It took just two days for the memes to start. The fat jokes nestled innocently amongst pictures of people stockpiling loo roll and singing on balconies, providing all the LOLz to a world quickly succumbing to COVID-19. For many, it seems the one thing worse than getting the virus is getting fat during quarantine.
And in between the memes and the blatant fatphobia there are a million home workouts encouraging us not to use the world crisis as an excuse to “get lazy” (i.e. put on weight) and a million other influencers offering up “immunity boosting” recipes that promise to not only protect you from catching the virus but keep your abs on point too. Diet culture disguised as wellness is nothing new, but you’d think it would give us a break while the world is on its knees.
DIET CULTURE DURING COVID-19
So if you’re struggling to feel good about your body in this current climate it’s not your fault – in fact, it’s probably kind of inevitable. And if you’re then feeling bad about feeling bad about your body when there are so many other things to feel bad about right now… well, that’s not your fault either.
It doesn’t mean you’re vain or shallow or you haven’t got better things to worry about. It just means you’re not immune to all the messages profiting from your insecurities, and you’re not immune to the physical effects of anxiety which so often show up as an “I feel fat” moment.
So much is out of our control right now, so it’s natural that you may be trying to gain some of that control back by “taking charge” of your body. Diets, intensive work-outs, regimented food schedules… these are all ways anxiety can manifest into poor body image, with diet culture conveniently appearing at just the time you’re looking for some coping strategies.
FAT IS NOT A FEELING
When you’re spiralling into this moment it might help to remember that fat is not a feeling. Identifying the emotion you’re *actually* experiencing is a great way to ground yourself in your body and gain some perspective. The Feelings Wheel designed by Dr Gloria Wilcox can help you do this…
Surviving bad body during a pandemic might seem like the least of your problems, but as we already know body image can have a huge impact on many other areas of our life – from our mental health to our physical health, to the way we engage and interact with the people around us. And this last bit – the people around us – is the bit I’m most concerned with right now.
CANCELLING DIET CULTURE AROUND KIDS
Because for the past nine months I’ve been campaigning for a change in rules around the way diet clubs and weight loss services are advertised around children, arguing that what our kids see on their way into school every day has a huge impact on how they feel about their own bodies. (Read this piece I wrote for The Unedit for more on that.)
But now so many children aren’t actually going to school the stakes at home are arguably so much higher. I don’t mean to ramp up the pressure (we’ve got enough of that already what with keeping our kids safe and well along with the home schooling and inevitable arguments over screen time and maths homework) BUT it is something to consider. Next time you have an “I feel fat” moment ask yourself what it is you’re *actually* feeling, why you’re feeling this way, and what the impact of diet culture on your kids might be if you allow it to infiltrate your home.
If you’re keen to avoid some of these diet culture traps and promote a body happy environment at home I’ve uploaded some new resources to the #FreeFromDiets website. The printable Body Happy Kids planner is packed with inspiration for confidence-boosting things you can do with your children at home during this period – and you might even get something from it too. I’ve also started a new weekly Body Happy Kids email zine you can subscribe to for more ideas and resources which might help over the next few weeks.
WHAT WE SEE AND LISTEN TO MATTERS
Now, more than ever before, use your click currency and your internet power to raise UP the accounts that make you feel good and switch OFF the accounts that make you feel bad. Mute the stuff that triggers bad body feelings and diversify your feed.
We’re not out on the street seeing a range of gorgeous different bodies every day so make sure you’re seeing some of that every day reality in your social media feed too. And not just perfectly lit, glamorously photographed bodies either – but a whole range of different people doing a whole range of different things. And not just people – but cats and dogs and all of the other cute stuff the internet has to offer! This will have a direct impact on the way you feel about your body.
While you’re there, seek out some positive, inspiring, brilliant podcasts to follow too (*cough* I hear Body Cons is very good).
THE THREE THINGS ACTIVITY
You’ve downloaded the resources, felt the feelings, listened to the podcast, cleared out your social media accounts… but still feel bad. What next? This activity might help (it’s also something you can do with your kids if you’re looking for some creative homeschooling activities!)…
- Write down the names of three people you love.
- Write down three things you love about those three people.
- Read your list and note how many of those things are appearance-related….
Then, if you’re feeling up to it, write down three things those very same people might put next to your name. If you love and value the people around you for who they are, this might help to hammer home that the things they love and value about you are the things that make you, you – not the shape of your body.
HAVE A KITCHEN DISCO
Genuinely not even joking. There is a huge amount of evidence into the benefits of joyful movement, including bringing a feeling of gratitude and connection to your body, easing anxiety, tension and getting out of your head. And what’s more joyous than a kitchen disco (handy because real discos are out of the question at the moment)? I’ll be doing a kitchen disco live over on Instagram on Friday at 3pm GMT, but even if you can’t join me then just putting some music on, having a boogie around the kitchen and loosening up is a great way to come back to your body in a positive way.
I’ll be sharing lots of resources, ideas and inspiration over the next few weeks for ways to feel good in your mind and body during this unsettled period, and ways you can help your kids feel good too. In the meantime, check out the resources page of the #FreeFromDiets website, listen to Body Cons, and follow me on Instagram for almost-daily nuggets of body love.