Coming out of lockdown- the fear of being seen

8 mins read

Trigger warning: Contains discussion of body image, weight gain, and eating disorders.

Summer is coming, bringing with it the usual pressure to diet for a “summer” body. This concern with appearance has been magnified this year by the easing of lockdown restrictions. It feels like suddenly the streets aren’t empty, but have been replaced with a runway you didn’t realise you were walking on.

A year of lockdown and a year of change for many. It’s no surprise that a lot of people are feeling nervous about not only what a post-COVID world will look like, but what they will look like in a post-COVID world.

A UK survey found that 53% of adults reported feeling ‘worse’ about their body image since the beginning of the pandemic (House of Commons). Brig interviewed a range of people to find out how their relationship with their appearance has changed.

Being inside for extended durations of time has changed the lifestyle of many who’ve became less active because of gym closures, or had an inability to find the motivation to workout at home.

Samuel Yuille, Stirling, opened up about his struggles with weight gain.

Sam described himself as “very active” before lockdown, walking daily, attending the gym, as well as weekly netball practice.

However, he has experienced weight gain in his stomach and hips, as well as reduced muscle mass in his legs and arms due to a combination of a poor diet and lack of exercise. This has left Sam with stretchmarks in these areas.

“I also jokingly say to my friends that I now have a new chin for them to meet as the weight gain can also be seen in my face,” he said.

When asked about the effect this has had on his appearance and style, Sam stated a preference for baggier, comfier clothing.

“Clothes-wise- ugh god- has been horrible. I now try to hide the features I do not want people to notice, such as the larger stomach and wider hips and now flat butt – never thought I would say that!”

Do you feel you have a better or worse relationship with your appearance now?

Sam: “I wouldn’t say I felt comfortable with how I looked prior to lockdown, but I felt more confidence in the clothes I wore and in myself. Nowadays I struggle to look at any form of picture and medium (such as Teams) that shows my fuller face, the issue lying in the newly formed chin that I don’t like looking at.

“However, I do recognise how I view my body at times is unrational as it is only responding to how I have dealt with the depression, stress, anger, sadness, self-hatred, and happiness of lockdown- by eating.”

As we come out of lockdown, do you feel nervous about how people will view you?

Sam: “I do and do not have concerns about that. I know that I can lose the excess weight I have gained through exercise and follow a better diet. Until I have access to a safe gym that has small numbers of people, or after I have all the necessary vaccines, I will not be exercising like I did before.

“Most of my company are in similar situations themselves. I don’t need to change how I look because I can’t. The weight I want to lose takes time and the stretch marks I have gained don’t fade overnight, nor is there a practical or non-expensive way to hide them (I did look that one up!).

“However, I do want to get tattoos on my body (which I have wanted prior to lockdown) and want some on my stomach to help the stretch marks to look less visible, though this costs money too and is probably painful!”

It’s natural to look different than we did going into lockdown, but that doesn’t make it easier to see yourself changing.

Lockdown has also been a difficult time for those recovering from eating disorders, with increased anxiety around the financial viability of food, restriction of activities and a more sedentary routine.

Chloe Quinn, Co Antrim and Cara Lisette, Hampshire spoke to Brig about their experiences with anorexia recovery during lockdown.

Cara Lisette

Do you feel you have a better or worse relationship with your appearance now?

Chloe: “While I’m struggling to comprehend the weight gain, I know it was and remains necessary. I have worked hard to rewire my brain and my thinking. Body positivity has been a big part of my journey, and has been a lot easier to do when not constantly being reminded of it by others.”

Cara: “Despite being much heavier, I actually think I have a better relationship with it now because of the work I have done in therapy and the day programme to help me to recover.”

While both Chloe and Cara recognise the necessity behind their change in appearance, both expressed concerns about how people would react to seeing them.

Chloe: “I feel very nervous, especially about social gatherings. There is an internal struggle not to go back to losing weight because of how others might see me or what they might think. But, with that being said, I also can’t wait to see the people I know have and will always be my biggest fans. I can’t wait to show them how well I’ve done against all hope.”

Cara: “I do feel nervous, but I’m also glad that people can now see me for me again, and not just as a sick anorexic person.”

The pressures of the past year have left us dissimilar to the people we were when this all began, but change, whether mental or physical, isn’t something to be ashamed of.

Real friends don’t care how you look. The fear of being seen shouldn’t override your desire to see the people you’ve missed when this is all over.

Brig also spoke to people who have developed a better relationship with their appearance during lockdown. See this article here: Coming out of lockdown- look at me now! – Brig Newspaper

Featured image credit: Canva

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20 year old queer poet and journalist 😎

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