Obviously, there’s never a good time to have body image issues or a history with eating disorders, but this feels like a particularly shitty time for it, doesn’t it?
It’s not just that almost everyone’s mental health is struggling right now, although that is a huge part of it. Whether you’ve lost your job, whether you’ve lost your book club, or your Friday night drinks, or your weekly date night, whether you’re stuck in a house with five kids or stuck in a house alone, whether you have a safe place you can isolate in or people you love that you can isolate with, or whether you’re just plain scared because this situation is unprecedented and none of us knows what to do – it’s taking a toll on everyone.
It’s not just that there’s suddenly nothing else to do but eat, although that does seem to be all I do now. While other people take up cross stitching and jigsaws, my only hobby is walking from the couch to the fridge. And there’s so much more food than usual, because every member of my household has decided to bake cookies and a cake and a fresh loaf of sourdough. It’s inescapable.
It’s not just that there’s so much more time to think about these things - your body, what it looks like, what you’re feeding it. Without work or any semblance of a social life, there’s so much less going on in order to distract us from our demons. There’s so much more time spent scrolling through Instagram, looking at what everyone else is supposedly doing and how we shape up in comparison. There’s so much more time to fall back into old habits, to let the hateful voices in your head win.
What’s really bugging me though, is the fact that suddenly every single person on the internet seems to have become some sort of fitspo Instagram influencer. According to my social media feeds, all of my friends and all of my friends’ friends and everyone who I had one class with in Year 11 seems to be doing intense workout sessions at least five times a day. How do I know? Because they post about it online. Every. Single. Time.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I have a problem with exercise! I mean, I do personally, but people should be doing whatever they want to stay active and keep their spirits up right now, and working out is one of the best options we’ve got.
What I do have a problem with is the fact that everyone’s sharing it all online. It’s the fact that people tell all their followers every time they’ve done a Zumba class, that they post the number of calories they’ve burned, that they share the fact that they have an arduous daily fitness regime.
I know that none of these people have bad intentions, but that doesn’t make their actions any less impactful.
Because all these posts do is make other people, those of us who are all too easily triggered by conversations about food and exercise and our bodies, feel like shit. It sends us into a tailspin, because we know we’ve only worked out once (and quite half-heartedly, if we’re being honest with ourselves). We know that instead, we’ve spent the majority of our lockdown free time drinking rosé and eating chips and dip. If everyone else is spending all their free time working out, how will I compare to them when this is all over?
Unhealthy body image, for me, has been defined by a lifetime of comparing myself to others. Not just the way I look, but the things I do to look that way. And I’ve worked hard to escape that way of thinking - to try not to judge myself against the heavily edited online lives of others, but it’s starting to become impossible when I’m constantly bombarded with posts about how everyone else is getting into shape, while I’m not. It makes me dread the end of lockdown, when all these people come out with abs and I come out 50 cinnamon brioches heavier.
Please, next time you’re about to post about your third go on the treadmill today, think about those of us who are deeply insecure about our bodies. Think about your friends who have had eating disorders and body image issues. Think about your friends who can't help but compare themselves to others, think about the way it eats away at them. And please also think about those who can’t afford to focus on their health and fitness right now – those people who have lost jobs, lost incomes. We are living through a global crisis – even those of us who don’t have an “excuse” are dealing with the anxiety of that.
There are so many genuinely important things to worry about right now, on both a global and personal level, that worrying about the way we look should not be on anyone’s radar. I’m mad that I’ve spent literally any time at all thinking about it at all.Support Villainesse