Body image during the coronavirus

After many attempts, I told myself that this time, I would buckle down, go to the gym, eat well and finally lose that extra weight. And this time I truly meant it. I got a fitness coach, went to the supermarket and got all the healthy goodies. And lo and behold, government mandated quarantine was ordered, and all the gyms closed down. We’re not allowed to leave the house except for essential reasons like walking the dog or going to the supermarket or the doctor. And even that has to be accompanied with a signed form and an ID. In an unprecedented time for our generation, everyone seems to be struggling to make sense of the situation, and come out of it unscathed. While there are some things that are more important than what the scale says or how we may or may not fit into our jeans, the issue of body image seems too prevalent to ignore. I asked my friends on Instagram if they saw a difference in their eating habits and if they felt they were struggling with their body image and the social isolation. An alarming amount of people told me they were so stressed out and bored, that that led them to binge eating sessions and guilt for not being able to go to the gym to burn off the calories. It may just be my feed, but a large amount of it has been taken up by “quick and effective” at-home workouts and influencers in sports bras and sweatpants. This constant comparison of ourselves to influencers, fashion models and fitness models has to stop, but that’s another letter for another day.

What I found interesting is something I see in myself too; I have been working out at home, trying to eat “right” (whatever that means) about 80-90% of the time, and yet I still feel just as stressed, bored, upset, frustrated as I was before. Is this because I’m not doing it right? Or maybe, could it be because we’re stuck inside all day, where most of us don’t live in mansions like celebrities (#guillotine2020) and so feel cooped up in the first five hours of being awake. The feel good endorphins that rush through me after an ass kicking workout aren’t strong enough to last the next day where I find myself without much to do, wandering into the kitchen and opening and closing the refrigerator door. The added stress of wondering and praying for my loved ones across the globe to be ok doesn’t help either. 

Before you throw your hands up in the air and ask yourself what the point of anything is since the world is going to shit, wait. Take a deep breath and hear me out. Putting my time in therapy to good use, I’m trying to put myself in the position of the future me and ask myself how I would like to be, have handled the situation, and of course, what can I learn from this?

Here’s what I came up with:

  • No matter how much I wish for the future to come, for the quarantine to finally end and for everything to be back to normal, it won’t. We just have to live this out, stay safe, and do what we can to use technology to our advantage and stay close to the people we love (through phone calls, texts, video calls etc.)
  • Be kind to yourself. Be gentle. My future self would definitely not want me to look in the mirror and say cruel things to myself. Losing weight, staying fit, being healthy is a process. There can be a start date but no finish line. It’s a life long journey that you have to keep working on.
  • Try journalling. As a generation with much to say and a whole lot to express, being creative and writing down your thoughts can be extremely therapeutic. Personally, I like doodling in the margins and cutting up images from old copies of Vogue and Elle. 
  • Do what you can. If that means saying kind things to yourself, or drinking an extra glass of water than you usually do, it’s ok. Like I said, what we’re living through, on a global scale, is new to us, and scary, and makes you feel unsure. No one expects you to be happy all day everyday, to be in peak physical condition, or look your best.
  • Everyone is going through the same thing. I know that’s kind of shitty, but at the same time it may help; you can talk to your friends and family and know that they’re also struggling. Maybe you can find some support in compassion. 
  • Maintain a schedule. If you’re working from home, take advantage of this and try to stay productive. So many companies are using this time to fire people because they don’t want to be paying their salaries when everything is shut down. Maintain a schedule for your work, and try to get things done.
  • Take a break. Wind down, watch that show you’ve been meaning to watch, read that book that’s been sitting in your bookcase for four months. Make that recipe you saw on Pinterest but never got the chance. Now is the time.
  • Take care of yourself. Put on a face mask, paint your own nails, use a deep conditioning treatment on your hair. Drink water, make a warm cup of tea, sleep early.
  • Practice gratitude. Be mindful of the small things that we take for granted, like a cuddle with a pet, the sun shining, and the big things too; like the roof over your head, food on the table and warm bed at night.

These things may not dissipate the body image difficulties we have been struggling with, but they might make the current affair of our lives just a little bit easier to deal with. 

I think something we all have to take from this is that we all need to be a little kinder to ourselves. I am left wondering why being so cruel to ourselves comes to us like second nature. No matter the reason, we are all in this together and should work hard and support each other through this journey. Let’s use this time of quarantined isolation and social distancing to sit with our thoughts and feelings, and try to use the situation to our advantage to give ourselves a break and a whole lot of self love. Maybe this time is trying to teach us to slow down, let’s listen to that.

-SN

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