Howdy, y’all! I hope that you, your family, your friends, your fur babies, etc. are safe, healthy, and happy during this pandemic and season of staying home. This is a very difficult time for a lot of people globally and know that our hearts go out to all of you.
I wanted to hop on here today to discuss a few social media trends that have popped up during this emotionally elevated time. Today we are going to discuss the fear surrounding the “Quarantine 15,” how diet culture has been showing up throughout this pandemic, and how you can safeguard your physical, mental, social health.
I want to start off by defining a few terms for you all so that you can better understand this post: The Quarantine 15 alludes to an idea much like the “Freshman 15” or the idea that during the quarantine that you and your loved ones will gain weight (specifically 15 pounds). The fear of weight gain often stems from diet culture. Diet culture is the common mindset of society today where we idealize thin bodies; sacrifice money, time, and health to achieve weight loss; tell people to calorically restrict or demonize certain foods due to pursuit of thinness; and oppress people in larger bodies.
Now you might be thinking, why are we talking about diet culture surrounding this pandemic? Because the fear of weight gain and pursuit of thinness causes people to restrict calories and nutrient-dense foods and puts many of our client’s at increased risk for a weakened immune system and declined mental health.
Did you know that health is not just about your physical health? I typically categorize health into three main components: physical, mental, and social - all of which can affect each other. During this pandemic I have seen with several clients, family members, and myself the effects of decreased social connection on our mental health.
When people feel emotionally sensitive, anxious, or depressed they can pin a lot of those uncomfortable emotions on their body or body image. This perpetuates the topic of fear of weight gain that we started off talking about. When these emotions get entangled in your body image, it’s easy to perceive that your body has gained weight or changed. But I am here to tell you that our bodies are meant to ebb and flow to account for fluid changes, environmental changes, hormone changes, etc. And I am here to tell you that your body is most likely not changing during this time and even if it does, it’s okay!
A lot of people cope with uncomfortable emotions in unhealthy ways, such as food restriction and/or binging, exercise, compensatory behaviors, self-harm, and more. So, what can you do to address these uncomfortable emotions with healthier coping skills? Follow the tips below for self-care and improving your health!
Practicing Self Care for Health
Eat Intuitively - This means that you should eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. If you are unable to do that and you are on a meal plan, follow it! Our bodies need food every 2-3 hours. Eating consistently throughout the day can actually boost your metabolism and give you more energy to do the things you love, while restricting your intake can increase feelings of anxiety (which we don’t need more of right now).
Eat Nutrient-Dense Foods - The best way to improve your immune system is by fueling your body consistently with balance, variety, and moderation of ALL FOODS. When you go to the grocery store, make sure you are buying foods from all the food groups (Starches, Proteins, Fats, Dairy, and Fruit/Veg). All foods provide the body with different benefits: some provide physical benefits and other provide emotional benefits, and during this time it is important that we support both our physical and mental health with what we are eating (AKA it’s okay to eat foods that are fun and taste good like chips!)
Engage in Joyful Movement - Physical Activity can help regulate our hunger/fullness cues and increase positive endorphins. It can also help you feel more connected to your body and hopefully increase your respect for all that it does for you! We believe that physical activity is intended to bring you joy. That means that if these “quarantine challenges” like the pushups/squats or these virtual exercise classes do not make you feel joy, do not do them! Instead do joyful movement like gardening, walking your dog/cat/rabbit/etc., or playing games with your kids! Joyful movement should also be used to celebrate your body and not punish yourself or trying to earn your food!
Build yourself up! - It is important that you are encouraging yourself during this time (and always). This can look like telling yourself positive affirmations! My favorite affirmations guru is Tiffany Roe @heytiffanyroe on Instagram! My favorite affirmations of hers include: I AM WORTHY, MY EMOTIONS MATTER, and I DESERVE TO TAKE UP SPACE. Another one of my favorite ways to build myself up is doing very overtly self-care activities, including: face masks, bath bomb, nail polish, getting myself a new journal, lighting candles, etc.
Press Pause - When life feels like too much, you have full permission to press pause. Build time into your day to have a moment of peace for yourself. If you have kids at home, give them a 30-minute quiet reading time or nap time, and use that time for yourself. My favorite activities to check in with myself and my body include: Listening to The Honest Guys Meditation Videos on YouTube, taking a nap, or adult coloring books, while listening to my favorite playlist on Spotify (Peaceful Piano!). This practice will help you calm down your elevated emotions that could be affecting your body image, and help you connect with yourself.
Connect with people! - Even though we are to be social distancing, it is important for us as humans to connect with each other. It is part of our health and nature. Make sure that you are finding ways to check in with your loved ones. This can look like sending them a text, Face Timing, or calling them daily. You could do a virtual game night where you play an online game with your friends. You could do a virtual happy hour. You could go for walks outside together (as long as you keep 6 feet distance). You could start a pen pal? Whatever you choose, find a way to connect!
Now you may be thinking, this is a lot more than just talking about gaining weight during quarantine. What I want you to leave this blog knowing is that our relationship with our bodies and body image is complex and it is affected by several factors in our lives. You also do NOT have to have an eating disorder to have bad body image days. Everyone has good and bad body image days; it is the coping skills we choose that safeguard out mental and physical health.
This is a challenging time - you are allowed to feel your feelings. You are allowed to say no to exercise challenges on social media - you are allowed to unfollow toxic social media accounts. I hope the tips above help you to establish a routine, find some peace amongst the noise, and come out of this more mentally, physically and socially healthier.
What do you do to take care of your physical, mental, and social health?
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