The novelty of getting wine drunk with my friends on the HouseParty app is well and truly starting to wear off and what is left is the stark reality of what we’re all facing, globally. It’s almost surreal to know that we’re all living through a historic moment together and the current pandemic will be taught in classrooms in years to come.
As many of us, I find myself mostly turning to the internet for solace. My heart is warmed every Thursday by the videos and images of community spirit with the weekly #ClapforCarers and I unironically spend time swotting up for the next virtual pub quiz that has become a bit of a tradition in my household. (This may or may not have anything to do with the fact that I am continuously determined to beat my boyfriend at everything.)
However, whilst I seek out endless TikTok videos to brighten my day, the onslaught of exercise regimes, food posts and fatphobic memes is inescapable, leaving me feeling, quite frankly, worse than ever.
Fatphobia is internalised to my core, unfortunately, even as a plus size girl myself, I find myself using descriptors around food. The odd ‘naughty biscuit” here or “cheeky cocktail” there slips into my vocabulary more often than I would like to admit, and I can’t say that every day I wake up and love what I see in the mirror, but I am working on unpicking that. In fact, diet culture is so ingrained in our shared culture, it is of no surprise that in times of crisis we’re turning to the fundamentals of what we’ve been taught, whether that is damaging or not.
“For a vast chunk of the population it appears that dying a horrible death is not the nation’s biggest fear during COVID-19 but it’s putting on the ‘quarantine 15’.” says health coach and author Harri Rose.
The Quarantine 15, scarily, refers to the 15lbs of weight that people are seemingly worried they will gain during isolation. More people than ever are posting their home workouts and the food they’re cooking. The increase in targeted ads for workout and lose weight fast plans is inescapable. Alarmingly, eating disorder charity, Beat, has seen a staggering 30% rise in calls to their helpline, since the lockdown began. Not only are these posts across social media unhelpful, they’re dangerous.
So how can we be a bit kinder to ourselves whilst seemingly every other person on your Instagram feed is cooking the healthiest banana bread?
Reassess your news feed
“My biggest advice is to really go through your social media and check every account you are following and really see if they are hindering you or helping you.” Says Olivia Callaghan, better known as Self Love Liv on Instagram, where she is found advocating for mental health and body confidence. Liv has started the hashtag #SelfLoveBoos during the pandemic, encouraging her followers to share pictures of themselves and spread some self-confidence love. “Follow accounts that motivate and inspire you, that make you feel amazing, that make you feel heard, that make you feel understood. It’s totally okay to gain weight during this time, and you’re not a failure for doing so. You’re a human being.”
Eat as best as you can
This can simply mean eating what is available to you. Ditch the pressure and listen to what your body needs as best as you can. Harri says “Dieting puts so much stress on our mental and physical health. Now is not the time to go on a diet which is known to increase stress both mentally and physically. Allow trust in your body – your weight may fluctuate but this is normal and nothing to be afraid of. Throw away your scales.”
Move in a way that feels good
Not all bodies are built for triathlons and Olympian standard high intensity training, some are meant to spend hours creating art or inspiring others through volunteering their time. Remembering that there is nothing you ‘should, ought or must” do when it comes to exercise is helpful. “Move in a way that feels good. Set no goal apart from to get some fresh air or stretch or bust out some endorphins in your brain (kitchen dance parties totally count!)”
Limit your screen time
“Get off your phone. It may feel like your phone is your window to the outside world, but all that screen time is bad for your mental health by numbing yourself out from accepting the reality of the situation and listening to how you’re feeling.” Says Harri “Spend time with yourself, journal, take up a hobby, read or just be!”
Check your own Fatphobia
I think the hardest part of spotting a fatphobic meme or fat shaming comment is when it comes from a family member, friend or work colleague. The people that you automatically consider thoughtful are often those that are sharing harmful content without even realising it. Checking what you say isn’t always the easiest, but it’s worth taking a moment to reconsider if your joke or judgement on other bodies is harmful and may be dismissive of someone else’s lived experience. Harri also adds “If you’re the one who is triggered by something fatphobic, remember that you don’t have to do the emotional labour of educating someone else. Simply unfollow (or hide) that person and do something really kind for yourself.”
Whilst the body positivity movement has done so much for us in starting to learn how to love ourselves, the diet industries and ‘fear of fat’ run deep and there is nothing quite like a global pandemic to force that reality to rear its ugly head. We have a long way to go in learning to love and accept everybody’s bodies, but for now, switching off, being a bit kinder to yourself and reminding yourself, it’s NOT your sole purpose in life to lose weight, might just help.