If you’ve been on social media since the pandemic started, you’ve likely seen tons of fear-based info about keeping your health habits in check or not gaining “too much” weight in lockdown. Now that the world is opening up more, people are left with their increased anxieties about having to socialize again, plus a sidecar of worry about how they look. Some of us did see body and appearance changes this past year, that happens and is totally normal. Unfortunately, we live in a culture that really focuses on appearance, weight changes, dieting and “health.” We internalize these messages, and maybe even start to think that we aren’t good enough unless we look a certain way.
Some of us did see body and appearance changes this past year, that happens and is totally normal.
The memes and jokes have also been circulating about the “quarantine-15” and they are just as harmful as the “freshman 15” narrative. These comments poking fun at changing bodies, can really do a number on our mental health and body image. It isn’t always obvious either, worrying about our bodies can even seem like we are just taking care of ourselves or being “healthy.” There is always a moment when that desire to feel better, morphs into an obsession. The risk for disordered eating and eating disorders is increased when we engage in dieting or over fixation on health. You could argue though, that our nation has tried to cope with the pandemic by making us feel more stressed about our bodies and food. It is a good distraction if you think about it, and you are not wrong for looking for a way to cope! Diet culture and the weight loss industry, however, never miss an opportunity to exploit the fears of gaining weight and promote tools for “drop the pounds” or getting your “beach body.” This summer has an added layer of post-pandemic anxiety.
It is amazing that our bodies can help us survive something like this past year.
Let’s be real, some of us have been living in some type of stretchy pants since last March. Honestly, we may feel the need to incorporate more elastic into our wardrobes for the sake of comfort from now on, plus can you say heat wave? We all want to feel comfortable and confident, and that can be a challenge when our bodies change. There is also the cost issue, not everyone has the funds to buy new clothes they feel good in, it is hard, we hear that! However, there is an opportunity for some perspective in this situation. COVID and pandemic life is stressful. Maybe you lost your job, had credits to make up or were just feeling all around burnt out about having to take all your classes on Zoom. The stress of it all takes a huge toll on our bodies. It is amazing that our bodies can help us survive something like this past year. Messages that troll around talking about weight gain during the pandemic are just continuing the message that how we look is the most interesting and important thing about us. We are all worthy and we are all more than a body, even when our bodies change.
The hyper-focus on appearance is really rooted in distraction and objectification. Your appearance says nothing about you as a person, and there is a lot of pressure to socialize now.
Ideas for body resilience:
- Non-body-based conversations and comments when seeing someone you haven’t seen in a while.
- Consider a thank you letter or note to your body, like wow, we got through that, and it was hard.
- Have some comments ready for when people start talking about their new diet or workout regimen, like “I am happy for you, now tell me about your new job?” or “I love going on walks, I am excited about this new (book/podcast) I am listening to, have you read any good books this year?
- Clean up your social media. Unfollow or mute those images that just send you into a space of being self-critical.
Remember, at the end of the day, you are the only one that knows what you really need. If what you need is a new pair of shorts, great. If what you need are some morning walks to get your day going, fabulous. Maybe it's even partaking in the freshness of summer fruits and vegetables. No matter your size or how you look, your body takes care of you, so let’s be kind to one another, and let’s be kind to ourselves. Oh, and let’s leave those unwelcomed body comments at the door. Find some comfort in knowing your body took care of you during a pandemic and enjoy the presence of each other's company, because being around other humans is cool and overdue!
Individual consultations on nutrition and/or fitness are available for students at Campus Health. Dietitians Lisa MacDonald, MPH, RDN, Christy Wilson, RDN, and Ashley Munro, RDN, CDCES are available for appointments most days of the week. To make an appointment, call: (520) 621-9202