This Eating Disorder Awareness Campaign Boycotts The 'Before' Photo

"I don’t have to prove that I was sick by showing you my body.”

This is how you make a statement.

Recently, some Instagram users took on the “before and after” photos ― the phenomenon where people post images of their bodies from when they were dealing with an eating disorder and then pictures of them after they recovered ― through a hashtag campaign called #BoycottTheBefore. The posts feature a blacked out “before” image as a way to make it clear that appearance comparisons aren’t always reflective of a “healthy” body and mind.

The campaign is meant to address the triggering nature of the photos for those recovering from an eating disorder. It was created by Lexie Louise, A 21-year-old body postivie blogger, in mid-February after analyzing her own personal before-and-after recovery photos. She realized that they could be triggering for others who may also be dealing with an eating disorder or send the wrong message about what the condition actually looks like.

#BoycottTheBefore I have an article that will be published on the sister website of @neda soon that discusses this in more detail. I'll share it when it's posted but wanted to share some now. ((I don't intend to shame anyone who has shared their recovery photos. I'd like to offer different perspectives because it's important to open the conversation rather than assume everyone is on board. I hope those who disagree can speak kindly and non-judgmentally in return.)) For those in early recovery especially, our eating disorders can tempt us to compare numbers or sizes, or even make us question, "Am I sick enough to receive help? Because that person seems to need it more than me". That can be very harmful when it comes to this. These photos also solely show physical growth. It is a huge misconception still that those who have eating disorders must be physically underweight to be considered struggling. It reinforces a misconception that you can see who is struggling. The truth is: we aren't telling the whole story through these photos, even with our captions. There are people in recovery who don't feel comfortable sharing their photos at all. And there are also people in recovery who simply cannot relate to having any shocking physical changes. Overall, though those of us who can share these photos are praised for sharing them and may be creating short term change, we are feeding into the misconceptions of eating disorders and sadly not making room to create real, long term change. So let’s fight back. I encourage you to responsibly share your recovery story this NEDA awareness week if you feel comfortable doing so. I also encourage you to factor in other people – those in recovery and those whom we are trying to educate. And I encourage you to use the photo pictured on the left as your “before” photo if you want to support this project. We are so much more than comparison photos. We are strong, resilient warriors and we will go against the grain and continue to fight to be seen and heard – even if that means not receiving instant validation. Like recovery, change takes time; it is a journey but it is possible.

A post shared by Lexie ✨ (@soworthsaving) on

Posting these comparison photos is enabling the idea that you can see those who have eating disorders,” she wrote in an Instagram caption following deleting the images. “It is also enabling the competition among those struggling with thoughts like, ‘well, I’m not sick enough to get help because I don’t look like that.’”

Since she started the campaign, the hashtag has taken off with more than 1,000 submissions. Model Iskra Lawrence, who has been open about her own recovery from an eating disorder, shared her own boycott photo.

(This post is regarding Eating Disorders & recovery NOT the fitness industry / or weight loss) . Please read before passing judgement as this is NOT me telling you NOT to post before and afters or diminishing the achievements and accomplishments of those who are proud of their journeys. I love seeing people celebrating how far they've come and totally get why (myself included) choose to post before and afters. . But let's open the discussion..... #BoycottTheBefore was started by @soworthsaving and I'm so proud to be part of this movement. . I myself have felt the pressure to post before and after pics to validate that I too suffered... but that's not right. We do not need to prove that we struggled, we do not need to feel like anyone may have struggled more or less because maybe there before and after photos aren't as "dramatic". It's not even about that, it's always about how far you've come so @boycottthebefore is here to celebrate YOU right now! To celebrate how far you've come and maybe how far you still have to go - there is no perfect recovery & everyones is completely unique. . I do however want to say I'm not against posting before and afters, I have done so too and will be keeping them up. However this is also a really great message and I hope to see lots of of you tagging me in your pics (I've shared pics of those who tagged me just swipe to see)... I'm forever inspired by the recovery & bopo communities and I'm grateful for every single person who empowers each other and shares their beautiful unique spark with us all. . To read @soworthsaving blog post about this movement go to @neda or #NEDA #everyBODYisbeautiful (bikini is @aerie) No makeup no retouching #aeriereal

A post shared by i s k r a (@iskra) on

Sharing a 'before' (usually dangerously underweight and causes shock and grimace in many) against the 'after' (usually a healthier weight and probably smiling) is something commonly occurring on ED awareness week. This is only showing a physical change and one that feeds into the underweight body stereotype (and for those who have suffered that never have been underweight, where does that leave them?) I'm not going to put a 'before' photograph of myself on that may trigger others or potentially make others feel like their eating disorder is less valid. My own eating disorder would love me to post one, for some means of validation/reassurance and proof to others that 'hey look yes I was dangerously ill and here is your proof now you have to believe me by this to justify whatever belief you have about someone with anorexia' NO. I 👏have👏 nothing👏 to👏prove👏 to👏 anyone👏. Trying to spread the word of eating disorders being an internal battle and illness of the mind but posting photographs reinforcing the opposite? It isn't a competition (whatever your eating disorder may say). Telling people how you exercised x amount and weighed xlbs and survived on only x a day does not educate people on this mental illness. I don't want to be reinforcing this stigma that so people are trying so hard to break away from. Boycott the before. #boycottthebefore #nedaweek #eatingdisorderawareness #recovery #mentalhealth #educate #youarenotyourmentalillness

A post shared by Charlie Storey (@wakeupinwoodland) on

A few weeks ago I quietly started a journey of true body acceptance. I haven't opened up to anyone about it until today. I was tired of being obsessed with a weight loss goal, letting food run my life, and always having what I'm eating or when I will reach my magic weight loss goal number on my mind. It was becoming an obsession, and it had to stop. I went into it with my whole heart. Done weighing myself, but still eating as healthy as I can, working out on a regular basis, and not beating myself up over every cookie that I have. It's been one of the most humbling experiences of my life and I've never felt more confident and beautiful. As a nutrition student the most valuable lesson that I've learned is that we are more than just a number. As long as you live a healthy life overall, that's all that matters. Being skinny does not mean being healthy. Healthy comes in all shapes and sizes! So on this day, you will never see another before and after picture or weight loss post from me. My before is just as wonderful as my after. Also I will never help anyone "lose weight" again. However if you are truly interested in improving your HEALTH and getting HEALTHY, I've got your back! Contact me. Weight loss will probably be a bonus from that, but I will no longer encourage reaching one number, that number does not define who you are. Stay healthy. Stay beautiful. Stay what you are. #boycottthebefore @boycottthebefore #loveyourself #loveyourbody #bodypositive

A post shared by Aisha-Z (@aishazrva) on

An estimated 30 million people have an eating disorder in the U.S. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness group, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.

This staggering fact is further proof that they need to be taken seriously. One way to do that is to increase public awareness, which can send the message that the condition is manageable with treatment. That’s why social media movements like #BoycottTheBefore are so vital: They highlight recovery over everything else.

“I am in recovery. I am living again. I am thriving,” Lousie wrote on Instagram.
“And I don’t have to prove that I was sick by showing you my body.”

If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.

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