Today transformation posts flood the eating disorder recovery community. Pictures of emaciated girls are juxtaposed to fit, healthy young women, and captions tell shuddersome stories of health endeavors gone wrong. Social media is saturated with deathly diet details and accounts of dangerous exercise regimes. Scary low weights are boasted and innumerable inpatient stays are calculated. Recovery is posted about and promised; after all, all these people did it, so so can you!
Posters’ aim is here to aid and inspire, but regardless of and contrary to their admirable intentions, these photos do more harm than good. They fixate on the physicality of the illness, which not only trivializes but triggers it. Typecasting eating disorders and eating disorder recovery, these photos foster competition within the community, create stigma, and impede recovery. They tell sufferers and bystanders alike that you have to look a certain way to have an eating disorder and that, if you don’t, you do not struggle and transitively do not deserve help. Such an attitude belittles suffering, prolongs illnesses, and costs lives.
These photos are not inspiring but ‘thinspiring’, feeding the eating disorder instead of facilitating recovery. The viewer is forced to compare their journey to a snapshot of someone else’s, allowing the eating disorder voice to inevitably creep back in; ‘you recovered wrong,’ it’ll say, or ‘if you just lost five more pounds…’ The poster can experience a similar phenomenon; ‘you were prettier at weight,’ their eating disorder can tell them, or ‘you were happier then’. Insecurities are thereby sparked and spurred in all of us–those in recovery, those in relapse, and all those somewhere in between.
These photos are clearly unhealthy, and I urge you to think before you post them–think of yourself and think of others. Is this conducive to recovery? Does this help anyone? Would I be better off deleting these photos? Consider these questions carefully and remember that it is your duty as a member of this community to promote and facilitate recovery. Please do so responsibly.