Offering a different perspective from the popularized eating disorder recovery before-and-after photos online and in the media, #BoycottTheBefore began to take shape in December of 2016 when I felt compelled to speak out against sharing my own “before” photos where I physically appeared ill and underweight.
I had shared dozens of eating disorder recovery comparison photos years prior to this realization that there may be another way to educate the world on eating disorders and share my story.
#BoycottTheBefore is about choosing to not include triggering information in our posts, including graphic photos of us at low weights, as well as calorie intake, the number of meals eaten or skipped, graphic details of disordered behaviors, etc. The goal is to share our stories in safe, educational ways, while also taking a stand and supporting one another.
The #BoycottTheBefore campaign stands as a powerful choice to leave behind our low-weight photos to demonstrate that eating disorders do not have a “look” and that anyone can struggle immensely with an eating disorder at any size. Unfortunately, when we share our low-weight images of us struggling with an eating disorder, we unintentionally insinuate that “underweight” equates to struggle, when those who stayed the same weight — or even gained weight — can be suffering from an eating disorder as well.
Shortly after sharing this post on Instagram in 2016, where I depict illness and wellness with a wilting flower standing as the “before” and a lively flower standing for “in recovery”, which aims to take the focus away from our bodies, I boycotted the before for the first time in February of 2017. I wrote an article about my intentions behind #BoycottTheBefore, as well as a call to the community on NEDA’s sister blog that was syndicated on Cosmopolitan: Why I’ll Never Post Another Before-and-After Photo Again.
The campaign went viral. The hashtag on Instagram currently has over 2,000 posts of people in the recovery community supporting #BoycottTheBefore.
“Before” photos of eating disorder transformation photos can be triggering to those in recovery, be misused as thinspiration, fuel the “I’m not sick enough” rhetoric, play into “shock value” and even miseducate the public of what eating disorders are as we often only see the low-weight images make it to news stories for eating disorder awareness.
#BoycottTheBefore is about taking a stand against damaging outcomes of “before” photos and instead, celebrating our recoveries in safe, educational ways.