Social Media during quarantine may negatively affect personal body image

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Graphic courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

By Nasheetah Hossain

It’s 7:00 a.m. and I’m stuck in bed, lazy and tired, scrolling through TikTok and the multitude of never-ending workout videos on my “ForYou” page. Even though I’m tired,  I somehow still have the motivation to get up and work on my body. 

In the midst of this global pandemic, my peers continuously preach that I should take advantage of this time at home and work on my “hot girl summer” body. Apparently doing my best to prevent the spread of the coronavirus isn’t enough, so I reluctantly start my workout.

At a time when everything seems to be going haywire, many of us are resorting to exercise in order to regain control of our lives. Since quarantine began on March 14, most teenagers’ social media feeds have been flooded with diets and workouts from amateur dietitians and physical trainers with dubious expertise at best. Both gaining and losing weight is a natural part of life, and our bodies are doing the best they can to keep us healthy in this time of emotional stress. However, when someone is so focused on achieving a certain body type and does not have access to a gym, he/she/they may be willing to try virtually anything to achieve the ideal. 

According to Christ Gunnars from Healthline, an average woman needs about 2,000 calories a day while an average man needs about 2,500. The vast majority of fad diet regimens do not nearly reach this benchmark and, on top of that, encourage very strenuous exercises and unhealthy eating habits which may actually be counterproductive for the body. 

During a time when students are doing distance learning, and most adults are working from home, the relentless outpouring of health videos on social media platforms creates an almost perfect storm for all of our doubts and insecurities to come together and manifest into something as dangerous and potentially fatal as an eating disorder. 

It is important to acknowledge why we may be obsessing over our body image. We can’t battle our insecurities without understanding the biological, psychological, and environmental factors from which they stem in the first place. This may include nutrient deficiencies, negative body image, poor self-esteem, or environmental factors like stressful transitions or life changes.   

According to Break Binge Eating, research study  conducted in the U.S. shows that around 25 percent of male children and adolescents correlate masculinity with being lean and looking muscular, while 80 percent report fear of “being fat.” 

As we spend more and more time on our phones, scrolling through social media, our fears of “being fat” are reinforced, as we are constantly misled to believe that “skinny” equates to “beauty and good health.”  On top of searching to find ways to support our mental and emotional health during these troubling times, we are subconsciously being persuaded to synonymize happiness and physical appearance, and push ourselves well beyond our mental and physical limits to relieve our growing insecurities.  

While these posts are helpful for some who seek to work on bettering their physical and mental health, they may also be detrimental to those already struggling with multiple insecurities, such as a negative body image or low self-esteem. This is why it is important to understand that everyone is dealing with this difficult time in their own ways, and that there is no shame in coming out of quarantine with a few love handles. 

At a time like this, it’s important to be grateful and create an accepting and non-judgmental environment for everyone, regardless of how they look during or after this lockdown we are in right now. This does not mean we should not exercise or diet while social distancing. Exercise and a healthy diet are both important and valuable.What it does mean is that we should exercise and diet, if we choose to, for the right reasons: to be healthy and happy, not to fit the ideal we see on social media.

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