“When I come back from quarantine no one will recognize me,” I proudly boasted to the mirror. Determined to self-improve during the indefinite isolation, I — along with thousands of other teens — placed a new focus on weight loss. COVID started an internet frenzy for self-improvement, with people buying weighted hula-hoops to snatch a waist or working out everyday to infamous Chloe Ting’s ab-workout. This obsession with lifestyle changes in combination with social isolation directly led to an increase in eating disorders.
Forced to stay indoors, one’s feelings of unrest and impatience ran wild. The drive to move and exercise but not having the space led to feeling claustrophobic. Thus, workout frenzies became common in adults and children. Although for many these lifestyle changes were beneficial, teens who took up exercise and diet to an extreme degree led to eating disorders; this mental illness was diagnosed twice as often in teens after the COVID lockdown. Increased focus on exercise led to poor body-image and started the path for disordered eating post-COVID as well.
A surplus of time without human interaction also contributed to an increase in eating disorders. Being isolated increased feelings of anxiety and depression, —both common triggers for a restrictive diet. Being stuck at home also led to more time on social media, meaning added exposure to unrealistic standards and encouragement of moderation. Additionally, tiktok trends such as “what I eat in a day” videos and calorie counter apps further pushed an eating disorder agenda.
Over 10% of people will have an eating disorder in their life. Eating disorders are extraordinarily common and one of the most deadly mental health diagnoses, so if you see signs of an eating disorder don’t be shy to reach out. If you are personally struggling, I know it seems daunting but reaching out for help was the best thing that happened to me, and know that it will get better eventually.