A girl with too many thoughts...

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

#EDAW2017: Before & After Photos

This week (27th Feb - 5th March) is Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Having struggled with an eating disorder for little over a year and a half now, this topic is a very personal one to me. Therefore, I would like to discuss it further in today's 'Topical Tuesday'.

I began developing an eating disorder at the age of seventeen, in the midst of studying for my A-level exams and applying to university. At the time, I was inundated with feelings of inferiority and anxiety - restricting food and losing weight became a coping mechanism for this. All the while, I failed to realise the damage it was having on me, both physically and psychologically.

Now nineteen, I've been unable to pull myself out of this dangerous mind set of using food as a way of gaining (a sense of) control over my life, my thoughts and my feelings. I moved out of my home to study at university despite my eating disorder, but every day feels like an uphill battle. Most days I struggle to attend lectures, let alone find the energy to have a social life on top of this.

I desperately want to be healthy again and actually start enjoying university life, but I'm afraid it's not that straight-forward. There are many hurdles during recovery, some of which are harder to jump than others. I personally find that the media has a very negative influence on my eating disorder, along with it's obsession with diet culture and the quest for the 'perfect body'.

And that brings me on to today's topic. When reading people's success stories on how they overcame their eating disorder and went on to live a happy & healthy life, I often come across the dreaded 'before and after' photos. Whilst I'm sure these are posted with good intentions, it often leaves me wondering whether or not it is really necessary.

Of course, I am all for people celebrating their achievements when it comes to recovery from mental illness, but is posting a photo of yourself at a dangerously low weight absolutely essential in highlighting this victory?

Eating disorders can be very competitive in nature. Sufferers may feel as though they have to look 'ill enough' in order for their emotional struggle to be taken seriously and in my opinion, these photos can fuel this harmful mind set even more. They provide a point of comparison for those who are still struggling to measure themselves against (I know I certainly do this).

An individual's physical condition is not a reflection of the severity of their emotional struggle. Just because somebody looks more ill from the outside (i.e. a lower weight) does not mean they are automatically more mentally ill than somebody who looks perfectly healthy.

To reiterate: I believe that everybody has the right to be proud of their recovery, I'm just not so sure what purpose a 'before and after' photo serves in this. How far you've come in your recovery is a very personal matter to you. Only you know the full extent of what you've been through emotionally - do you really need a picture to validate this?

I'd be interested to hear other people's opinions on this so please, leave a comment detailing your thoughts!

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