Then and now pictures are something that I’ve seen a lot of people use to demonstrate their progress and how far they are into recovery. I first want to say that I support everyone in recovery and applaud their strength, as I know how difficult it is. Those who speak out about their recovery to remove the stigma around talking about mental health are incredibly strong and I will always encourage people to be brave and speak out. However, there is one kind of recovery post that I struggle with, and that’s the use of ‘then and now’ pictures in eating disorder recovery.
I understand making the comparison to recognise how far you have come in recovery, but I’m someone that thinks the ‘before’ pictures should be kept private and for yourself. By showing these before pictures, it can be a devastating trigger to others who are also in recovery. It can bring back thoughts of inadequateness and body comparisons.
Recently I saw a post on Facebook that someone I went to university with made. She was discussing her eating disorder recovery, and I wish her all the best in her recovery and I’m very proud of her for speaking out and reducing the stigma. However, there were pictures included of her at her lowest weight and also images of her hair loss. These are very real issues that come with eating disorders and awareness should be made of them. But as someone who is still in recovery from an eating disorder, these images have had an awful effect on me. I won’t go into detail, but it led to a relapse in certain behaviours to try and get rid of the eating disorder thoughts that had come swarming back. I’d like to say again that I absolutely do not think those with eating disorders should hide any part of this illness, there needs to be more awareness. However, you don’t know who’s going to be viewing your post. I have made several posts on social media in the past about my recovery, but I have never included these types of images. I strongly believe that eating disorder recovery is not simply about changes in weight, it is about the improvement of your mental wellbeing. There are people who have eating disorders but have never been underweight – being underweight is not a requirement of an eating disorder. And before and after images on recovery posts can make these people feel that their struggle is invalid. I’m not saying that everyone feels this way when they see these types of recovery posts, I just believe everyone should be very aware that you never know the struggles of those viewing your posts.
I know that it is my issue that I feel this way when I see ‘then and now’ photos, and I know that everyone is entitled to celebrate their recovery however they wish, but I know that many others also find these kind of images very damaging. I found myself questioning if I ever reached a really ‘bad’ level with my eating disorder as I never had any hair loss. And now I’m in the worst mental state that I have been for a long time.
I want to say at the end of this post that I hold no bad feelings at all towards anyone who makes these types of posts, I’m proud of every single person who makes progress in any kind of mental health issue. Eating disorder recovery can be pure hell and I hope one day everyone is able to speak out about their recovery so that we can all work together to reduce the stigma.
All I am saying is that when making a recovery post, please consider that people who aren’t as far into recovery may see it and before&after pictures can be detrimental.
To everyone in recovery – keep going, you are wonderful and never feel ashamed about speaking out. You and what you have been through are valid, everyone’s struggles are different. Let’s all keep working together so that we can live in a world where we don’t feel like we have to compare our bodies to others, we’ll get there.