TW: weight loss/eating disorder
Disclaimer: I’m not a health professional, just sharing my experience & perspective
Ok, here’s the truth – I’m a hypocrite. When BoJo finally announced the UK’s roadmap out of lockdown, I circulated so many ‘fat memes’ about how we’re all going to be waddling out of lockdown with all the weight we’ve put on. Or about how intense our diet will need to be to make sure we lose enough weight to be presentable to the world by June.
It took someone telling me it’s not ok for me to realise that joking about eating a plate of ice as your lockdown diet plan isn’t funny, it’s damaging. Whilst a lot of these jokes have been said in light-hearted jest, it’s so important to think about the consequences of those jokes. Not just on others around you, but also on yourself.
The effect of weight-loss banter
Weight-loss jokes and societal pressure can massively trigger people, especially those who have suffered from weight-related issues before, such as eating disorders. As someone who was poorly with eating disorders for over thirteen years, I actually wasn’t offended my the memes as one might expect – I was totally validated. All my fear and anxiety about my body image were reaffirmed every time I saw them on social media. I started to share them because I loved that it wasn’t “just me” who felt this way.
While I have thankfully recovered from my eating disorders now (praise God) the journey to recovery can be a bumpy one at the best of times. There are still habitual thought patterns that I can slide easily back into. When I saw the ‘fat barbie’ with 10 chins meme circulating it took me a good week or two to realise it had actually triggered a really unhealthy mindset in me.
I thought it was absolutely hilarious, until I realised it derailed some of my healthy thought patterns I learnt in recovery. It made me fall straight back into being ashamed of my body. Like the weight I’ve gained during lockdown makes me less of a person worthy of being accepted back into society. Like I’d be reuniting with friends as someone embarrassing, broken or damaged.
Slipping into unhealthy mindsets
Even if you’ve never had an eating disorder or other weight-related health issues before – it’s very likely that you could have slipped into and unhealthy mindset of wanting to lose weight for the wrong reasons.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a good thing to be motivated to improve your health. Since the end of lockdown and summer came in sight, I genuinely have started looking after myself a bit better. I’m working out and eating healthily, but am constantly checking my thought process behind this. Am I doing it because I feel pressure to lose weight?
It’s good to have goals, it’s good to have targets, it’s even good to lose weight if that’s the healthiest move for you right now – but it’s never good to have unhealthy pressure.
How do we distinguish between unhealthy pressure and healthy goals?
Take a look at some of these healthy thought processes below and try and adopt them wherever possible.
Don’t get obsessed
There is more to life than weight-loss. As soon as you start obsessing over getting fit, clean eating or weight-loss it can start to have a negative effect on your mental wellbeing. Just keep an eye on it, check your motivations and push yourself to healthy goals. Give one or two trusted people permission to keep you in check and support you.
Your worth is more than your size or weight
There is more to you than your weight! Your weight does not define you. It does not make you a better person, a worse person, a more beautiful person, a more confident person. You are who you are, regardless of whether you gain or lose a few pounds.
Let your body off the hook
Don’t punish your body for an emotionally and mentally traumatising year. Your body has kept you alive for, well, your whole life. If you’ve done some comfort-eating, stress-eating or enjoyed a few more glasses of bubbly on Zoom this year, your body probably has changed. But don’t condemn it. It’s a sign of the journey you’ve been on.
It doesn’t matter what other people think
People who judge you harshly for weight gain aren’t really the sort of people you need to be listening to. And if we’re being honest, there’s a lot of people in the same boat! So let’s just agree to be kind.
Crash-diets do not work
They don’t. In fact, more often than not they can cause you significantly more harm than good. If you don’t believe me just Google ‘why are diets bad’ and you’ll get thousands of personal, medical and psychological reasons. Healthy eating patterns are different – that’s a lifestyle change you’re committed to for good reasons.
It’s normal for bodies to change
Literally all the time. One day you might fit in your jeans, the next you might be carrying your weight in a different place and they’re a little tight. Our weight is fluid and regularly changes, particularly in response to stressful situations (like, uh, a pandemic).
Some media is toxic
I’m a big social media fan – but over the past few years I’ve had to go through and unfollow every account that is not helpful. This includes media outlets that insist the perfect form for women is: toned abs, peachy bum, perky boobs, slim arms and for men: muscle muscle muscle.
We often place unrealistic expectations on ourselves, and this frequently comes from what society tells us our bodies SHOULD look like.
The most important thing is that you are healthy and happy. Don’t spend your whole life as a slave to diet culture or the gym.
Instead, shift your approach to find what feels good. Push your body to move a little bit more each week. Eat the food that gives you energy and nutrition.
And don’t forget, if the only physical effect you have to show for a year of surviving a global pandemic is a bit of a bigger belly, then do you know what – that’s ok.
I’m telling myself here, just as much as you. I need constant reminders.
Find the truth about your body. Thank it each day for the way it works, moves and keeps you alive. Don’t be mean to it, it’s been working your whole life to help you survive.
I firmly believe that our bodies are temples. Intricately designed, living, breathing works of art thoughtfully created by God.
I lose sight of this when I focus on the ‘flabby bits’ I don’t like. Remembering these things helps me to regain some much-needed perspective.
I hope it helps you too.
I always imagined for years now that the first photo I posted of myself in active wear or summer clothing would be a victory post when I’m all toned and strong because that’ll show I’ve really recovered.
But here I am just as me. Squishy, struggling, lockdown-weight me.
This is my victory post.
I’ve been saved by grace.
This is who I used to be.
And I’m not posting these to say ‘this is how my body should always look!’ I’m posting them to say it doesn’t MATTER how my body looks… it’s always going to change. But I won’t. I’m still me. In fact I’m stronger, I’m healing.