Anorexia was nurtured and nourished by lockdown – and the media

Rachael Boyd writes the blog Life Of A Fruitcake

Rachael Boyd writes the blog Life Of A Fruitcake - Credit: Rachael Boyd

Eating disorders have had a smashing year. They not only recruited many-a-new member, but also saw the loyalty of existing members strengthen significantly.

The daunting uncertainty of a pandemic, social isolation of lockdowns and intensification of diet culture’s toxic weight-management rhetoric, has provided them with fertile breeding ground, illustrated by the 172% increase in people seeking help from BEAT Eating Disorders charity in 2020.

As someone with anorexia nervosa, I can testify to how brutal this year has been. I’d barely opened my eyes on the morning of March 24, 2020 before my phone lit up with diet and weight loss advertisements.

Already, disordered relationships around food and exercise were being praised as productivity, rest was being demonised as a waste of time, and the already razor-sharp focus on our bodies had intensified.

The media bolstered the punishing voice of the anorexia, branding my body as an insatiable, greedy beast, to be kept on a tight leach of gruelling rules and regulations. I was bombarded with “Top tips to shift the lockdown pounds!”, “How to stop over-eating in quarantine”, and sold burpees in my bedroom as the "self-care" I needed to get me through the "unprecedented times".

Despite my mockery, the times certainly were, overwhelmingly, unprecedented. The lack of control gave anorexia a perfect opportunity to offer up its cut-throat clarity as a life-buoy to cling onto.

As eating disorders often do, anorexia dressed up as a "purposeful schedule", disguising an awe-consuming disease, that sets its victims on a self-destructive treadmill, sucking all spontaneity, all freedom and all joy from life. Lockdown perpetuated this through the stalling of life in the outside world. There was no social life to feel left out of, no career opportunities to be missed, and thus nothing to dilute the endless injection of thoughts about food and exercise.

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Anorexia was nurtured and nourished by the situation, giving it the ammunition it required to push me further down it’s dark hole. I was trapped inside an air tight echo chamber, holding space only for my dysmorphic perception of myself and body, and allowing intrusive thoughts to embed deeper into my brain.

So, as I said, eating disorders have done well this year. They’ve flexed their muscles, sunk in their teeth and tightened their grip. And whilst lockdown may be easing, the damages of it aren’t. So let’s not get trapped in conversations about weight and shape when we reconnect, we are so much more interesting than our bodies, and frankly, I’ve thought about mine enough.

Rachael Boyd lives in Highgate and writes the blog Life Of A Fruitcake at www.lifeofafruitcake.com

Find information on and support for eating disorders at www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk

This newspaper is hosting Ham&High: Our Community's Mental Health on Friday May 21. It is a day of free online events on the topic of mental health. Register for free by searching "Ham&High" on eventbrite.co.uk.

Rachael Boyd

Rachael Boyd - Credit: Rachael Boyd

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