Last week, I weighed myself for the first time since stay-at-home orders began. Due to the pandemic, I had spent the past month lounging on the couch nearly all day and eating more frequently than usual. I knew the number on the scale was bound to be a bit higher than before. I stepped on and braced myself.
When the result appeared, my heart dropped to the pit of my stomach. I had gained 10 pounds in one month. Panic immediately rose to my chest. I started to gather solutions: at-home workouts, intermittent fasting, throwing out all the bags of frozen chicken nuggets in my freezer. My mind clouded with unhealthy thoughts about my body.
When my panic subsided, I asked myself one question — what actions could I take to consciously leave from these harmful thoughts?
My first decision was to tuck my scale away and actively keep it out of sight. I knew that being able to constantly track and access my weight would only lead to unhealthy, obsessive habits. I reminded myself that my sole priority through this pandemic is my health and the health of my loved ones, which goes far beyond a number on the scale. My worth is not defined by a number and neither is yours.
your summer body is the one that quarantined to flatten the curve, the one that fed a community, the one on the frontline, the one suddenly homeschooling, the one trying to make ends meet, the one that survived covid. your current body is worthy of sunshine. your body is good.
— Christyna Johnson, MS, RDN, LDN (@encouragingRD) May 16, 2020
I also decided to limit my social media intake. When I scroll through Instagram and see mirror selfies in workout clothes or a snapshot of a home-cooked meal, I tend to feel like I’m not doing enough. Navigating my quarantine routine has already been difficult and social media only adds more pressure and opportunity to compare myself.
While restricting your own Instagram-scrolling habits can be difficult, there are tools available to help. For example, Instagram provides the option for users to set a daily reminder once they’ve used the platform for a chosen amount of time. If you want to limit your intake to 30 minutes per day, the Instagram app will notify you once you’ve done that. While scrolling through Facebook and Twitter may seem like the only way to avoid boredom in self-isolation, try to direct your energy to other activities such as watching television, reading a book, listening to a podcast, or following a guided meditation.
In addition to limiting your consumption, you should also un-follow accounts that may spark feelings of insecurity and replace them with accounts that spread messages of self-love and body positivity.
Olivia Miller, University of Waterloo freshman and mental health blogger of Her Defiant Bliss provided personal insight for those currently struggling to appreciate their bodies. “I try to prioritize feeling strong mentally so that I can feel strong physically and see my body as the powerful force that it is,” she said. “The expectations of what that force has to look like is slowly starting to matter less to me as I focus on appreciating the strength that I have built throughout my own journey.”
If you have struggled with weight fluctuation and body image during this extra time inside, you’re not alone. Being in quarantine has completely altered our normal eating and exercise habits. Our bodies are bound to change and that is okay. Rather than focusing on activities that make you look good on the outside, focus on those that make you feel good on the inside. If you can’t find the motivation for at-home cardio or blending a green smoothie, don’t force yourself or beat yourself up. This situation is new to each of us and we are all just doing the best we can.
Remember, while staying at home may lead to changes in your body, it is benefiting the health of your community. Your body is a hero, no matter what it looks like.