Yes, I Had An Eating Disorder — Why I Won't Show My Before & After Photos

My body doesn't define my recovery.

Last updated on Oct 16, 2023

Woman picking and eating flowers irynakhabliuk, ROMAN ODINTSOV | Canva

By Lindsey Hall

The other day, I had an interview with a national magazine about my past experience with exercise addiction.

As a blogger/writer who focuses on eating disorder recovery, I’m used to the media and their questions. I’m brutally honest and willing to share, so when a reporter comes to me for “insight,” I don’t shy away.

RELATED: A Woman Who Tested An Eating Disorder Helpline's AI Chatbot Says 'Every Single Thing' It Suggested Would Make Her Disorder Worse


However, what is really starting to chap me (I’m Southern, OK, so I’m allowed to write that) is the number of times a reporter follows up with me post-interview and asks for before and after photos of when I was in my eating disorder and now, as a woman in recovery.

I audibly groan at my laptop — and smack my forehead against the screen while my dog looks on in bewilderment. Why is it always the before and after they want?

But I remember.

Drastic, shock-infused before and after pictures of anorexics or morbid obesity get clicks. Clicks boost SEO.

These types of “I weighed X and now I weigh Y — look at me now!” pics tend to attract the eye given that we are a generation of mostly visual readers.


That leads to the point of this article: I am exhausted by social media #TransformationTuesday before and after pictures that glorify eating disorders through weight. On a Tuesday morning, I am constantly inundated with these #TransformationTuesday posts from the recovery community and “fitsporation.”

It’s always the same concept: Woman/man has an eating disorder (typically anorexia if she/he represents the recovery community or obesity if she/he represents the fitspo community) and it’s a side-by-side picture of them before and after. One picture is in the depths of their eating disorder, and it is typically shocking and causes someone like me to pause as I scroll mindlessly through my feed.

The other picture is where they are now — and this nearly always involves a big smile of success to represent how much “better” their life is now that they are in the “after” phase.

Look, I sound like a curmudgeon. Congrats to all of these people who have overcome the odds. I am in support of anyone who is open and vulnerable enough to share the trials and tribulations of their lives with the scary demonic world of internet commentators.


RELATED: I Faked An Eating Disorder When I Was 12 (To Hide My Real Problem)

But what rubs me the wrong way is the glorification of eating disorders — and the perpetuation of eating-disorder stigma and stereotype through pictures like this.

Eating disorders are a mentality — a maniacal obsession. They are a loss of faith in yourself. They become a lifestyle at some point. They should not be represented only through physical weight, but more through the weight of the feeling you must abide by this “rule” or that “cultural appearance” — and the awareness you are not able to combat it alone.

The stereotypes of eating disorders play out in these #TransformationTuesday pictures because they insinuate that in order to have really struggled with an eating disorder, you have to have looked one way or the other (again, usually emaciated.)


This, in turn, perpetuates the ideology behind “not feeling sick enough” to deserve help. Those of us with eating disorders often live in shrouded shame that we are not “sick enough” because of how we see eating disorders depicted in society, so we don’t seek the proper medical help we need.

I didn’t have the classic waif figure of anorexia. My weight fluctuated during my eating disorder, as nearly all who struggle can attest. At times, it was a bit more physically apparent. But that’s not the definition of eating disorders — and it certainly is not the definition that invokes shock and awe.

I lived for eight years with my eating disorder before my family intervened. Eight years of missed life because I was under the impression that we have to be a certain weight to qualify as an eating disorder sufferer.

RELATED: Getting Pregnant Spiraled Me Into An Eating Disorder


We need to refocus the conversation on weight as the sole correlation of an eating disorder. We have to become more informed of the symptoms and the signs and the mentality outside the physical appearance. Eating disorders are the No. 1 most fatal mental illness — surpassing depression. Every 62 minutes someone dies in this country from one.

Before and after pictures of my physical appearance are not indicative of my eating disorder. Do you know what is? Remembering the little girl I was when I struggled and acknowledging the obscenely long road I’ve taken in order to get to the place where I am now (i.e., sounding off about subjects like this without it being a trigger.)

At the end of the day, eating disorder recovery is not about weight gain or loss — it’s about living flexibly — being secure, confident, and okay with what your world is now.


Eating disorders are very common.

According to the ANAD (Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders), eating disorders affect 9 percent of the population worldwide, and 28.8 million Americans will have an eating disorder in their lifetime. Eating disorders disproportionately affect BIOPC, LGBTQ+, and people with disabilities. Second to only opioid overdose, eating disorders are among the deadliest mental illnesses with 10,200 deaths each year as the direct result of an eating disorder — that’s one death every 52 minutes. If you or a loved one are struggling with disordered eating, contact the National Eating Disorder Helpline’s toll-free phone number: 1-800-931-2237.

RELATED: 10 Critical Lessons I Learned From Binge Eating Disorder Treatment And Recovery

Lindsey Hall is a freelance writer and publicist. She has been featured on CBS New York, Cosmopolitan, Women's Health,, and more.