Why I refuse to buy into the fear of getting fat during Covid 19
“We’re all going to be so fat when we come out of isolation!”
“I need a lock on my fridge, I can’t stop snacking, I’m putting on so much weight!”
“I’m getting so flabby; I really need to get back on my diet!”
“Don’t let your leggings lull you into a false sense of security, try your skinny jeans on at least once a week to keep track of yourself!”
These are just a few of the things being ‘joked’ about in memes, as posts and as general banter about food and diet during Covid-19, but I for one am not buying it!
Over 3 years ago now, as a 42-year-old, well-educated mother to 3, I came clean about my secret battle with bulimia. I had spent the best part of my life preoccupied with my physical appearance. I was obsessed with my image, I worried what people thought about me, I compared myself to others, and I’d made it my life’s purpose to be that person who others would admire and look up to for my discipline with food and my focus around exercise and keeping my body an envious one.
The problem with all of that was, that I had no idea how to have a normal relationship with food and my body. For me, bulimia had quite literally been a way to have my cake and eat it too. I would restrict, restrict, restrict, restrict and then succumb to the most intense cravings by having an all mighty binge fest- mainly because I knew this binge would be my last one (yeah right!).
The binge restrict cycle is a relatable story to anyone who has ever dieted before. This cycle and the acceptance of it seems almost ingrained in our culture, we just go along with it without question. I’d done that exact same thing for as long as I could remember. I’d made dieting and the quest to shrink my body one of my greatest goals, it made me proud, it gave me purpose, it was the reason I believed I had value.
Early in 2017 I found myself exhausted. I was tired of dieting; I was tired of punishing my body and I feared the damage I would do to my children if they developed the same fearful relationship with food and my body I had. One night my then 6-year-old daughter refused her pasta because I wasn’t eating it. She wanted sauce in a bowl with cheese like I was having as part of my Keto diet. Next, I started noticing her only eating the top off her pizza like I was and it hit me like a tonne of bricks that I was being faced with a pivotal choice.
Growing up as an only child with a single mum who struggled with her own relationship with food and her body, like her mother before her, this moment hit home hard. I could continue on, or I could do everything in my power to stop my children from suffering from food and body image issues the way I had. There was no real decision to be made, I knew what I needed to do.
I became the change.
Over the next weeks, months and years, I entered therapy, reading anything and everything that exposed the myths of diet culture and I fought like hell to create mindset shifts around the way I saw food and my body. I vowed to give up dieting the way an alcoholic gives up drinking, I knew I had to find my worth from the inside. I began sharing my story, I began calling things out. I wrote a book and I vowed to do everything in my power to help others wanting self-acceptance over a life of continually failing at diets. I became so much more than my body and I found a freedom I never thought possible.
I created the Mirror Movement which is based on the understanding that positive body image starts in the home and starts early. I started running workshops for mothers and daughters where I talk about all the things, I wish I’d known when I was growing up about inner strength and how to be valuable from the inside out. I teach young people that they are not their bodies, they are their hearts, their spirits, their passions, their hopes and their dreams. It cannot be escaped that we live in an image obsessed society, one that throws money at diet culture and the beauty industry like it’s going out of fashion. Our society often views women as bodies first and people second and it’s doing a number on how we perceive ourselves.
What I discovered on my journey was once you’ve seen the truth, it can’t be unseen, but what you do see constantly, is the fatphobia, the absolute ingrained nature of diet culture in our comments and in our actions. “I’m being naughty today” as you take a piece of cake, “my diet starts tomorrow,” as we help ourselves to the buffet. If you listen out for it, you’ll hear it too, just like our kids are. ‘Fat is bad, thin is better’, you hear it over and over and over and then you believe it.
The saddest part for me is that I know the diet industry will be the one to profit when we’re all out of isolation because it exists off of our fear and insecurities, but it doesn’t have to be this way. If I was able to find my way out of the dark, you can too, if not for you, then at least for your children.
Amanda is an Educator, Presenter, Author and Founder of the Mirror Movement. If you would like to know more about Amanda’s work, including her book, courses or workshops, head to www.amandastokes.com.au or you can follow her on Facebook www.facebook.com/mirrormovementmum or Instagram @mirrormovementmum