There are few things more inspiring than eating disorder recovery. Instagram is filled with countless side-by-side photos showing the difference between a suffering person and a healthy one to encourage others, but sometimes, these photos do more harm than good.
An eating disorder advocacy group is shattering the stigma that the "before" picture is bad or shameful. They argue that both sides of the photo are still valuable, and one affects the other, so we should embrace both as such.
The eating disorder awareness campaign is called #BoycottTheBefore and is trying to end any stereotypes associated with eating disorders.
"Eating disorders are first and foremost mental illnesses," the group explained on its website. "They have the potential to cause weight gain, weight loss, or can have no effect on one’s weight at all. All eating disorder diagnoses are valid; one does not have to 'look sick' to be struggling."
It's hard to not rely on someone's outer appearance to judge someone's wellness, but this idea perpetuates the myth that eating disorders look a particular way.
The reality, however, is that an eating disorder doesn't necessarily mean looking skinny, frail, or unhealthy. They come in many shapes, sizes, and varieties.
Thus, countless women are sharing their #BoycottTheBefore stories to explain how their before photo doesn't tell the story of their recovery.
"For me my before and after pictures are very different. Treatment was something to make me stabilize my weight, I was never underweight and therefore seeing before pictures of people underweight makes me wish I looked 'sick' enough to have an eating disorder and triggers a lot of thoughts," one woman wrote.
For some, pictures are actually quite useless.
"Picture doesn’t necessarily fully explain who we really are and how we actually were feeling at the time when we took it. I used to be the queen of faked smile. I posted the photos, which me putting fake smile on face is in, on social media including my previous insta account, pretended to be that I am an all-around happy positive girl. That was someone else, not my genuine self," Hika captioned her photo.
Recovery is not just as simple as snapping a photo.
Instead, it's deep, long-lasting mental change. "The way I think about myself changed. The way I think about the world changed. The way I think about food changed," Lexie wrote on her submission. "I am so much more than a before photo and I am so much more than a after photo, too! Photos just show a glimpse of something and they’re so easy to manipulate."
And EDs are not a "one size fits all" diagnosis.
"It’s my body. I have an average shape, and I wasn’t diagnosed with an ED because I never been severely underweight," a woman wrote.
Real change happens on the inside (with healthy habits), not on Instagram (with before and after photos).