people.
5. You have nothing to prove
You were sick. You were suffering. It was real. You are valid. You do not need to share photos of yourself to prove to anyone else that you were sick. Truly understanding your disorder and your recovery is something that comes with time, and its something that you have to come to understand yourself. You do not have to prove to anyone else that you were sick, you need to instead work towards understanding that no photo can tell you what was in your mind.
So run free! Raise awareness, raise hell. Your story is strong enough, use your words.