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Body Image in the Age of COVID-19

This month marks one-year of dealing with COVID-19. We have all experienced changes over the past year, whether it is a change in routine or a change in physical health. Due to these changes, many Americans have experienced an increase in weight gain. This trend also includes an increase in body dissatisfaction in our country. For those of us that fall into this category, how do we deal with the physical and mental effects of weight gain? Have you, or someone you know, been plagued with negative thoughts about your body during the pandemic? If so, here are a few tips to address the mental and physical issues at hand:

1. Acknowledge and validate the changes in your environment. Many of us have transitioned to working from home rather than commuting to the office. Due to this change, we are a few steps away from the “office” instead of a commute that usually requires physical activity, such as walking or biking to work. There are also restrictions on local gyms and fitness centers, creating a roadblock in our ability to maintain our physical activity levels. It is important to remember the change of circumstances in our routine when considering our changing bodies. Instead of turning inward and blaming yourself, take into account the ways your environment has influenced your movement.

2. Be cognizant of social media effects. If you are experiencing a decrease in body image satisfaction, consider taking time off of social media or evaluating the accounts that you follow. Ask yourself questions like, “is this account exacerbating my body image insecurities?”. By assessing the accounts that we follow, we can identify accounts that do not support our self-esteem and remove them from our feed. We can also look into accounts that exemplify body positivity and self-love.

3. Take a cue from Body Neutrality. If the thought of body positivity creates distress, consider viewing your body from a neutral standpoint. Body neutrality is all about looking at the body’s function over it’s form. This allows us change how we place value in our bodies and increase our appreciation for the ways our body supports and protects us. By asking yourself, “what does my body do for me?”, we can find newfound love for our bodies without placing value in physical appearance. This can also be achieved by repeating affirmations such as, “my body gives me strength”, “my body allows me to ____”, and “my body keeps me safe”.

4. Seek social support. Remember that you are not alone in this pandemic. We are all facing significant life changes, causing emotional distress. In reaching out to a loved one, it is likely that they can relate to the stressors you face and can validate your experiences.

5. Consider professional support. If you feel that your symptoms can’t be managed by the above tips, it may be time to seek professional help. Many individuals with pre-existing eating disorders and negative body image are susceptible to an increase in symptoms during the pandemic. Also, individuals with no history related to body image and eating disorders are experiencing an increase in symptoms. Regardless of psychiatric history, people are experiencing collective anxiety about weight gain during the pandemic. Don’t hesitate to get the help that you deserve.

Maddie Foley, MA


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