Though many cities and towns have slowly begun to open up, almost nothing feels “normal”. This pandemic has pulled back the curtain and revealed just how delicate our infrastructure really is in America. Both our physical needs – supply chains, local government structures, the ability to provide struggling families with food, shelter and financial assistance. And our emotional needs – systems to support mental health for all populations in America.
The daily onslaught of uncertainty, grief, financial instability, food scarcity, isolation, anger, and thousands of other emotions is traumatic. When so much is happening so fast, it is hard for our brains to cope. (Remember our brains didn’t evolve with the speed of scope of social media in mind). Our emotional stores and physical stores seemed to be running on empty.
It is hard on a normal day in America where diet culture and diet talk runs rampant, to work through your relationship with food and body, but add in food scarcity, loss of routine and increasing anxiety and working through disordered eating seems impossible. Not to mention, the explosion of America’s troubled relationship with food and exercise on social media. Fatphobic fears of “gaining weight during quarantine” or the pressure to use every minute of every day at home to “do something productive”. (As if surviving a pandemic isn’t productive).
All of this and the isolation of social distancing, is a perfect set up to develop or worsen a disordered relationship with food. People struggling with eating disorders before the pandemic already had these thoughts, ideas and fears playing on repeat in their minds. Now it looks like “proof” to our eating disorder selves that we were “right” to have all of these concerns. However, this is not true. Ratcheting up control of your food is a natural reaction to feeling a “loss of control”.
So, how do you handle all of this?
Connection is one of the best anecdotes. Connect with an eating disorder mental health professional. Connect with your family and friends in safe and responsible ways. Call people, write people, send smoke signals if you have to, but remember you are not alone in this. There are people who love you and want to support you, and they probably would benefit from your love and support too!
Decrease your social media – or be really strategic. The more time we spend alone the more time we spend scrolling. However, algorithms don’t care about your mental health. They care about “clickability”, so your feed is curated to show you things they know you’ll click, watch and like (which is often things that reinforce our fears and anxieties). So, clean up your social stream or detox from it all together. Be conscious of what you like, watch or share because the platform will show you more of that.
And if you take nothing else away from this please know you matter and you are not alone in this struggle. Millions of Americans, whether diagnosed with an eating disorder or not, are turning to disordered eating and disordered exercise habits to try and manage this traumatic event. Reach out, normalize and find someone you can talk to.