“Social media posts on weight gain through the pandemic can have a detrimental effect, including on those with eating disorders, and those with concerns about their weight or shape,” says BC Children’s Hospital Psychologist Dr. Jennifer Coelho.
“They may be reading those posts, internalizing those messages and applying them to themselves.”
Coelho, recommends focusing on self-care and self-compassion during the holidays and avoiding posting about holiday or pandemic eating behaviours.
People with eating disorders can also suffer during the isolation that results from restrictions implemented because of the pandemic. Limited participation in school and social activities can leave more time for individuals who have eating disorders to engage in detrimental behaviour, including excessive exercising.
“What can happen,” says Coelho, “is people with eating disorders may turn to online apps during a lockdown. They may engage in physical activity that can be more weight and shape driven.”
Solitary exercise may be associated with more obsessive or excessive exercise, in comparison to in-person classes, where there’s a social aspect to the activity and more support for the person.
While BC Children’s has increased the types of health care services provided virtually, some in-person appointments are required for patient care. Coelho recommends in-person evaluation of people with eating disorders when necessary.
Coelho is part of a Canadian consensus panel on eating disorders during the pandemic, developing Canadian practise guidelines for virtual treatment to be used in the context of COVID-19
Speak to your health care provider if you have concerns about when in-person and virtual appointments are appropriate.