CW: Diet Culture, Weight Loss.
On Monday 22nd February, Boris Johnson set out the roadmap for England’s easing of lockdown restrictions. This included the possible opening dates for various industries, including the hospitality sector and even nightclubs by June. Although this has brought some potential good news to people and has given everyone something to look forward to in the future, it has also sparked a dangerous discourse on social media about dieting for the rest of the lockdown before ‘normal‘ life resumes.
Social media erupted on Monday evening with memes and GIFs about post-lockdown life in the summer, with most people focusing on the fact that they could see family or friends again, perhaps go out for drinks, or host a garden party. Some people were even talking about what they were planning to wear for their night out on 21st June or saying that the fake tan session the night before will be the most important of their lives. But alongside all this light-hearted fun, other memes were appearing that darkened the social media discourse.
People were posting that they had only four months to get ready for #hotgirlsummer, and this preparation requires going on a strict (or even ridiculous) diet, like only eating ice cubes until 21st June. This is promoting restrictive eating, which could be triggering for some people.
My breakfast, lunch and dinner until summer pic.twitter.com/8kuX2DCmop— 𝘉𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘬𝘣𝘦𝘳𝘳𝘺 𝘣𝘢𝘣𝘦 (@jxnnyway) February 22, 2021
Other social media posts have focused on how we’ve only got a limited time before ‘freedom‘ and we need to get fit before then, like this tweet, which is suggesting that we should be grateful to the government for giving us all this fair warning:
giving us 4 months notice to get hot is the best thing this government has ever done— Louis Staples (@LouisStaples) February 22, 2021
Despite being largely intended as jokes, these posts are body-shaming and saying that you can’t go out as you are now, but don’t worry, you’ve got four months to completely transform how you look. These words are dangerous and harmful. But, since Monday, all social media platforms have been covered with these messages. Their prominence makes them hard to ignore and they make users believe this is what everyone else is doing, so they must do it too. We are already in the middle of a mental health crisis and these posts will continue to fuel the flames. They could also lead to a rise in eating disorders as people start over-analysing what they eat or have eaten during lockdown, or putting themselves on a potentially dramatic four-month weight loss plan. This has to stop.
We have all being living and surviving through a global pandemic! That is not a normal way of life. Some of us will have put on weight during lockdown, which is perfectly reasonable. It is important to remember we are not alone in that. People have been focusing on their mental health, studying or working from home, homeschooling, being a key worker, shielding and much more – weight loss hasn’t been a priority and it shouldn’t suddenly become one now we see the way out.
If you're reading this and you're feeling pressured into losing weight before June, please know that you are BEAUTIFUL and WORTHY as you are right now. Getting thinner isn't the answer to everything.— Mollie Munro Quirk (@missmolliequirk) February 22, 2021
Nobody is going to stop you going out if you haven’t had a ‘glow up‘ by June. And, quite frankly, nobody is going to care. All anyone is going to care about is meeting up with friends, loved ones or family, being able to hug one another and having fun! Hot Girl Summer is about having a summer to remember, not what size clothes you wear, and this year, we all need a summer to remember for the right reasons.
If you or someone you know has been affected by any of the issues addressed in this article, you can contact Beat Eating Disorders for help and guidance via their website or helplines: 0808 801 0811 (Studentline)/ 0808 801 0677 (Helpline).