CW: discussion of weight-loss and mention of eating disorders
Running 5k challenges, doing daily Joe Wicks workouts and dancing with Strictly stars all seem like motivating and healthy initiatives on the surface, but is the bombardment of exercise videos healthy for our mind during lockdown? Of course, exercise itself isn’t harmful, but sometimes the immense pressure from social media to transform our bodies can be.
Instead of the mainstream media focusing on how to love our bodies and practise self-care, there seems to be an emphasis on how to physically change, or in their words ‘improve’, our bodies. Fitness can do wonders for the mind and is a great stress reliever but there are limits on how much ‘motivation’ is needed. When pushed too far, it can feel more like pressure.
Since lockdown began, I have found myself looking in the mirror more
At a time where there are little distractions from our insecurities, these initiatives can be incredibly unhealthy. Since lockdown began, I have found myself looking in the mirror more and redownloading my Fitbit app to track my calorie intake. So many of my friends are in a similar cycle of counting calories and saving up calories like pennies to splurge on a meal for a ‘cheat’ as if it’s a crime. All of this is in fear of gaining weight.
This pressure of having to be a certain number on the scales or being your dream dress size after lockdown emulates the media’s dominant view that your weight determines your beauty. It was apparent that so many people have internalised this view from the reactions to Adele’s recent weight loss. I found it incredibly sad when fellow females were tweeting that they wanted to have a similar transformation after lockdown and that they need to stop indulging, and instead focus on shedding pounds.
Not seeing much of the real world, just perfected versions of people…..can have a detrimental effect
Of course, her weight loss is an incredible achievement and I am not saying people should not get healthier, I just question whether it was framed most sensitively and why it sparked such a debate. Weight is such a personal thing and the media continually commenting on celebrities’ so-called transformations can make us feel like we should be doing the same, or that other people are noticing changes in our bodies.
I have found lockdown particularly hard when dealing with my own body image. Not seeing much of the real world, just perfected versions of people on social media, can have a detrimental effect on how I see myself in the mirror. It is easy for me to compare myself to others, and it has not helped when seeing so many videos and posts around the topic of weight loss. It has also been hard to remember that a specific size does not equal attractiveness because I have been guilty of obsessing over calories or the number on the scale in the past. I am fortunate to say that I have never suffered from an eating disorder, but I have always been self-conscious of my weight and so it can be difficult to remind myself that it does not solely determine how others view me.
Exercise is an excellent remedy when it is done for the right reasons
In the last few years, there has been a surge in body-positivity campaigns and Instagram stars posting ‘insta vs reality’ pictures to show that they are presenting their best-selves online to minimise comparison. When celebrities are put under the microscope about their weight or social media encourages transformations, it feels as though we’ve made little progress.
With all of the pressure that comes with having a ‘glow-up’ circulating around social media, I have forgotten that fitness is not always about transforming our bodies, it is also about how it can positively transform our minds. It can make us feel strong, empowered and reduce stress. In this uncertain time, many of us are feeling low, and exercise is an excellent remedy, when it is done for the right reasons.
If you are feeling pressured or lacking in confidence, try forcing yourself to look in the mirror and name a few things you like each day. As cheesy as it may sound, practising self-care and taking time to pamper your body could also help. Maybe try taking a long bath, moisturising your skin or put on a face mask a few nights a week to appreciate your body and give it some love. Slowly but surely you may see a change. Remember, this is the perfect time to focus on you and your relationship with your body, so take care of each other.