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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCSB chapter.

Oh, body image. It’s something that so many people, especially women, struggle with. With the influx of ‘perfect’ or heavily Photoshopped bodies on social media, it’s easy for women to imagine an ideal body type that is very unrealistic and damaging to self-esteem. Since the start of quarantine, there has been a certain amount of pressure to use this time to improve ourselves by either picking up hobbies or trying to achieve fitness goals. You may be asking, “What if I didn’t use this past year to do either of these things?”

No one should feel like they misused this pandemic and missed out on becoming the healthiest version of themselves. In the end, we are all just trying to survive right now, not train for ultramarathons that may or may not happen post-pandemic. A key part of surviving this extremely stressful and terrifying time is listening to our bodies and paying attention to our emotions. There were times during this pandemic where I felt emotionally exhausted and just wanted to lay in my bed with a pint of ice cream. Instead of denying my valid emotions, I allowed my body to relax rather than push my body to workout. Physical health is obviously very important right now, but mental health is too.

reuseable surgical mask with phrase \"don\'t panic\" on a pink letter board
Photo by Tonik from Unsplash

Staying at home also meant being around a kitchen full of food at all hours of the day. I have struggled with emotional eating and stress eating before, so this aspect of quarantine definitely triggered me. Some weeks I succumbed to this habit every day, while other weeks, I felt like I listened to my hunger cues and was more mindful with my eating. After a few months of quarantine, I realized that it was okay if my eating patterns had changed or if I needed more food to carry me through the long and tiresome pandemic days. 

One’s worth as a person is not defined by their body or physical appearance. By attributing only my appearance to my overall happiness, I started talking to myself negatively and focusing only on the parts of my body I wanted to change. My body, and my body image, changed many times during the pandemic. Now, I feel a sense of body neutrality—I am satisfied with my body, and I try not to fixate on my bodily appearance. I’ve shifted my mindset to prioritize my emotions and mental health, letting my body do whatever it needs to keep me alive!

The pandemic was not brought upon us so that we could get into the best shape of our lives and become superhumans. Whatever your “pandemic body” looks like, it is worthy of food, respect and love.

Stephanie Gerson is a first-year student studying Art History at UC Santa Barbara. She is from Palo Alto, California and she is passionate about sustainability, fashion, fitness, and vegan cooking. In her spare time, Stephanie loves going on bike rides around campus, catching up with friends, or spending hours completing her latest embroidery piece!
 University of California, Santa Barbara chapter of Her Campus