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Mental Health

Learning to Love Your Body During A Global Pandemic

I think it’s safe to say this global pandemic has taken a toll on all of us. Whether COVID-19 has impacted your travel plans, college experience, family dynamic, or your mental health in general, it’s safe to say that most everyone is suffering through this global trauma together.

And yet, society has created this expectation that although we’re all living through multiple global crises in 2020, NOW is the time to get everything done. Now is the time to work on every hobby you’ve ever had, now is the time to schedule that Zoom hangout, now is the time to lose the “dreaded” quarantine-15.

Related: A Personal Reflection: How Isolation During COVID Taught Me About Productivity Culture

The endless amount of fitness-related content that was shared on social media towards the beginning of the pandemic was overwhelming, to say the least. Whether they were promotional posts encouraging me to sign up for free extended trials of workout apps or targeted ads for facial slimming chin straps, waist trainers and diet detoxes that “work”, these posts triggered my mental health and left me feeling restless and unworthy. 

I distinctly remember a quote I saw a lot of people sharing towards the beginning of the pandemic back in March. It went a little something like this:

“Now that you’re in quarantine/on lockdown, there should be no excuses when it comes to working out and getting fit. If you made excuses before, now we’ll all know that you just don’t have the self-discipline it takes to get your ~dream body~.”

With each post or targeted ad I see on social media, I have to fight against letting myself fall into a spiral. When I do inevitably slip, however, I’m left with a myriad of negative thoughts. 

“Why didn’t you work out today? Everyone on social media worked out today, except you.” 

“That one girl on Snapchat burned 521 calories on her 3-mile run. Maybe you should buy an Apple Watch so you can track your workouts and then count calories too.” 

“Maybe you shouldn’t have eaten that slice of pie, considering everyone else mentioned they’re on a ‘clean’ diet. You should probably not eat tomorrow to make up for it.”

As someone who has struggled with body dysmorphia and disordered eating for over seven years now, seeing these posts and ads on social media has been extremely toxic for my mental and emotional health. 

Seeing as this pandemic seems to be raging on and our time indoors also seems to be never-ending, I’ve been trying to adjust my mindset and see this time as one of personal growth for my journey towards loving my body. Some days, I can look at myself in the mirror and positively affirm myself and my body. And other days, I can’t even bear to look at myself in the mirror or even in my phone’s front camera. 

Here are a few ways we can work towards showing up for ourselves, exactly as we are:

1. Cleaning up your social media feed

Multiple studies have shown that media consumption has risen globally since the beginning of the pandemic with a 30% increase in usage on social media in the United States alone. Social media apps may be one of the biggest sources of entertainment for all of us, but spending too much time online can truly lead to mental health problems, especially if you already struggle with your body image. 

Related: 7 Ways to Take a Step Away from Your Social Media

Since March, I’ve unfollowed over 300 Instagram accounts that I realized made me question my self-worth. Instead of seeking out people to follow that encourage the glamorous ~fitspo~ lifestyle or orthorexic habits, I’ve followed accounts that promote body confidence, acceptance and recovery.

2. Recognizing the purpose of exercise

I had always viewed exercise as an efficient tool to get “toned”, lose weight, and/or burn off calories that were consumed that day. Now I recognize that this is an extremely toxic way to view something that should feel healthy and enjoyable.

What if we reframe our views on exercise and recognize that exercise can be a tool to get your body moving, increase your heart rate and have fun? 

Instead of participating in unrealistic 2-week shred challenges that promise to give us abs (looking at you, Chloe Ting), what if instead, we seek out opportunities to get up, dance and celebrate the fact that our bodies do so much for us every single day?  

Obviously, this is easier said than done. Reframing exercise into a positive experience is extremely difficult, especially considering all the hard work the diet industry (worth over 72 BILLION dollars, btw) puts into making us feel like we are less-than. 

3. Giving ourselves grace

Did you know that we are currently living through an extremely stressful time? No? Let me remind you. Let’s see... global pandemic, rampant wildfires, collapsing economy, lack of jobs, blatant murders of Black people by police and racists, horrifying lack of human decency from our government, need I go on?

2020 has been an absolute whirlwind and it’s important to realize that these current events have had a tremendous impact on everyone. So let’s try and show ourselves a little more grace, shall we?

Learning to love your body while trying to ignore the toxicity of the world around you is an arduous journey. 

But we owe it to ourselves to make sure we live our lives to the fullest. And living our lives to the fullest means learning to accept and treasure ourselves for who we are. 

Because in the words of Harry Styles, we’re so golden. 

If you’re struggling with an eating disorder and you’re in need of resources (especially during COVID-19), here are a few helpful sites to visit:

- https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/covid-19-resources-page

- https://eatingdisorderfoundation.org/get-help/covid-19-resources/

- https://www.eatingrecoverycenter.com/covid

Alexa Garcia

George Mason University '21

Alexa is a Foreign Languages major with a passion for writing & graphic design. When she's not writing, she's making magic through her character entertainment company @ouatpartiesdc or working on a new creative hobby. She enjoys traveling, reading & drinking iced lattes.
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