Image: Ambar Del Moral/Mashable
Just a few months ago, Lexie Louise deleted a photo from her Instagram that compared her body during her eating disorder to her body after recovery.
She realized these popular side-by-side images, which spread widely across social media to increase awareness and promote the benefits of recovery, can actually do more harm than good. So, she created an empowering hashtag campaign called #BoycottTheBefore to call them out.
"I deleted my 'then' vs. 'now' recovery photos from social media today," Louise wrote in a post explaining her decision. "Why? Well, because I am seeing I am so much more than just a comparison photo."
"I am so much more than a 'before' photo."
She officially launched #BoycottTheBefore in mid-February, encouraging Instagram users to forget traditional before-and-after photos to celebrate eating disorder recovery, and instead post a current photo of themselves. In place of a "before" photo, they can use a black-and-white panel, declaring, "I am so much more than a 'before' photo."
#BoycottTheBefore coincides with National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA) Week, which runs Feb. 26 to Mar. 4, helping the campaign reach nearly immediate success. The hashtag now has more than 900 posts on Instagram, and celebrities like model Iskra Lawrence have even participated in the campaign.
Despite the good intentions of before-and-after photos, Louise said sharing these images online really misrepresents eating disorders, and can even be triggering to those in recovery.
During NEDA Week, for example, the official hashtag #NEDAWeek is often flooded with "before" pictures, showing women at the lowest weight of their illnesses.
"We have created a community of people who genuinely dread NEDA Week because so many of us feel triggered by these images," Louise said. "It's a huge problem — and I wanted to open up the conversation."
Posting these photos can also feed into the misconception that body size tells you all you need to know about how much a person has struggled with an eating disorder.
"The photos can cause confusion for people outside the recovery community, because they see the photos and assume that the person is all better now that they are weight restored," Louise said. "Eating disorders are mental illnesses. A 'before' can't even begin to explain what this truly looks like."
Through the campaign, Louise hopes those in the eating disorder recovery community question their own intentions behind posting before-and-after photos — and, in the process, make online recovery circles more welcoming.
"I hope those in the recovery community take some time to really consider other perspectives in this issue," Louise said. "I hope to empower those in the recovery community and convey that we are so much more than a 'before' photo."
If you want to talk to someone about your experience with disordered eating, text the at 741-741. Organizations like the (U.S.), (Canada), (Australia), the (UK) and can also offer support.Topics: eating disorder, Health & Fitness, instagram, neda, Photography, Social Good, Social Media, U.S., Watercooler