Woman Boycotts Posting 'Before' Photos Of Her Eating Disorder

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For anyone suffering an eating disorder, a "before" and "after" photo can sometimes be encouraging for progress, but one woman says they can be just as damaging.

Lexie Louise, a 21-year-old mental health blogger, recently started a campaign boycotting "before" shots of her eating disorder, and she is encouraging others to do the same.

"All these photos represent is physical change. One misconception around eating disorders stems from the thought, 'You need to look underweight or look deathly ill to be struggling.' And while specific eating disorders can drastically affect one’s weight, one can struggle at any weight – underweight, overweight, and any and every weight and size in between," she wrote for Proud2BMe.

She also started a movement on Instagram preaching the same messages, as well as sharing the stories of other women.

This is SO IMPORTANT!!! Hope you guys read this and take it in.👏 #Repost @tpyriformis1988 ・・・ Anyone who has been following me for any length of time knows that I often speak out against “before and after” photosets in the recovery community; however, my dislike goes beyond just finding these photos distasteful. I strongly believe that equating weight gain with recovery from an eating disorder, in any context, does the entire eating disorder community a great disservice. . Someone’s progress in recovery cannot and should not be represented by a full-body photo that highlights that person’s weight, because in doing so, that person’s ability to “look healthy” is being equated to that person “being healthy.” As anyone who has struggled with an eating disorder knows, someone can often look normal and healthy but still be struggling and hurting immensely. . If the phrase “You don’t look like you have an eating disorder!” both hurts and angers you, then you've already become aware of the negative effects that before and after photos have caused to the eating disorder community. Because these photos are so prevalent in social media when recovery is the topic of discussion, the general public perceives that being sick with an eating disorder means being underweight and that being recovered from an eating disorder means, well, looking recovered! . As a result, most individuals who remain at “normal” weights despite engaging in dangerous, restrictive behaviors, specifically sufferers of OSFED and bulimia, are often dismissed friends, family, and even medical professionals as not “being sick enough.” What a horrible phrase to for an eating disorder sufferer to hear, especially from an external source! . You would never tell someone that an eating disorder’s severity can be gauged by weight, so why would you post a photo with that same underlying message?

A post shared by Lexie | @soworthsaving (@boycottthebefore) on


"Anyone who has been following me for any length of time knows that I often speak out against 'before and after' photosets in the recovery community; however, my dislike goes beyond just finding these photos distasteful. I strongly believe that equating weight gain with recovery from an eating disorder, in any context, does the entire eating disorder community a great disservice," user @tpyriformis1988 wrote on the social media site.

"If the phrase 'You don’t look like you have an eating disorder!' both hurts and angers you, then you've already become aware of the negative effects that before and after photos have caused to the eating disorder community. Because these photos are so prevalent in social media when recovery is the topic of discussion, the general public perceives that being sick with an eating disorder means being underweight and that being recovered from an eating disorder means, well, looking recovered!"

And because National Eating Disorder Awareness Week in the U.S. recently ended, Louise's message is more important than ever.

Many have been using her hashtag #BoycottTheBefore, and are sharing their own personal struggles online.

Love you!! So proud of you, Gracie 💜✨ #Repost @terrifying_freedom ・・・ I #boycottthebefore because Yes. This is my 'after' picture. Yes. I am better than I was. Though no, I am not 'cured'. Not a day has gone by that I have not fought with every morsel of strength in my body to continue saving my own life. I'm not going to show you the 'before' puffy eyes, the depression so strong I treated everyone I loved horribly, the anxiety that turned me into a shaking mess. You would not see much physical change at all actually. A huge misconception is that people believe you must 'look' like you have an eating disorder to have one and that is the biggest lie!! The reason I hid mine for years was BECAUSE I felt like no one took my pain seriously because I didn't 'look' like I was dying. The 'after' picture is one of me for my position at @stepintogrowth and I can't say that anything would be a bigger F U to ED then me taking my life back by helping others do the same. The reality is that ANYONE around you could be suffering and you need to have the eyes to not just see someone's body--but their pain. We all need to have the eyes to hear, to listen and to love--not just wait and see. #Neda #nedaw #stepintogrowth

A post shared by Lexie | @soworthsaving (@boycottthebefore) on




As Instagram user @han_resilience1121 wrote, "Anorexia broke my heart day after day for so many years but now that I am healthy and happy, there's no reason to showcase her destruction. There is not a path to happiness- happiness is the path so step into your power and cultivate it. Create the most joyful version of yourself!"

Love this and love youuuu girl 😘 #Repost @lanasrecovery ・・・ #BOYCOTTTHEBEFORE . Because in one of these pictures I was deep in self hatred and malnutrition and misery and couldn't even fathom living without my disorder. I could barely function because my entire existence seemed to revolve around food and weight and dealing with the physical toll that my eating disorder had on me. And because in one of these photos I am nourished, I am happier, I have experienced treatment, I am slowly learning how to live my life again. I am fighting to recover and I'm fighting for my life. So, #boycottthebefore because I look pretty much the same in both of these pictures. I don't have some drastic physical transformation that will shock you. I'm not even going to say which picture is which. There is no "look" or body type to someone with an eating disorder. It's possible that at my worst, a stranger could glance at me and think nothing was wrong, not knowing that I hadn't slept in two days, that I hadn't kept a meal down in days, that this was the first time I had gotten dressed in a week, that I was so disconnected from the world around me and so sick that I would dissociate or hallucinate just walking to class or trying to fall asleep. That's because the TRUE transformation in my recovery and my LIFE has been my MIND. You can't see it, you can't fit it into a bigger or smaller sized jean. You can feel it though, because the anxiety slowly eases up, the depression ever so slowly lifts, the disordered symptoms that had been habitual start to fade but still linger, and whenever one of those things becomes too much to handle we have the skills and support necessary to guide us through it. That is what recovery means to me. Not numbers, or bodies; it's what fundamentally makes us who we are: our minds.

A post shared by Lexie | @soworthsaving (@boycottthebefore) on


User @lanasrecovery pointed out in terms of how she looks weight-wise, her "before" and "after" shots are almost the same.

"Because in one of these pictures I was deep in self hatred and malnutrition and misery and couldn't even fathom living without my disorder. I could barely function because my entire existence seemed to revolve around food and weight and dealing with the physical toll that my eating disorder had on me. And because in one of these photos I am nourished, I am happier, I have experienced treatment, I am slowly learning how to live my life again. I am fighting to recover and I'm fighting for my life. So, #boycottthebefore because I look pretty much the same in both of these pictures."

And as Louise adds, this is the time to fight back.

"I encourage you to responsibly share your recovery story this NEDAwareness 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 – when you share posts this year."

#Repost @soworthsaving ・・・ #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 (@boycottthebefore) on