• Chelsea Bared

The Issue with "Before and After" Photos During Recovery

The emphasis on "before and after" photos makes me extremely uncomfortable. I value self-expression and understand that recovery is a personal process. But, "before and after" photos are harmful, to others and the eating disorder recovery community. As a creative, I feel we should find alternatives to express this process. Some reasons why.

1. It reinforces the mentality that I am not sick enough

Eating disorders are notorious at telling their host that they are "not sick enough" to seek help. Sharing photos re-enforces these negative thoughts that "I am not too thin" or " I do not look sick" By focusing on the outside we loose what is going on on the inside.

2. Eating disorders manifest themselves in various shapes, sizes, and behaviors.

My physical appearance, weight, and BMI do not show you the state of my mental health. Please read that back. Repeat it and remember it. I received so many compliments when I was at my very worst. My eating disorder was so validated that it felt normal. Please remember that these disorders have no mercy. They affect everyone, regardless of appearance, social class, sex, gender or otherwise and you will not always be able to tell by looking at someone's appearance.

3. The photo becomes more important than the story.

When "before and after" photos are posted the recovery story can be lost. All that seems to matter is the photo. Words become erased and the image is all that remains. I do not want to be an image. My entire life I have felt like I was an image. That my words were useless, wasted. I am tired of being compared. I want my story to be the thing that remains. That you are left with a piece of me. That you remember the struggle, but the survival.

4. Photos can be triggering.

It may not be intentional. But it happens. When searching through photos people who have just started their recovery process may find these images triggering. I know that when I am having a bad ED (eating disorder) day, and all my tools feel dull if I let myself look at old images from when I was really ill, I will completely spiral. It can be dangerous to have these photos around during dark times, for yourself and for others.

My purpose is never to shame anyone. However, think about how you want to tell your story. Think about the harm these photos can have. To the community and to yourself. You have come so far, do not let images of the past reflect how you are seen today.

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