The promotion of diet culture during the pandemic needs to stop

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Sophie Coffey
Sophie Coffey
A self-confessed shopaholic with a severe bookshop obsession.

In recent weeks every time I pick up my phone and scroll through social media or news platforms,  I catch sight of countless headlines directing me towards the best ways to “prevent pilling on the pandemic pounds” or “how to avoid the isolation inches”. 

The bombardment of these articles and the incessant promotion of dubious-at-best products needs to end right now. 

The relentless marketing of weight loss supplements and dodgy diet pills is enough to infuriate me in ordinary conditions, but the current circumstances are as far from ordinary as they come. The fact that weight-loss industries are deliberately trying to exploit and profiteer off this global pandemic truly disgusts me. The promotion of diet culture during the pandemic needs to stop.

Shame, Shame, Shame

My Instagram feed is currently crammed with sponsored posts from self-professed fitness gurus and experts. Each of them is insistent that I “need” their help to stay in shape, as if that should be my main priority. In a disconcerting period, they are invoking a fear of gaining weight and pushing their products and brands as the only solutions.

The current climate is an unprecedented and worrying time, it doesn’t need to be made worse by online influencers pushing their products at people in already vulnerable positions. In times like this, the best and worst is highlighted in those around us. What has become abundantly evident is that for some brands the coronavirus is little more than a marketing ploy. 

To be absolutely clear, this is true for only a fraction of the fitness industry and there are some amazing people out there doing brilliant work putting a focus on the benefits of exercise to boost mental health.

Unfortunately, it is also apparent that some businesses depend on our shame regarding our appearance to expand their brand and line their pockets. 

Under Pressure

If this health crisis had occurred a decade ago these articles would have remained cramped columns in print magazines and newspapers. Now, not only have these headlines travelled online but they have also followed us around our social media feeds – making them so much harder to avoid. 

There are sufficient pressures on social media as it is without feeling as if there is a requirement to emerge from this lockdown with a new appearance. The only thing that matters is that we come out of this pandemic safe with our mental and physical health in the best places they can possibly be.

Putting on weight is not the worst thing that can happen to you during this pandemic.

I am not an “expert”, but I don’t need a qualification to know that the only priority in this situation is about coming out of this crisis safely, not coming out of it with an “improved body”.

Please do not catch sight of clickbait headlines with a sense of shame that you haven’t been waking up at six in the morning for a 10km run. 

Please do not view photoshopped profile pictures with a feeling of dread that you haven’t converted to a dairy free, sugar free, calorie free diet. 

Perhaps in a situation that we are measuring by numbers it seems simple to add one more count to the list. But trust me, now is not the time to start matching digits on the scales to the distorted before and after figures posted online. 

You Do You

Exercise and nourishing food have proven to be brilliant for our mental health. Taking that walk in the fresh air when we can or trying out a yoga or workout tutorial can do wonders for our mental health and I will always applaud it. 

But I implore you to remember that there is no pressure. There is absolutely no shame in not having a whole new physique when all this is over. These are unparalleled times and it is okay if your consumption of quality news is taking precedence over your consumption of quality food. 

It is okay to be snacking more often while studying around the kitchen table. It is okay try out some new YouTube workouts now that our activity has depleted. It’s okay for you to get through this crisis in whatever way that you need to as long as you are safe. What is absolutely not okay is for online experts to tell us that we are doing it wrong and that we should use this time to “tone up”. Or that we must not put on weight.

There is no manual that describes the correct way to live during a global pandemic​

No of us know what we’re doing at the moment, so don’t let any headline make you feel ashamed of the way you are handling it. The only unequivocally right thing that we can agree on is that staying safe and abiding by the government’s measures is our shared priority.

The government coined term “cocooning” is an interesting one because it is the phrase we employ for the transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly. This particular variation of cocooning refers to staying safe and protecting ourselves and one another. In no way does it require us to emerge as entirely new creatures and it is essential that even amongst the insanity of our current climate, we remember this.

Is the promotion of diet culture during the pandemic annoying you?

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