Having a healthy body image is an essential part of mental wellbeing and eating disorder prevention.

You’re not alone if, during the pandemic, you noticed changes within your body and the way you feel about it. We had to unexpectedly shift and adapt to a whole new set of rules, regulations, and routines. This was a huge adjustment for our bodies to take in all at once. Our brains are not regularly equipped to cope with sudden changes.

We were met with many limitations, including how we interact in the world and take care of our bodies. We also lost access to outlets like gyms, parks, and recreational centers that are safe havens for many individuals. Those spaces often provided a way for the body to release tension and increase serotonin, which helps our brain regulate mood, sleep and appetite and helps one better deal with stress and anxiety appropriately within the body.

We were also met with different messages from society about how to utilize this period. You might have heard messages like “you should take this time to improve yourself,” which could be very hard to do when your body is learning how to adapt to changes. These types of statements can have a negative impact on an individual’s self-esteem as they’re trying to learn how to navigate life under new circumstances every day!

Quarantine guilt, the feeling where you should be doing something more to “better yourself” can flare up emotions like shame and contribute to negative body image. Body image is both the way one sees themselves when they look in the mirror and the way one thinks of themselves in their mind. This includes what someone believes about their own appearance, and how they feel about their body height, shape, and weight.

As a society, diet culture is very prevalent in our world. There are endless amounts of beauty standards and expectations pushed onto us every day. It is important to recognize these messages and stand clear of internalizing them instead. Below are a few ways to cope if you feel like you have been struggling with your body image during the pandemic.

Ways to cope:

Lean into people who support you the most…

As much as we might want to isolate ourselves when we are having negative thoughts about ourselves, it is important to reach out to your support system.

Refrain from conversations around weight and appearances…

Jokes like “looks like you gained quarantine 15” can be harmful to individuals struggling with their body image. Be mindful that everyone has a unique experience during this time and to be compassionate towards one another.

Set boundaries and limitations…

If someone brings up the topic about your appearance, it is okay to let them know something like “I am not comfortable speaking about this”, or “Can we change the topic”.

 Diversify your social media feed…

Dr. Morgan Francis, an expert on body image and eating disorders, believes that society has been embracing diet culture and pushes the narrative that how you look is not good enough. Thus, to take back power and control, be more mindful of what you read and see on social media. Mute or unfollow any accounts that makes you feel uncomfortable or question your self-worth.

Seek out professional help…

If you find yourself struggling with your body image and your relationship with food feels tough, reaching out to a mental health professional can be beneficial to learn more about ways to cope. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, people with negative body image have a greater chance of developing an eating disorder. They are also more likely to suffer from feelings of depression, isolation, low self-esteem, and obsession with weight loss. So, it is best to reach out as soon as possible!

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