June 21st: do you feel the pressure to ‘look good’ post-lockdown?

Tw: discussions of weight

Can you believe it has been a year since we last admired crazy Otley Run costumes? But the hiatus is finally set to end. The roadmap out of lockdown has been announced. Dates have been outlined. People are planning holidays. My friends are booking venues for meals. And my special going out-out outfit may actually get worn more than my joggers this year – woohoo!

Although I know some have enjoyed the calmness and personal time, many (myself included), are ready for the return of pre-Covid socials. New-found freedom, friends and family gatherings, hugs and pubs, will all be back on the agenda. But, amongst the excitement and planning, I’m taken aback by the people pressuring themselves to lose weight for the 21st.

I’ve been sat at home, you’ve been sat at home, and frankly, I don’t know someone who hasn’t put on a bit of weight. I’ve got a devil of a sweet tooth and having only moved to the UK two years ago, I’ve quite enjoyed having a go at baking classic English treats (raspberry blondies and brookies are my favs, you must try them). Despite having lots of fun with this newfound pastime, I’m also aware that, well…maybe I enjoyed it a bit *too* much.

Some of you may have gained weight, stayed the same, lost weight even. Whatever the case, whether this matters to you or not, I know there will be some of you wondering how comfortable you will feel getting back out there in your post-lockdown bods.

We have all just been though a global pandemic. We have had pressures to get our degree by ourselves, away from tutors, libraries and resources. We have had to get a job and earn money when employment is scarce. Some have been furloughed, many have lost and grieved. So, there is no need to give yourself the extra pressure of having to get your body looking ‘instagrammable’?

In today’s society, we tend to see everything as a means to an end. Everything is for instant and short-term pleasure and gratification. Comparably, losing weight for the 21st reflects our contemporary culture. There have been many conversations in recent years about body image and weight. Whether that’s on social media platforms, in the press, or with friends and family. There has been (quite rightfully might I add) backlash over the sheer volume of brutally negative and harmful comments being made. The implications of such unwarranted remarks are worsened and magnified through social media.

Clearly, I am the first to say that having a healthy lifestyle and being active is primordial. I’m also not condemning those of you who want to tone up because you want to feel happy within yourselves, FOR yourselves. However, I’m criticising society’s ridiculous and outdated standards regarding thigh gaps and socially acceptable weight. We should all be proud and accepting of who we are – easier said than done, I know. Pertinently, Florence Given highlighted in her latest book that “temporary discomfort, is investment in your future-self”. So clearly, unless you are losing weight for the right reasons, don’t bother.

But, losing weight isn’t the be-all and end-all. As long as we take care of our bodies to the best of our ability, that’s enough. In truth, we should be focusing on our personal skills, the places we want to go and the people we want to meet. Dina Asher-Smith, Sprint World Champion, recently said we should love our body and as she believes her body ‘has always been a tool and a way’ for her to ‘express’ herself. Chefs use all their senses to make delicious food; athletes use their powerful limbs to race to glory; singers use their lusty lungs to produce songs we groove to. Clearly, we are unique and fantastic, and we really shouldn’t care about whether Karen next door, wears a size 6 or a size 14.

What I’m trying to get at is this: go for the glow up. Whatever your glow up is to you, I dare you to go after it. Whether it’s baking skills (I’m telling you, brookies will change your life), being able to do a handstand, speaking Italian, applying for a volunteering program in a new place, practising your communication skills, learning how to juggle, learning how to sew, reading the book gathering dust on your shelf… I encourage you to do something that will move you forward in life.

May it be fun and special to you.

So maybe my special dress will be slightly tighter than when I bought it, and perhaps come the time, I may decide not to wear it. But I do know that whatever I decide on, I’ll be happy and glowing, no matter the size of my body or my outfit.

Header Illustration by Brittany England