How To Make Peace With Your Post-Quarantine Body
March became April then May then June, and the continuous day that quarantine has felt like has suddenly landed us in beach season. Self-isolation and social distancing have disturbed many of our routines, including those relating to exercise and eating.
If you’ve gained weight, lost muscle mass or are feeling uncomfortable in your post-quarantine body, you’re not alone.
With summer approaching and restrictions lifting, here are some tips for how you can make peace with your post-quarantine body – even if it may not be the “beach body” you’re imagining.
Tip #1: Acknowledge What Your Body’s Been Through Over the Past Few Months
Now more than ever is the time to be gentle with yourself. You didn’t sign up to be thrown into a global pandemic. There’s no way that you could have prepared for the craziness that’s been reality over the past few months. You’ve heard it in every email, but I’ll say it again: These are truly unprecedented times.
Your brain has worked incredibly hard learning and navigating your new schedule. Whether you moved locations, had to get used to working or taking classes remotely or had to deal with other challenges this time brought, acclimating to quarantine life required a huge amount of mental energy and adjustment. You may also unfortunately be grieving the loss of family and/or friends, which comes with natural hardships.
Your brain has supported you through all of the changes, challenges, adjustments, inconveniences and frustrations that COVID-19 has imposed on your life. Wouldn’t it be great if you could appreciate and admire your body for getting you through this hard time instead of focusing on its imperfections (which we all have, by the way)? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could thank your body for keeping you healthy and safe during a time when both of those were in question for so many?
You have worked so incredibly hard recently, and if one result of that is a few extra pounds or a loss in muscle mass, so be it! Instead of hating your body for being “fat” or “lanky” or imperfect, try shifting your perspective to one that is compassionate, loving and appreciative. Appreciate your body for what it is rather than hating it for what it isn’t.
Tip #2: Recognize That Your Body Doesn’t Exist to Please Others
People often feel pressured to look a certain way because they are nervous of what others will think if they “let themselves go.” Many worry that they will be considered a failure if they cannot shrink their bodies to a size or build up a form that is “acceptable,” as determined by diet culture, even though that ideal is unrealistic for the majority of us.
However, your body is not an ornament that exists to please others. Your body does not exist to make others happy or to fit others’ standards – and that includes those of your significant other. Rather, your body is your permanent home; it’s a vital instrument that carries you through your life. Recognizing that your body exists for you – and fully internalizing that – can take a lot of pressure off when it comes to looking a certain way.
It’s only important that you feel comfortable in your skin – it doesn’t matter how others feel. Focusing on this will take you one step closer to making peace with your body, no matter what size or shape it is.
Tip #3: Speak to Yourself Like You’d Speak to a Friend
How would you speak to a friend who was feeling insecure about their body? If you’re a good friend, chances are that you wouldn’t be using the same berating language that you use toward yourself.
Speak to yourself with kindness and compassion. You’re a human being deserving of the same respect that you give to others. You’ll be surprised by how much your language changes when you implement this tactic!
Tip #4: Recognize That Your Body is Just One Part of You
You are so much more than your physical features, and that includes the size and shape of your body. You have so much more to offer than your appearance. I once heard a quote that puts things into perspective nicely: “Your looks are the least interesting thing about you.”
I wrote this in Expo marker on the full-length mirror of my college apartment so that I would be reminded of it every day when I got dressed because it is so true!
When have you ever truly looked up to someone mainly for the way that their body looks? Even if you have appreciated someone’s “good” body, it’s more of a fleeting lust; their looks are not why you appreciate or value them as a person or friend. As someone who loves clothes, accessories and hairstyling, I totally understand that looking stylish and appreciating others’ style can bring joy and be exciting. However, on an emotional level, when thinking about your friends and why they’re awesome and why you love them, it probably isn’t because of their body or outward appearance, am I right?
I am certain that you have much more interesting things to offer than the size of your body. Your body is just one component of you, and you are truly so much more than what meets others’ eyes.
Tip #5: Appreciate What Your Body Does For You
As I study, I am continually amazed by the body’s resilience and the ways our various systems work together to keep us safe, stable and healthy.
Bill Bryson in his book, “The Body,” sums it up well:
“There are thousands of things that can kill us – slightly more than eight thousand, according to the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problemscompiled by the World Health Organization – and we escape every one of them but one. For most of us, that’s not a bad deal… The miracle of human life is not that we are endowed with some frailties but that we aren’t swamped with them” (p. 9).
Our bodies are so multifaceted and complex, and yet most of the time, everything works seamlessly. It’s only occasionally that processes go awry.
Every day our hearts beat, our lungs breathe and filter air, our livers and kidneys detoxify blood, we break down food into energy, we contract our muscles, we transmit signals through our nervous systems, we have various hormones and messengers course throughout our body and so much more. On top of that, we experience emotions, connect with others and continuously create and innovate.
Isn’t it amazing how our bodies are capable of so much? Appreciating all that your body does for you instead of focusing on how it looks can help you respect your body for its amazing capabilities. It truly is miraculous to be alive.
Some Parting Words
If you’ve gained weight or lost muscle mass over the quarantine, it’s natural to want to get back to your body’s usual form, and it’s okay if you do. However, there is no reason to hate your body in the process of getting there. You can want to change the body you’re in while also appreciating it. If you focus on loving your body, it will become a lot easier to take care of yourself and make healthy choices.
Despite what diet culture says, there is no such thing as a “beach body.” If you’re comfortable in your skin, you’re ready for the beach.
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