I’m struggling with social media right now, in the same way that I do every January.
I’m sick of seeing the word diet everywhere I look, of opening a magazine and seeing the latest celeb “flaunting” a 30lb weight loss, of turning on the TV and watching another segment on how to lose a stone on the latest juice plan, or tuning into the radio and hearing yet another discussion about how “summer bodies are made in winter.”
I’m sick of seeing others sharing posts on social media mocking those who are over weight, of seeing celebrities getting slated for being any bigger than a size 10. I’m sick of reading comments from judgmental trolls ridiculing the smallest amounts of cellulite, or the natural folds of a woman’s body as they sit. I’m sick of reading the mean names, the cruel comments, the vile statements, the belief that these people should just cover up and lose weight.
And whilst the majority of us are all for promoting kindness, and would never dream of judging and insulting others on-line, I’m also sick of seeing my news feed filled with people sharing memes of how fat they’ve got over Christmas, sharing “hilarious” posts about needing to “shift some timber”. I’m sick of seeing celebrities claiming it’s time to “lose the flab”, bloggers saying how grotesque they are for carrying a little extra baby weight, or influencers berating themselves for “ballooning” during pregnancy. I’m sick of seeing others be unkind to themselves about their own weight.
Because let me tell you, just because you poke fun at yourself doesn’t make it okay. Publicly calling yourself fat doesn’t make it any more acceptable than calling someone else fat, it just makes those looking in feel bad about themselves should they be the same size as you, or bigger.
And don’t get me wrong, I do get it. It’s January, we are all feeling a little fed up having spent the last few weeks in a bubble of cheese, wine and Netflix, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting go get fit, lose a few pounds, or just eat a little healthier. I know that we all have days when we look in the mirror and feel a bit bleurgh, when our jeans feel snug or our skin feels duller, or we realise our fitness levels are diminishing by the day. I know I do? And I’m not saying that we should never voice those feelings, or censor everything we share, but how about we are just a little more mindful of how we word it?
How about instead of using phrases like “I’m feeling so fat”, we acknowledge that, although we are not quite where we want to be, we are doing an amazing job at heading in the right direction? How about instead of calling ourselves “disgusting” after having a baby, we acknowledge that we are a little low on confidence and that eating better and exercising more would be a great boost to our mental and physical health?
How about instead of referring to ourselves as being “whale like” in pregnancy, we acknowledge that, whilst it’s incredibly hard to relinquish control and see your figure changing, and it is absolutely okay to struggle with that, we are doing the most important job in all the world and there’s is a huge difference between being pregnant and over-weight? How about instead of using these derogatory terms, albeit aimed at ourselves, we consider our responsibilities to those looking in?
Because this is where my sadness lies – with vulnerable people who may be following, watching, reading all of those thoughts and opinions and, in turn, looking at themselves less positively. Nobody said that we can’t be human, and I will always champion honesty across social media, but surely, as adults, we should be considering the impact our words may have on the eyes and ears we cannot see?
January is such a triggering and exhausting time for people with complicated and unhealthy relationships with food and nutrition, and the relentless talk of weight loss on social media is overwhelming. It doesn’t matter if they are in the grips of mental illness, or deep into their recovery, these messages can have a serious impact on anyone, at any stage.
Did you know that 1.25 million people in the UK currently live with an eating disorder? That the mortality rate associated with anorexia is 12 times higher than the death rate of all causes of death for females aged 15-24 years old? Did you know that without treatment, up to 20% of people with serious eating disorders will die?
So whilst this January you might not be feeling as healthy as you’d like to be, or your clothes fitting as comfortably as they used to; whilst you might be starting a diet, or a detox, or a new exercise regime, can we all just be a little bit more mindful of how we word that on social media? Please?