by Lucy McDaid
Last Wednesday I went for a prosecco afternoon tea with my housemates. It was a birthday surprise, and a great one too. We went on a 2-4-1 cocktail crawl (basic) and ended the evening in the chippy. Photos were posted on Instagram, the whole occasion was documented on Snapchat, and the only thing missing was a ‘Boomerang’ of clinking prosecco flutes. The best bit? The fact that I managed to go out on a Wednesday afternoon and have genuine, guilt-free FUN (almost guilt-free, anyway).
If only most experiences like this weren’t plagued with guilt as a result of disordered eating and anxiety. I have set upon a mission (admittedly only on the sixth day) to self-heal and assassinate the demons that have been inhabiting me for too long. I stand firm that one of the main reasons for this is social media and the subsequent exploding health and fitness community. I am not the first person to admit this, and I hope more people will realise that it’s not identity-destroying to do so.
I would like to set the record straight from the outset, though. In no way do I criticise the people who contribute to this community. I quite often discover a new ab workout on Instagram that burns brilliantly, but I am now one of too many people who have absorbed these unrealistic – and quite often untruthful – depictions and punish myself every single day for not looking the way social media suggests to me I should.
I am in no way advocating a nationwide boycott of social media. For every troll, hoax and ‘how to lose a stone in a day’ page, there is something amazing happening to counterbalance the bad. Remember the Paris terror attack in November 2015? People used hashtags on Twitter to promote shelter for as many victims as possible. Campaigns for the terminally ill go viral every day and raise both awareness and essential funds. I am currently writing this article and simultaneously snapchatting friends with stupid filters and triple chins. Social media is fantastic. But some aspects can be harmful if not taken with the pinch of salt that they need to be. We need to learn that life is quite simply not as ab-tastic and wrinkle-free as social media portrays it to be, and we should absolutely embrace that fact.
In 2017, it is virtually impossible to browse your favourite apps and not see someone’s workout routine or poached eggs on toast. There seems to be a growing popularity for ‘what I eat in a day’ videos by vloggers, and I don’t think I have many friends who haven’t tried that endlessly promoted detox tea that actually just makes you shit loads. Celebrities post photos of cocktails with the hashtag ‘#cheatday’ (wait a second, cocktails are only allowed on cheatday?) and fitness gurus post photos of unbelievable physiques in gym mirrors with captions about how they are ‘back in the gym’ to work off those ‘cheatday’ calories – or convert them into ‘gains’, sorry.
This is not a criticism of certain diets or lifestyle choices, but somebody has to stand up for the people who absorb these messages and now believe that body image is more important than being spontaneous and enjoying life. Unfortunately I am one of those self-indulged, uptight – and yes occasionally extremely moody people on a night out – who believes this to be true. Where on earth did I get that from?
An article was posted recently about Brooklyn Beckham eating a baguette. I don’t need to tell you who posted that. Brooklyn’s ab-workout video hit over a million views the previous day and the daily newspaper claimed that he then tucked into a ‘HUGE baguette’ without ‘health fanatic parents’. What the f*** is wrong with baguettes? So many things were wrong with this article, and if you struggle with eating disorders or any related mental health issue, then this could be seriously damaging. Also, yes a workout is only ‘4%’ of my day – as social media keeps telling me – but sometimes I would rather spend that time drinking wine and eating cake.
At the start of 2017, the hashtag ‘gainingweightiscool’ was trending. HALLELUJAH. One of the points here was to prove that if making memories with friends and family over Christmas meant missing the gym, gaining a few pounds and losing some muscle, then so be it. Believe it or not, a happy soul is also important. If you are going to make some gains anywhere, then start here first. This is what I am trying to do.
I am still going to the gym – in fact I am sat in gym gear right now – but I am telling myself every single day that I will only go for the right reasons. Sweating in the gym makes me feel great, and exercise has always been a part of my life, but I have developed an obligation to go and an unbearable guilt if I don’t. The next time I wake up and cannot be bothered, or my friends spontaneously ask if I want to go to the pub, I vow to ditch the gym if it doesn’t fit in that day and know that I am not lazy or undisciplined, but a great advocate of balance (go me).
I should also unfollow some fitness pages on social media, purely to rid my life of an influence that hasn’t affected me in a wholly positive way. I am elated to be releasing these thoughts at a time when the fitness community seems to be responding to these issues, but I still think that a lot needs to be done. I have also changed my mind about the gym, I can’t be arsed today.