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Dealing with Weight Gain & Body Image in a Pandemic

Trigger Warning: body dysmorphia

Your body is your home. It allows you to walk, run, eat yummy foods, travel, hug your friends and more. So, if all of these things are true, why have I been feeling so miserable when I see my body in the mirror?

Like a lot of people, I’ve gained weight since the pandemic began. I’m not entirely sure what caused this, but I know I’m not alone. According to an APA survey of 3,000 American adults, 6 in 10 respondents said they have had undesired weight changes since the beginning of the pandemic. These fluctuations are mostly due to gyms being closed, lessened activity, less access to fresh produce, stress eating, decreases in mental health and many other things.

Many Americans have also experienced a rise in negative mindsets and mental health problems due to the anxiety of the pandemic, which can be a large cause of weight gain as well.

I’ve been trying my hardest to tell myself not to worry. I’ve been reminding myself weight gain is normal, and there isn’t a reason to feel upset about it. However, I think it’s almost inevitable for me to be frustrated in this situation. I’ve struggled with body image for a large amount of my life, and I’m not sure if the negative thoughts about my appearance will fully go away. Lately, I’ve been feeling less like myself, sluggish and just unhappy with how my clothes fit or having to go a size up in jeans.

Intrusive thoughts exist, and they can make tackling these feelings even harder than they should be. I’ve personally experienced some negative thoughts regarding myself, my appearance or unhealthy methods to try to lose weight.

So why am I talking about this? This time has left us feeling vulnerable and raw. It’s hard to explain these thoughts to people I know, much less write an article about it. But, I want this to be a beacon/message to others that are struggling with their body image or recent weight gain. Gaining weight or struggling with your body does not make you any less worthy. You are important, strong and beautiful no matter what size you wear or how your body has recently changed.

I want to lose some of the weight I’ve gained because I know it will make me feel better physically (but if you don’t want to, that’s totally okay, too). I’ve been feeling a little exhausted and sluggish for the past couple of months, and I think becoming more active will help me.

I think it’s important to work out, eat healthier or instill beneficial habits into your everyday life because you want to feel better — not because you want to look skinnier. “Skinny culture” is not the most important thing in life, and we shouldn’t all strive to be underweight so we look skinny.

Instead, I want you to focus on how amazing your body is, even if you think negatively about it sometimes. We only have one body during our life. Instead of hating our bodies and constantly pointing out its flaws, we should celebrate them.

It’s imperative we treat our temples with love and respect. Exercise because we know how great we feel afterward. Eat healthier foods because we know it’s what our body deserves — but don’t beat yourself up for treating yourself with a sweet. Do things to make yourself feel better. Don’t make counting calories or reaching a specific number on a scale your entire priority. Instead, focus on taking time to do things that will make you and your body feel good.

If anything stuck with you from this article, I hope it’s to love yourself no matter what. I don’t want to preach about loving yourself and loving your body as if it’s an easy thing to do because it’s something I’m still working on, too. It’s not an easy task to look past your perceived flaws and forget about them. It’s not easy to feel confident if your clothes aren’t fitting like they used to.

However, it’s not an impossible task.

Overcoming negative body image doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a work in progress and something you need to actively pursue every day. Instead of talking down on yourself, thank your body and bring attention to what you truly love about yourself. Put an effort into doing things that make you feel good; don’t put all of your effort into losing x amount of pounds. Think of ways you can treat yourself and your body better. And remember to always be grateful for your body, no matter what it looks like.

Madison Hodge is a junior at the University of Florida where she majors in Advertising. She has a small business on Etsy named Stardust Design, where she sells custom digital illustrations, stickers, apparel, and more. In her free time Madison loves to spend time with her boyfriend, go to the beach, drink lemonade, and draw.
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