This is what it’s like coming out of lockdown with an eating disorder

While you’re preparing for hot girl summer, I’m worrying about the extra calories in my cocktails

TW: Eating disorders.

While for most people the prospect of leaving lockdown on June 21st is exciting, for me it is bittersweet. The pressure to have a hot girl summer is enough to exacerbate my eating disorder.

I was diagnosed with anorexia in my first year of uni. Constant comparisons and the desire to look perfect led to extremely disordered behaviours.

When lockdown one was announced, I was at the height of my illness. With the sudden loss of routine and the closure of gyms, I spiralled further. Lockdown has not been easy for people with eating disorders, but it’s not about to get any easier.

‘Lockdown has become a sort of safety net’

Lockdown lifting should be an exciting time – I mean we’ve been dreaming about this for the past year, haven’t we? But for me and for so many others, the thought of leaving lockdown can’t help but arouse feelings of dread. Lockdown has actually become a sort of safety net.

For so long I avoided every social occasion that involved food. I was always “not hungry” or had “already eaten.” Then, just as I began my recovery journey and practicing social eating, restaurants closed.

I have not had to eat out for so long and had complete control over every meal since last March. Suddenly, restaurants have reopened and social occasions revolve around food once again. As much as I want to make the most of the new freedoms, I am not free of my eating disorder and it is not going to be that easy.

‘Have I put on too much weight over lockdown?’

The easing of restrictions also means we are finally able to see people we haven’t seen in over a year. Underneath the sheer excitement at the thought of seeing loved ones and making new memories this summer, is an overwhelming sense of anxiety.

Have I put on too much weight over lockdown? Will they think I’ve let myself go? These thoughts are a constant torment that cause me and so many others so much distress.

I know what you’re thinking – don’t be daft, your loved ones don’t care and that would be the last thing on their mind, if at all! And I know that too. But anorexia is not a rational illness and its powerful voice is a lot louder than mine.

The idea of a hot girl summer is promoting disordered habits

Inevitably, everyone is buzzing and social media is currently filled with memes about the end of lockdown. But amidst all the excitement, is extremely harmful content. Throwaway jokes about the need to lose weight and get into shape before clubs reopening are not jokes at all.

TikToks of girls eating ice for dinner to “prepare for hot girl summer” are promoting disordered habits that people like me fight every day not to give in to. For those of us whose lives have been devastated by such thoughts, it is a crippling reality and makes a mockery of the debilitating battle we face every day.

‘I am attempting to gain weight in a society that is constantly telling us that this is the worst thing we can do’

Body comparison, to yourself and others, is such a dangerous habit that has been normalised since the announcement of the ending of lockdown. People on social media have started to post pictures of themselves at the beginning and end of lockdown in order to make a joke out of their “glow-downs.” For me, this is extremely triggering.

At the beginning of lockdown one, I was extremely unwell and emaciated. My eating disorder can’t help but make me wish that I still look like that, while such trends add to this and make me view my recovery as a failure. They tell me that I should be coming out of lockdown skinnier if I want to look good.

I’m currently in recovery from my eating disorder and attempting to gain weight in a society that is constantly telling us that this is the worst thing we can do.

‘Anorexia’s voice is louder and more persuasive than ever’

The pressure to come out of lockdown looking good seems impossible when I compare my body to anorexia’s unrealistic expectations of what my body should look like. I’m not ready.

It’s a lot more difficult to ignore the part of you telling you that you don’t need to eat when you have a deadline. June 21st and the knowledge that I only have X amount of weeks to reach my goal body means that anorexia’s voice is louder and more persuasive than ever.

‘My normality is tainted by a cruel illness’

While I can’t wait to spend time with family and laugh with friends, it will not be an easy transition. Although I am glad to have some sort of normality back, the reality is that my normality is tainted by a cruel illness. Behind the smiles and laughter, is a constant fear of how the people around me perceive me, what I look like, and how many calories are in the cocktail I’ve waited a year to have.

I will spend most of my June 21st in an outpatient hospital, working on my recovery, and I am so lucky to have the help and support that I do – but I am more than aware that not everyone is so lucky.

So, as restrictions are lifted and we’re eased out of lockdown, I urge you to check on your friends. And if you are going through anything similar, it is important that you know you’re not alone.

If you or someone you know has been affected by issues discussed in this article, you can visit Beat Eating DisordersMind, and The NHS website for further information. 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.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

Listen up: You really don’t need to lose any weight by June 21st

Your ‘jokes’ about losing weight in time for June 21st are just fatphobic, so stop

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