5 Ways to Address Bad Body Image During Quarantine
Disclaimer: Yes, there are "more" important things to talk about during this global quarantine - the economy, healthcare system, international relations, true. However, I believe some issues, like body image/food/exercise, are a source of anxiety and suffering for many individuals and should not be pushed aside or avoided. If you, or someone you know, is struggling with food during quarantine - know you're not alone and you're going to be okay.
Staying at home, being constantly surrounded by food and limited access to the outdoors, can be challenging. As someone with a history of an eating disorder, I know I went into this period of quarantine with anxiety - everything felt out of control. My bad body image has come and gone over the past few weeks, and I take active steps everyday to not let my self-deprecating thoughts control my life.This is a historic moment filled with anxiety, fear, uncertainty, and grief, but know that there are ways you can work through your bad body image at home, starting now!
1. Remove the guilt from eating
You are human, and you need food to survive. Don't feel guilty for eating, it only adds stress to this already stressful time. Ruminating on your last meal, next meal, or snacks will only drive you in a downward spiral. Your body image and food related thoughts will consume your day - and it's hard to be happy when all your thoughts are filled with guilt, right? Practice being patient and kind with yourself. Do you guilt your loved ones for eating? I hope not. Try and treat yourself like you would treat your loved ones. Let yourself eat whenever, and whatever, you want.
2. Be more flexible with food
A lot of us are struggling to access our favorite foods, have no control over when we eat, or what we eat. This situation is uncontrollable - for everyone, not just you. Instead of getting upset, lashing out, or feeling frustrated that you don't get to eat what you want, make this time easier for everyone by being more flexible. Maybe set the intention that you want to use this time to try new foods? At the end of the day, remember that it's one meal, one day, one month, out of the hundreds of thousands of meals you'll have in your life. Don't fixate on all the ways it wasn't perfect and what could have been better. Have the meal, be flexible, then let it go.
3. Don't feel obligated to move your body
Moving your body should not be a chore, and you shouldn't feel guilt when exercising or resting. I want to encourage you to move your body in a way that you enjoy - and this can look differently for everyone. Everyone is different, and everyones needs are different. Don't compare what works for you to what others are doing - stay in your own lane! Try and be intuitive about moving. Move when it feels good, when you feel strong, when you feel well-rested. Don't move with underlying motives - such as to distract, avoid, or try and fix bad body image. Don't avoid your feelings by exercising, it might help in the short run, but it (trust me) does not solve your problems in the long run. Health (especially mental health) is the most important thing to focus on right now, and if it means you can take this opportunity to rest - what a blessing!
4. Stop body checking
Like, stop. When you're walking down a hallway, going to the bathroom, or past any mirror - stop body checking. (If you don't do this/don't know what it means - good) Body checking is a bad habit, and it doesn't serve you to look at your body and parts of your body you dislike 50 times a day. This only fuels the negative talk in your mind. By taking attention away from your body, you free up so much mental space to live your life. See your body as a vessel for you to do incredible things with your life - it doesn't matter what shape it is or isn't. Your body is the least interesting thing about you - so channel more energy into all the parts of yourself that you are proud of and love!
5. Journal about what's really going on
Whether it's insecurity, fear of uncertainty, or anxiety, write about what bad body image brings up for you. For me, it brings up feelings of unworthiness. When I feel insecure and have bad body image, I feel unworthy of love and attention.
Write about WHY you attach these beliefs to your body (you do it because it serves a purpose! A sense of control? Sense of certainty?)
Think about why this serves you, and why this does not serve you. See what your options are, and choose how you want to proceed.
At the end of the day, you still have control over what thoughts and beliefs you want to fuel. Do you want to continue living under the belief that your worth is only found in your body? Do you want something more for yourself? You have the power to actively take those steps and live in your full potential. What beliefs about yourself do you want to fuel? What beliefs about yourself do you want to change?
You don't need to use this opportunity to address your body image as a whole (see questions above), but I hope you are able to recognize all the small ways you can lessen your stress and anxiety surrounding food during quarantine. All changes are the result of that first step - no matter how big or small. So whether it's eating a snack at an unusual time, trying a new food at the dinner table, or sleeping in until noon - I want to challenge you to make one self-honoring decision today. Sit through the anxiety it brings up, and see that you are still okay, and you are still you.
Stay strong, and know you've got this.