Don’t feel pressure to go to the gym just because they’re reopening today

Nothing about the last year’s been normal, we all need to cut ourselves some slack


TW: Eating disorders

Today, April 12th, lockdown restrictions in England have eased with the reopening of pubs and restaurants (with outdoor seating only), hairdressers, non-essential shops, and gyms. Obviously, everyone is excited to go grab a pint in the pub and queue for Primark. However, amongst all the excitement there are people who will are battling with thoughts of negative body image, who are feeling that they have to go to the gym today.

When Boris Johnson announced that restrictions could be completely lifted by June 21st people started to talk about how they now felt they had to lose a certain amount of weight by then in order to enjoy summer. This obviously isn’t true at all, but now the same is happening today with the reopening of gyms.

Gyms are undeniably helpful for so many people’s physical and mental health. During exercise, endorphins are released which “working with the opiate receptors in the brain to reduce the sensation of pain and provide a boost of positivity and pleasure.”

However, for those who are suffering from disordered eating the reopening of gyms can heighten the negative feelings they feel in regards to their body and weight. Disordered eating, eating disorders, and negative body image can manifest themselves in numerous ways in different people, some may restrict food, make themselves sick or exercise a lot. Whilst restricting food and calorie counting are well-known possible symptoms of eating disorders, excessive exercise can also be a symptom.

As someone who has had body image issues and dealt with disordered eating, part of me feels like I should sign up to a gym straight away. During lockdown I have told myself: “I don’t look my best but that’s only because the gyms aren’t open. I can lose weight when the gyms open.”

But there’s absolutely no need to sign up for the gym just because they have reopened. Yes, we may have all done less exercise during lockdown than we normally would. Yes, we may have put on some weight. But who cares? We’re living through a pandemic. Nothing about this last year is normal so we should all cut ourselves some slack.

If you do decide to go to the gym and you have suffered from negative body image or disordered eating, remember that gyms have been closed for months so no one will be at their best. Take it slow, and don’t pressure yourself into trying to hit unrealistic goals.

If you or someone you know has been affected by issues discussed in this article, Beat Eating Disorders is a charity who offer support services including a helpline and web-chat service. You can access these services here, or call their helpline on 0808 801 0677. You matter. 

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