We share two campaigns that are tackling diet culture during lockdown, because you do not need to lose weight during a global pandemic
Even during the Coronavirus outbreak, diet culture is rife. And if you’re really tuned into its toxicity, you’ll notice that it’s not remotely subtle. You’ll hear it in the jokes about gaining “the quarantine 15” or the exasperation of, “I’m not going to be able to fit into my clothes after lockdown!”
These might seem like lighthearted, throwaway comments, but, they’re all in the same vein – they all point towards fatphobia and disordered eating.
Then there’s the influencer marketing. Unqualified nutrition advice and celebrity endorsements of weight-loss products is nothing new, but it feels to be of particularly poor taste right now. How, even during times of crisis, are we still being fed messages that our bodies aren’t good enough?
And, where diet culture is concerned, there’s always a consequence. Beat, a charity for people with eating disorders in the UK, has seen a 73% surge in people accessing its services during lockdown. The facts speak for themselves.
If you’re sick of diet culture and are looking for a positive source of inspiration, here are two campaigns you need to know about (and then share far and wide).
The social media stars that are on a body confidence mission
Earlier this week, Evening Standard journalist Helena Wadia released a video in which she speaks to body positivity campaigners Megan Crabbe, Grace Victory, and Michelle Elman on the subject of body image during lockdown.
If you haven’t watched the video, you need to:
“Every single time I log on to social media or even turn on the news, someone is making a joke about not being able to fit in their clothes after we leave this. And I’ve made posts about how those jokes aren’t actually funny, they’re fatphobic,” says Megan.
“The biggest response has been ‘What’s the harm?’ I think people don’t realise that it’s a joke on top of a statement on top of an article, and it all just builds into this fatphobic belief system.”
Happiful columnist Grace agrees. She says, “People genuinely believe that they are not enough and they are lazy if they don’t lose the weight or use this time to be productive. We’re in a f*cking pandemic and people’s bodies and minds react differently.
“Some people will naturally lose weight because of stress, some people will gain it. Why does it matter? We are so obsessed with the way other people look because we have ingrained that your self-worth is pinned on what you do, what you achieve and what you look like.”
So, what can you do if you’re feeling overwhelmed and focusing negatively on your body during lockdown? Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix. It takes a lot of time to undo all of the body-shaming messages you’ve learnt over the years. But you can start by being kinder to yourself, says Grace.
“What I don’t agree with is living with unkind thoughts about yourself all of the time. You haven’t got to live like that. There’s a life waiting for you if you would just stop trying to be small.”
Further reading on overcoming diet culture:
The dietitians calling for the regulation of health information on social media
Leading dietitians Sophie Medlin and Hala El-Shafie have created a petition to protect the public from false and potentially harmful medical claims made by social media influencers. With the support of the British Dietitian Association (BDA), they are calling for the regulation of health information on social media.
They warn that the rise in the number of celebrities and social media influencers freely endorsing dangerous ‘diet products’ poses serious physical and mental health risks to the general public.
From appetite suppressant lollipops to diet pills, skinny teas, injectable weight-loss medication and IV drips, many social media influencers are promoting desirable diet quick-fixes, to get the perfect body image. However, these ‘too good to be true’ options can cause severe abnormalities and adverse side effects, such as cardiac irregularities electrolyte imbalance, diarrhoea and an increase preoccupation and body dissatisfaction.
Sophie Medlin, dietitian and founder of City Dietitians says: “Research has revealed that young people, and often those who are the most vulnerable sections of society, cite that social media is their main source of health information.
“The problem is most of the sources of this information are social media influencers who have no nutrition or medical qualifications and, therefore, no accountability for the dangers they put their followers in. This has to stop and there needs to be some kind of process to ensure information shared on social media, particularly by people in positions of power, is supported by verified health claims.”
There is no current regulation conducted on social media to monitor claims and statements made by individuals and influencers, who are often receiving financial rewards for promoting such products.
Professionals are calling for the introduction of a new regulatory system to prevent influencers and celebrities from giving medical advice without the right qualifications, as well as allowing qualified medical professionals a verification mark online.
Hala El-Shafie, dietitian and founder of Nutrition Rocks, adds: “The impact of these types of posts is having a severely detrimental effect on the health of our nation, which is causing irreversible harm and even death.
“However, a new regulatory system would aim to remove the risk of such posts and protect the general public from harmful messaging, whilst also educating the young and vulnerable on what and who to trust when using social media for medical information.”
The petition has gained over 3,000 signatures from nutrition professionals and the general public.
You can sign the petition calling for the medical regulation of social media here.
Where to get help
If you’re experiencing body image issues or struggling with an eating disorder, here are some places you can find help:
Counselling Directory has a wealth of self-help information on a variety of eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder. Or, you can use the free search tool to find a professional counsellor online or in your local area today.
Beat, one of the UK’s leading eating disorder charities, can provide information and support.
Resources on tackling eating disorders: