2020 always felt like it was going to be numerologically significant number, didn’t it? I think it’s fair to say that it’s really not disappointing us! We are living through a bizarre and surreal moment in history, one that could be straight out of a Hollywood movie. While I’ve been heartened by the rise in community spirit, and have been so grateful that technology has lessened the impact of isolation (the internet, as always, proving to be a creative hotbed for humour), I have found myself despairing at the onslaught of exercise videos, healthy cooking advice and the normalisation of fatphobic ‘jokes’ and memes.
My coaching clients have shared that it’s not just the people who they expected might share such hurtful, thoughtless ‘jokes’, but even close friends who they had thought would be more considerate and respectful. Let’s not even fall down the rabbit hole talking about poor Adele.
For a vast chunk of the population, it appears that dying a horrible death isn’t their biggest fear during COVID-19, but rather it’s putting on the ‘quarantine 15’.
While the body positivity movement has made some strong inroads into diet culture, the tendrils of the thin ideal and fear of fat run deep. There is, sadly, still a lot of work to do before the poisonous idea that gaining weight is ‘bad’ and losing weight is ‘good’ can be fully debunked.
Come on people, it’s 2020. The future is here! Aren’t we past fat jokes now? Can’t we see the hurt they cause? And moreover, can’t we see that fatphobia is a form of discrimination? And the worship of thinness, especially in the tabloids (again, poor Adele), keeps us thinking that this is what we should all be striving for.
For me, I’m also noticing a total lack of regard that ‘jokes’ about overeating, restrictive eating and/or binge eating could be incredibly triggering for people recovering from, or coping with, disordered eating or eating disorders.
So, why has there been such a rise in diet culture?
It comes down to people grasping at things they feel they can control in a moment of collective uncertainty within the construct of a social narrative that says we must all be shrinking ourselves to be happy.
Diet culture is so ingrained in our shared culture that even during a time of unprecedented crisis it still permeates into our behaviour.
We are sold the idea that our bodies are easy to control if we can only be disciplined enough. We are also sold the myth that there is one correct way to have a body via the beauty standard (which currently puts thin, white, able bodies at the top of the hierarchy).
We are unable to move, eat and live how we would choose to at the moment, and a lot of people are trying to counter this by creating content that gives them the illusion of control.
Make no mistake, ‘health’ is often diet culture dressed up in lycra. Today, we are meant to be striving for ‘health’, which is, let’s be honest, frequently equated with gaining the ‘perfect body’. In reality, true health is holistic and a far wider reaching concept than a number on the scales. You can be thin and unhealthy and fat and healthy. Health should also include our mental health and we know that diet culture is a shit show for that.
Every time ‘should’, ‘ought’ or ‘must’ pop up in your mind with regards to food – challenge them. Is it just your pesky inner critic beating you up? Tell that bitch to leave the room, because judgement has no place in the most stressful and challenging moment we’ve experienced in generations!
I know that putting on weight might feel like a disaster if you have a wedding coming up, but it really isn’t unless you let it take over in your mind.
What has brought me a lot of solace during this time is seeing lockdown as the ultimate collective act of love. We have stayed home to protect the people we love, to keep the key workers from being too overwhelmed and to keep ourselves safe. If you manage to have a wedding this year, don’t let any changes in your body get you down. Focus on the reasons you wanted to get married, focus on having your favourite people around you or being able to sneak off on your own…and focus on the love. Because, at the end of the day, that’s really all that matters.Continue reading