Yesterday I watched a video by a well-known athlete who has since become an influencer. It consisted of her telling all her followers they needed to get off the couch and go outside to exercise every day during this quarantine because this is a time to “glow up, not let yourself go.” In addition, following both athletes/fitness gurus and friends who I was in treatment with, I have seen the competing messages of “Stop posting your at at-home workouts” and “KEEP posting your at-home workouts.”
This is an incredibly scary, sensitive, vulnerable time for everyone, not to mention those who struggle with mental health. Those who struggle from mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and an eating disorder are now lacking accountability, structure and connection. For eating disorder recovery in particular, the sheer number of people who have started sharing their eating and exercise regimens has become incredibly triggering. In addition to this, I have seen an even more unacceptable trend on social media of people shaming individuals for resting, sitting on the couch, or choosing not to exercise. The presence of this content has impacted me as well as many people I know over these last three weeks so I believe it is important to address it.
The At-Home Workout Debate
In the current state of the world, accountability has come to a blistering halt. My recovery sessions are all online, weigh-ins postponed, and face-to-face contact is very minimal. In addition, all structure has gone out the window with school and appointments going online and softball ending. No structure and no accountability is the breeding ground for eating disorders and relapse. However, in addition to that, social media, which is one of the only ways of staying connected at this time of social-distancing, has become overridden with at-home workout videos. Personally, my eating disorder LOVES it. I will see a workout that looks tough, and I will impulsively want to do it in that very moment. It has led me directly towards relapse in the past few weeks, and that is why I think it is important to address the social media debate.
I have a pretty strong boundary for managing triggering content, especially being in the world of athletics. I am very capable of unfollowing, muting, or ignoring things that are unhelpful to my recovery. However, the sheer number of individuals deciding each day to post their “White Claw Workout Video” is sky-rocketing. For my recovery friends who are not in the world of athletics and in the recent months have been able to completely distance themselves from this sort of content, I can only imagine what this surge of content is doing to your recovery.
I read a post by an Arbonne/Beachbody coach that said individuals who are sharing posts asking people to stop posting their workouts are “making fun of them and their wellness journey” and are being “selfish and lazy.” Until you spend two months in a residential treatment center and then spend the following three going through partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient care, you don’t know what a “wellness” journey is. It is a matter of being protective over the time and money and energy that has gone into distancing yourself from exercise, weight loss, and restriction- It has NOTHING to do with trying to make fun of you and your workout journey.
I believe we all need to strive to be a little more considerate. If you want to post your workout, so be it, but stop snapping back at individuals who are in recovery who are expressing their fear of relapse in seeing the multitude of triggering content. You have no idea the detrimental effect that has for people with an eating disorder who are stuck at home and are constantly seeing ways in which they can engage in their over-exercising urges from the comfort of their living room.
We live in a world that glorifies busy and most people enjoy competing over who has the busiest, most tiring schedule. It is really a ridiculous concept when you think about it, but now, we are all stuck at home with the opportunity to rest. However, I have been bombarded on social media with messages that want to shame the choice to not exercise and use the scare tactic to get people to follow their workouts, buy their weight loss supplements, or engage in their diets. This makes me absolutely sick to my stomach. In a time where there is fear, anxiety, and uncertainty in the world and the future, you are contributing to that by making people fear weight gain and relaxation. Do you know how much energy is exerted by being anxious and scared the way our entire nation and world has been these last few weeks? Just daily living deserves rest, but this anxiety on top of it warrants a NEED for rest to help navigate the uncertainty in every day.
This past fall I spent two months sitting still without being allowed to go for a walk. I had to be constantly reminded every single day that I deserved and needed that rest so it outrages me that people are choosing to remind people, not that they deserve rest, but that they better earn it by exercising. It took me five months to realize that not exercising everyday didn’t mean that I was being lazy, and now there are people on social media who are reiterating that dangerous belief and projecting it on all their followers in a time of vulnerability and fear.
You have no idea who you are talking to on social media and who will see your posts and read your content. While you might feel like some form of movement or particular way of eating helps you be at your best, you are in NO WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM in a place to prescribe that same message to people who you DO NOT know. You are not as smart as you think you are. Our lack of knowledge, compassion, and understanding when it comes to this concept has blown my mind. I find it truly selfish for anyone to post anything shaming people for resting, eating a certain way, or choosing not to work out and instilling the belief that visible consequences will emerge from the “lazy” choice to not engage in movement.
Here is the issue
Every 62 minutes, at least one person dies from an eating disorder so while we feel the fear and anxiety during this Coronavirus pandemic, lets not feed into the silent pandemic that is hidden behind the mask of “wellness” and “health.” At the end of the day, you have no idea what the people around you need to survive this scary time, and the last thing that any person needs, with an eating disorder or not, is to add to that the fear of gaining weight or “letting themselves go.” Every at-home workout, every fat phobic joke, every prescribed diet that you plaster out to your followers or those around you, especially in a time like this, feeds into an eating disorder and is essentially feeding a demon for more people than you know. So please remember that your words, your posts, and your influence have an impact, so use them wisely.