Why the #BoycottTheBefore Movement Is So Important in Eating Disorder Recovery

I am sick of seeing before and after pictures.

I am sick of people in recovery quantifying their progress by placing a picture of them at a low weight compared to a healthy weight and stating that is where the work happened. Because it’s not.

Because as hard as gaining the weight is, especially in a society that encourages weight loss and being thin and lean and eating clean, that is not all of recovery. The other parts — the learning to take care of yourself again, to tolerate really strong, painful emotions, to advocate for your needs, to talk about things that have really hurt you in the past, to learn to live in a body that doesn’t feel familiar — that’s where the growth occurs. But the part that is so often stressed is the physical aspect, the weight.

And it simply perpetuates the idea that eating disorders have a body size — that eating disorders are identified by the way the person living with it looks. That someone with an eating disorder must look visibly sick for their pain to be recognized and taken seriously. That anorexia is the only valid eating disorder since many people with bulimia/binge eating disorder/atypical disorders are often not underweight.

I am not perfect. I’ve posted these pictures. The validation of my progress from sick to healthy has kept me going on days when the hard parts of recovery are pulling me down. But I refuse to do that anymore. I refuse to post pictures of my body to validate my illness or my progress. My eating disorder was serious and worthy of validation regardless of my body size, and my recovery is worthy of applause and support no matter how much weight I had to gain or how many calories my meal plan was.

My recovery is worthy of applause because I am doing it. Because I wake up every single day and I don’t run away from pain or numb out fear anymore. Your recovery is worthy of support and love because you are brave and you are showing up to life, not because you gained weight or followed a meal plan or bought a new size of jeans. Recovery — and eating disorders — are not defined by the size of one’s body.

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

One of the hardest things I had to learn in recovery was that bodies are dynamic, that weight changes hourly and nothing stays the same. My body is going to fluctuate, and I am still me regardless of that. I had to learn my worth is not dependent on the number I see on the scale or the body I see in the mirror, and because of that realization, I can honestly say I do not need to post pictures of my sick versus healthy body to validate anything anymore. I am excitable and bubbly and clumsy and silly and creative regardless of my body size — but I cannot be these things when I am sick.

There are going to be an influx of before and after, sick versus healthy pictures posted on social media as a way of people validating their sickness and recovery, and I will not be one of them. Let’s #BoycottTheBefore picture, and celebrate all the incredible things that a life in recovery and a life after recovery has to offer.

I’ll be posting lots of pictures of ice cream and skating and laughing with friends.

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Unsplash photo via Adrian Sava

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