I entered 2020 with the strongest mindset I’ve ever had in my post-adolescent life. I was finalising my Medicare Healthcare Plan, I had lined up appointments with an array of doctors, and I finally managed to delete UberEats off my phone. 2020 was the year I was going to confront my Type 2 Diabetes head on.
I’ve been big my whole life, and with terrible eating habits, a disdain for sport, and a greasy family history, I didn’t flinch when I was first diagnosed in 2017. I’ve had my ups and downs managing it, and I’ve done okay so far - but I just needed to take that extra step. Or perhaps an extra run.
As the nation eased into social distancing and self isolation, I stayed optimistic - despite being immunocompromised. Working from home meant I could head to the gym earlier or go for walks while the sun was still up. I could flush out fancy open sandwiches on my lunch break, and snack on rice cakes with peanut butter straight from the jar - who was there to judge?
As the nation eased into social distancing and self isolation, I stayed optimistic - despite being immunocompromised.
But then the gyms shut, and the sun started to set a little earlier. It got harder and harder to pull myself out of bed to complete my floor workouts, and I soon slipped back into old habits. I would scroll through Instagram watching influencers and friends cycle around new short fitness challenges. See 10 Do 10? No, thank you. I knew what was coming next. Food was going to go back to being purely about emotion and comfort, and not nutrition or energy. I was going to creep back into my Gilmore Girls diet of rom-com ice-cream tubs and movie-marathon pizzas. Heavy and hearty foods continue to be my primary coping mechanism, but not in the Lite way I was hoping for this year.
I was torn. I had set a plan and pace for myself that I was so ready for - even in an apocalyptic world. With grocery runs and exercise being some of the only legal things to do outside of home, this was the perfect time for a health reset. So why couldn’t I focus? Was I anxious about the uncertainty of the situation? Did the terrifying news cycle just never end? Am I just looking for excuses? Surely I’m stronger than this.
Was I disheartened by the people sharing fatphobic memes and making jokes about weight gain? Definitely. Is being fat or getting fatter the worst thing to happen to someone in a situation like this? Absolutely not.
COVID-19 isn’t some universal sign sent to us by higher powers. It isn’t all about spare time or productivity. It’s a medical pandemic that has affected millions of people around the world - and I'm very luckily not at the centre of it. If you’re able to think about this situation rationally and calmly - that’s incredible, but also an immense privilege that not everyone is party to.
I don’t have to be strong. I don’t have to be skinny. I don’t have to be productive, nor do I have to be textbook perfect when it comes to my health. I can acknowledge that a balanced diet and regular exercise could be my best defense against COVID-19 both physically and mentally, but I can equally acknowledge that this virus came out of nowhere, and was something barely any of us could prepare for.
I don’t have to be strong. I don’t have to be skinny. I don’t have to be productive, nor do I have to be textbook perfect when it comes to my health.
We’re allowed to grieve these last few months, and that can be in many ways. You can use this time to write a play or start a podcast or make a TikTok account or build a sourdough starter. It is just as fine, perhaps even moreso, to simply binge a TV show, fall into a YouTube spiral, or take a long-winded nap. Every second doesn’t have to be accounted for.
In complete honesty, writing this article took a lot out of me. I took more breaks than I usually do, and I smashed out a solid block of Scotch Fingers flavoured chocolate throughout - and that’s okay. I’m still very mindful of my sugar intake and what I eat, and have managed to take a nice long walk on every sunny day - but for now, I’m just going to regroup, and exist wholly for a time that I hope comes very soon.
You can follow Mark on Instagram here.
The new landmark series Australia's Health Revolution with Dr Michael Mosley premieres Wednesday 13 October at 7.30pm on SBS and SBS On Demand, with subtitled versions available to stream on SBS On Demand in Arabic, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean. NITV will also air special episodes on Living Black featuring interviews with Dr Michael Mosley and Ray Kelly that explore Type 2 diabetes in Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander communities.
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