Marina Harris, Ph.D.
Quarantine has presented unique challenges for all of us, including an increased focus on health and physical appearance. In particular, at CEED we have seen an increase in body dissatisfaction and body-related preoccupation among the people we serve. Working and relating on Zoom or other platforms means that we encounter our own image more frequently throughout the day, which can be very hard for people who are self-critical about their appearance. So many of us are struggling with anxiety and fears around our health, and those concerns can go beyond health to focus on appearance and weight. More than ever we are turning to social media to stay connected, and as a result are bombarded (even more than usual) with curated images and posts about weight, dieting, and the societal thin ideal.
So how can we protect ourselves during this time? Here are some steps you can take to honor your body during quarantine.
Feed your body regularly
We can honor our bodies by nourishing them with what they need. Generally speaking, science recommends eating 3 meals and 2-3 snacks per day. Nourishing our bodies generally includes eating a variety of foods, including proteins, carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. If you have an eating disorder, it is important to maintain adequate nourishment and regular eating patterns to keep your body healthy and your recovery on track.
Monitor and moderate your social media use
Many of the activities we used to engage in are not available to us or are limited, and we’re turning more to the internet for entertainment, socializing, and information. Most of us are Netflixing, Tiktoking, Facebooking, and relaxing in front of the TV to pass the time during quarantine. But this means we are also exposed to more messages that associate thinness with self-worth. You can combat this by minimizing and editing your social media use. Unfollow accounts that focus on weight-loss or are hyper-focused on fitness or body weight and shape. Spend more time on social media that provide you with a sense of joy, entertainment, uplifting social connection, or mastery.
Participate in joyful movement
Especially if you are working from home during quarantine, it is likely that you are having fewer opportunities to move during the day. Just walking from meeting to meeting or from the parking lot to your office provided opportunities for movement that you don’t have when working from home. Spending all day in front of a screen can increase injury and pain due to improper ergonomics. Make sure you honor your body’s need for movement throughout the day by taking breaks, taking a gentle walk outside, taking stretch or yoga breaks, and monitoring your muscles (and eyes!) for signs of stress or overuse. Physical exercise and movement should bring peace and joy, not punishment. Find ways to move your body that feel nourishing and rewarding such as gentle stretching, tai chi, yoga, or even dancing in your bedroom. Just be sure to keep your movement to a level that is consistent with recovery.
Remember what your body can do for you
Our body image suffers when we internalize thin culture and view our body’s purpose as purely aesthetic. Our bodies are too amazing to be reduced to just something to look at. Consider all the things your body helps you do like run around the yard with your dog or feel the warm rays of the sun. Pay attention to what your body helps you to do every day that allows you to live your life according to what’s most important to you.
If you’re struggling with body image during quarantine, you are not alone. Make sure you reach out to your treatment team or discuss your feelings with others who might be having the same experience. Structure your environment and exposures to bring as much peace and joy as possible. None of us has ever undergone an experience like this pandemic in our lifetimes, so we are tasked with writing our own survival manual. Make sure that your strategies are self-compassionate and self-respectful and provide the nourishment and movement necessary to successfully traverse this globally challenging time.