BY ASHLEY BROADWATER
Growth is always something to celebrate, don’t get me wrong -- but sometimes the recovery community can do this the wrong way. Although we scream “Your problems are valid! Eating disorders come at all shapes and sizes!”, we seem to contradict this when we post dramatic before and after photos, talk about how horrifically sick we used to be or how little we used to eat and weigh. It’s as if we’re only trying to validate ourselves or act as though destroying ourselves was something to be proud of.
The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) addresses this perfectly in one of their articles. The very first two guidelines note that detailed images, descriptions, and numbers are harmful to readers and give the wrong idea. NEDA uses the term “anorexic chic” to describe how often and easily anorexia is glorified and romanticized. The guidelines also emphasize the importance of encouraging the reader to reach out for help and resources, rather than trying to fight the battle alone.
But while these guidelines cover our stories, our blogs, and our novels, what guidelines do we have for our Instagrams, which often contain before and after photos that can serve as hidden forms of “thinspiration”? I propose that we refrain from posting these pictures at all. We would be happier and just as much, if not more, effective in our advocacy, if we follow this guideline. We should focus on pictures that show how much bigger our smiles have become,how much more we’ve accomplished now that we don’t define our worth through our weight,how much happier our friends and family are because they love and care about us so much, or how much worse things could have been had we been “sicker”.
Let’s be advocates of the increasing happiness, the increasing friends, the increasing opportunities of eating disorder recovery. Let’s not let weight define any aspect of ourselves, our eating disorder, or our recovery. Let’s share positivity in a responsible and giving way, not a self-serving one. There’s power in eating disorder recovery advocacy, and it’s our job to create positivity in that power.
For more information on sharing your story responsibly, see http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/guidelines-sharing-your-story-responsibly. If you feel that you or a loved one may be struggling with an eating disorder, please don’t hesitate to reach out. For more resources and information, see nationaleatingdisorders.org.