No matter where you look on the internet it seems like almost all recovery stories have before/after photos. To me I find these photos very unhelpful to not only those with Eating Disorders, but to everyone else in society.
To start off these photos are triggering, when I was held tightly in the clutches of my Eating Disorder, I would view these photos as competition. A competition of who was the thinnest/sickest. My E.D. controlled this contest and my emotions toward myself. If my E.D. told me I was smaller than them, it filled me with relief and joy. If my E.D. told me they were smaller than me, it grew loud and angry and made me ashamed of myself, it then pushed me toward its never ending “goal” of being the thinnest/sickest.
Even in recovery, these photos spark my E.D. voice and it tries to shame me into feeling disappointed for letting my “sick” body go. Only now I know recovery skills which I use to avoid listening to the E.D.. Many times I have thought about posting a before/after photo of myself. But I realized the reason I wanted to post it wasn’t 100% recovery focused. My E.D. holds onto my before photos like a trophy, and it wants these photos shared not to show my recovery progress but to show and prove to others just how thin/sick I was.
This leads me into how these photos are unhelpful for those who don’t struggle with an Eating Disorder. These kind of photos stereotype Eating Disorders and makes them seem like they are just about weight. In reality Eating Disorders are a mental illness and they are rooted in issues far beyond weight. These before/after photos simplify recovery and suggest weight restoration is the only thing needed in order to recover, which is completely false. Some people don’t need weight restoration in their recovery journey, but this does NOT make their struggle any less valid.
Recovery isn’t about body transformations, Recovery is about getting your freedom back, your happiness back, your life back, its about the transformation of the mind, not the body, something a before/after photo can’t show.