May 26, 2021
So you’ve gained weight during the lockdown and now that it’s looking like things may be starting to open back up, you’re worried about people seeing you. Let’s just take a second to breathe...it’s going to be ok.
First, let me reassure you that you are not alone. Now that we are slowly inching our way closer to normalcy, I have been hearing a lot of people talk about how they are afraid for people to see them in person. After almost a year and a half of working at home and dressing for comfort rather than the office, a lot of people are scared to even look at their work clothes, let alone pick them up and try them on.
Second, can we take one second to normalize the fact that bodies are supposed to change over time? Global pandemic or not, gaining weight is a very normal part of life. Despite the fact that it’s normal, it’s not always easy to deal with. Combine that with not seeing other people for an extended period of time, the changes can feel bigger than they would have if we were seeing other people regularly and the change was more gradual. It would also be helpful if we were able to shop for our changing bodies more easily (some people love online shopping, I am not one of those people) because well-fitting clothes are a form of self-care that should not be overlooked.
Ok, now that we’ve taken a breath, recognized that many people are in the same boat, and recognized that weight gain is a very normal part of life, what do we do next?
The natural instinct may be to start a new diet to lose the quarantine weight. This is how a lot of people deal with uncomfortable weight gain. But, when we look at the research, or even if you look back at your own history of dieting, for most people, diets don’t work. You may lose some weight initially, but dieting often leads to a preoccupation around food, feeling out of control around food, disordered eating, and future weight gain, NOT loss. If you’ve been dieting off and on for a while, you can typically see that pattern in your previous dieting attempts. What will be different this time?
Rather than starting a new diet or forcing yourself to exercise in a way that doesn’t feel good or sustainable, here are a few things you can do:
In our anti-fat society, it’s normal to feel bad about gaining weight. There is a multi-billion dollar industry that profits off of you feeling bad about yourself if you gain weight. But remember this...bodies are supposed to change over time. Give yourself a bit of compassion and give your body a pat on the back for navigating through a very stressful time. You don’t have to love your body, but it’s the only one you have, so please be kind to it.
We’re very quick to jump to the negative, but our bodies are amazing. It’s important when we go through body changes to focus on what our bodies can do for us and not what they look like. Ask yourself: how is your body showing up and supporting you today? For example, maybe you don’t love your thighs BUT your thighs help support your body as you move through the world. Maybe you don’t love how soft your belly is BUT our bellies house our stomach which helps nourish and energize the rest of our body. Listening to our bellies hones our intuition, this is where we get our gut instincts, or if your stomach is in knots, it’s how our body lets us know we are stressed or anxious. Taking the time to listen to and celebrate what our bodies can do for us is much more valuable than what our bodies look like.
This is something I have to tell myself a lot. Maybe it’s a female thing, but we are conditioned to recognize and commiserate over all of our perceived flaws. We’re also bombarded by messages that we have flaws and we need to be fixed. So it’s normal to be fixated on those things and assume that if you can see them, everyone else can too. But do you really notice other people’s flaws all that much? Or even if you do notice, how much time do you spend thinking about that after that initial noticing? Probably very little. We may notice something has changed and then we go back to thinking about ourselves. So do other people! We are all our own worst critics and it’s high time we spend a little more effort being nicer to ourselves. In the famous words of RuPaul:
"What other people think of me is none of my business."
Your body has changed, so what! You’re still the same person with the same values, sense of humour, and interesting thoughts. Your weight will never change those things that make you YOU.
As the world starts to open up again, remember that there is so much to look forward to. Don’t hold yourself back because your body has changed. Remember that you only get one body to travel through life in. Be kind to it. If you are constantly focused on how much you are hating that body, what are you going to miss out on?
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In my practice, I often work with people who are managing a chronic disease (diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, etc.) and while weight loss is never a focus, there is a common misconception that when individuals start making dietary changes to manage their chronic disease, weight loss will follow. After all, we're always taught that if we eat the "right" foods and move in the "right" ways, our bodies will get smaller.