I found this post on tumbler today and I think you should read it. It’s terrifying how an eating disorder can be viewed as healthy.
BEFORE/AFTER PICTURES: HEALTH EDITION
TW: EATING DISORDER
I’ve been wanting to make this post for quite a while. I’ve seen before/after pictures all my life. In fact, there was a period of time when I searched for them obsessively, trying to convince myself I could be the “after” photo if the “before” person could, too. But before/after photos generally aren’t about health or fitness, but about weight loss. And I’m here to tell you: they aren’t the same thing.
I had problems with food perhaps my whole life. I grew up in a dieting culture, in a dieting household. I went on my first diet in the fourth grade, and was praised for it. I went on my first fast in the seventh grade. I started restricting seriously when I was sixteen. I became obsessed with dieting and exercising at seventeen. I was still not the modelesque girls in the “after” photos. I saw too much “before” still. Health and fitness became an obnoxious facade for the real desire: weight loss.
On my eighteenth birthday I realized I had an eating disorder because I had a panic attack at the thought of having to eat birthday cake. From then forward my health spiraled downward. I was eating as few calories as I could, and burning/purging as many as I could get away with. I would exercise for hours at the gym, and yet I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded. My body was so weak, I had difficulty standing for long periods of time without feeling faint.
The abuse I put my body through: the restricting/fasting, the binging/purging (and sometimes one without the other, although mostly purging without binging), the over-exercising, it all resulted in weight-loss while sacrificing health and fitness. And yet people in our society don’t seem to get that they’re not synonymous. I would have family friends approach me to tell me how good I looked, how fit I must be, how healthy I must be. Every compliment I received brought bile to my mouth. Couldn’t they see I was ill? Couldn’t they see how sick I was?
The thing is, many of them could see how sick I was. One of my mom’s friends said to me, “You’ve gotten so skinny! You must not be eating. Are you not eating? Good for you! Keep it up. I need to start doing that. What a great way to get in shape.” I really wish I were kidding. But the fact is, people think losing weight by starving yourself counts as getting into shape. People see “being in shape” as literally looking like you have no body fat, rather than being in the best physical condition your body can be in.
People would tell me I “looked fit.” As if you could “look” fit. As if fitness had a physical shape. You know what? I wasn’t fit. I was ill.
I was so ill, that when I tried to get better, my body rejected it. For a long time. It had gotten used to less than five hundred calories a day. It had gotten used to throwing up any time I felt remotely full. It had gotten used to functioning without any fat or sugar in my diet. When I was hospitalized, it was really difficult for me to keep food down. Everything made me feel sick. I would eat a normal meal, my stomach would swell as if I were pregnant, and I would be in so much pain I’d cry through the therapy sessions. We did yoga in the eating disorder treatment program. I was one of the worst at it. I had no balance, and everything made me out of breath. My muscles would shake even doing downward dog.
And that brings us to the “AFTER” photos. I was diligent about recovery. I stuck to the meal plan my nutritionist gave me. I made sure to exercise regularly, without over doing it. Part of my meal plan involved eating dessert every day. So I ate dessert every day. Part of my recovery was to engage in unconditional self love. So I embraced myself, my body, and my love for myself like it was a religion.
I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been. I’ve gained 75 pounds since I was checked into the eating disorder clinic three years ago, and am 5 sizes larger. But you know what? I am healthy now. I have a balanced diet. I exercise for the sake of health and fitness, not weight loss. I do yoga, and without shaking and panting. I have balance. This is what health looks like for me. This is what fitness looks like for me.
I encourage all of you, find your own health and fitness. Find your own balance. Don’t compare your body to other people’s bodies. Your body is uniquely your own. Therefore, your health and fitness are uniquely your own. Fat does not negate health and fitness. Thinness does not guarantee it.