How the Pandemic Forced Me to Confront My Longheld Body Beliefs

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I’ve had body image issues for as long as I can remember. My dad got married when I was 12 and I remember looking at the pictures when they came in and thinking I looked fat in my dress. From there, obsessing over my weight became my new normal. Over the years, my weight has gone up and down as life changed. The one thing that remained constant is that no matter what the scale said, no matter how my clothes fit, I always saw a girl who could stand to lose a few when I looked in the mirror.

My body image has been deeply distorted by both the people around me and the culture we live in. Most of the women in my life, both family and friends, talk about weight constantly. We chat about gaining weight, losing it, hating it, and how the weight makes clothes fit. We point out changes in each other’s bodies. All of that is compounded, fiercely, by rail-thin Instagram models and diet ads everywhere constantly espousing the virtue of skinniness. It’s enough to make any woman, no matter her size, question her body.

Before the pandemic hit, I never had time to confront this issue. It was always something that simmered under the surface before I had to move on to the next task. I’ve always been the type of person who’s overly busy on purpose. At one point in college, I was a full-time student with two jobs. After I graduated, I had two jobs again until the world shut down. All of a sudden, I had all this time on my hands and it forced me to confront the issues I’d been running from since my early teen years.

Like many of us, I put on a few pounds while stuck at home this year. The thing is, I know I’m healthier than I ever have been before. I eat healthy meals and exercise more than I have in years. The only thing left for me to change was my attitude about myself. There were no longer a million things to do to distract me from my own body image.

I looked in the mirror one day and all I saw was the extra weight. None of my clothes fit the way I wanted them to. For a while, this was fine. I did what I always did and pushed it off to the side while I distracted myself with projects. What did it matter what I look like if no one is going to see me anyway? As the weeks went on, I started obsessing over my weight again with little else to do or think about.

It was time to confront the problem, but not with a drastic new diet or an intense workout regimen. I needed a serious attitude adjustment and a lifestyle change to make me feel happy and at home in my own skin.

I started waking up a little bit earlier every day. With that extra time, I developed a morning routine geared entirely towards self-care. It starts with a long walk in the woods with my dog, followed by a quick at-home workout. Then a nice shower and a full skincare routine. After that, I sit and have my morning tea while scheduling the rest of the day. This might sound simple, but everything about this morning routine is about feeling good. Feeling good, I’ve found, is the key to a positive body image.

I also started using some of the extra time that quarantine provided to go through my clothes. Over the course of a few days, I tried on all my clothes. Everything that didn’t look fabulous, everything I wasn’t comfortable in, and everything that made me feel bad about myself for a single second went straight into the donate box. I bought a few new clothing items online that made me feel like a million bucks. I didn’t want anything in my closet that made me feel fat or ugly or not good enough.

With these little changes to my life and lifestyle, my attitude started to change. Instead of focusing on all the things I hated about my body when I looked in the mirror, I started trying to pick out three things I love about my body.

There isn’t a magical fix for a lifetime’s worth of negative body image. There are days when I still hate my body and wear baggy clothes to cover up every imperfection. No one has a perfect body image every day and learning to live with the bad days is part of the process. However, while we’re all still more-or-less stuck at home, it’s worth spending the time to reshape how you think about the way you look.  

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