Eating in Times of Corona: The Impact of Social Distancing on Disordered Eating

28 April 2020 / By Social Media

As the world reels under the massive impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, all spheres of life are being disrupted. Apart from the thousands of people who have lost their lives to the disease, economies have come to a standstill. Plans painstakingly crafted months ago have remained unfulfilled. Many individuals find themselves isolated at home, be it alone, or with family and friends, leading to people sleeping, working , exercising , eating and studying from the same space, often in less than ideal conditions. In India, where the number of COVID patients is steadily climbing, citizens have been under lockdown for nearly a month, with many implications.

While the mental health implications of COVID-19 have not gone unacknowledged, with organizations like the WHO issuing guidelines for the general population, caregivers as well medical professionals for dealing with the psychosocial impact of the pandemic (WHO, 2020); people who struggle with disordered eating remain largely unacknowledged. In the times of uncertainty that we are living in, eating disorders often emerge as a means for gaining a sense of control. By nature, eating disorders also tend to intensify when individuals are going through difficult phases, which this period of physical distancing certainly counts as (Demar, 2020).

Many people struggling with eating disorders, who rely on daily routines to help keep distracting food-centered cognitions at bay, find themselves stuck at home, where they are often forced to stockpile food due to the precariousness of the food supply. The fear of food shortages gives impetus to keeping track of one’s food intake, which is a difficult experience for individuals, especially those recovering from anorexia, for whom patterns of restricting food intake and counting calories can re-ignite (Hogan, 2017).

For some individuals, isolation triggers unhealthy thought about food, and since gyms are closed, being unable to exercise and not eat according to prescribed diets is leading to guilt. Furthermore, the abundance of internet memes about the ‘quarantine 15’ - jokes about how people will gain 15 pounds over the course of quarantine- can also trigger difficult thoughts and feelings.

In the face of such difficulties, it is important for those with eating disorders to remind themselves that they are not failing at recovery. Things like limiting social media use and reaching out to others are important tools to help cope with the crisis. While recovery groups or face to face therapy may not be possible, there are several online resources that exist for eating disorder support.
The National Eating Disorder association in the US has several useful videos to help cope with eating disorders, including the video by Finch which talks about eating recovery during the pandemic (Finch, 2020).

If you are currently struggling with mental health concerns during the Covid-19 crisis, you can also reach out to the YWP; help team at @yourewonderfulproject on Instagram


REFERENCES

Demar, E. (2020). Coronavirus Quarantine and Eating Disorders: Keeping the
Covid-15 Off. Retrieved from: https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/?s=Coronavirus+quarantine+eating+disorders+

Finch, S. D. (2020). 5 Reminders For People With Eating Disorders During a COVID-19 Outbreak. Retrieved from:  https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/5-reminders-for-eating-disorder-survivors-during-the-covid-19-outbreak

Hogan, G. (2020). Counting Chickpeas: Grappling With Disordered Eating in Quarantine. Retrieved from: https://thebolditalic.com/counting-chickpeas-what-its-like-to-be-quarantined-with-an-eating-disorder-5ed05963fb73

WHO. (2020). Coronavirus. Retrieved from:  https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

Link to recovery video: https://www.facebook.com/NationalEatingDisordersAssociation/videos/155263012355675/

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