Body Image During Quarantine
The blog post includes mentions of eating disorders and body dysmorphia. Please read with caution if any of these items triggers or upsets you.
I have always had an interesting relationship with my body. I’ve found that I go through periods during my life where I am incredibly body confident and love what I see in the mirror, and I also experience periods of self-doubt where I dread looking at myself and my body.
Despite some off weeks, I’ve been pretty strong in my body positivity since finishing high school and conquering a battle with anorexia. During high school, I hid my eating disorder pretty well, at least for a while. I didn’t eat during the day at all, and allowed my one meal of the day to be dinner so that my family did not question it. I’d eat about half as much as they would, and if asked, would say I was not hungry or had snacked after school. I learned to distract and deflect well to hide the fact I was not eating much.
After a few peers asked me at school if I had anorexia, after I had lost 40 pounds – bringing me into the double digits, I began to panic. This, along with the painful chest aches and loss of my period for a year encouraged me to seek help. However, I still wanted to keep it as private as I could, so I sought help online through others.
I began following people with different body types, which was wildly different from my social media feeds that were full of thin individuals who used hashtags like “thinspo” regularly. I indulged in forums of people recovering from eating disorders and reminded myself that I wanted to live, that I did not want this illness to take my life prematurely.
I have been lucky. The road was difficult of course, and I did have a few relapse days, but my recovery was smoother than most. Within a few months, I was eating regularly and gained weight where it was needed. After 4 months of eating normally, I got my period back. I began to see my body differently and treated it with love and respect. I loved the curves I saw in the mirror and no longer wanted to lose weight. In fact, I enjoyed the way the weight gain made my body look. I felt more confident than I ever have before.
This past winter, I hit a bit of a roadblock. I was lucky to not experience many setbacks when it came to my past eating disorder in the last four years – but this November was different.
I contracted a digestive disorder which along with stomach pains and uncomfortable bathroom changes, gave me a consistently bloated stomach. I hated what I saw in the mirror and felt my thoughts returning to where they were many years ago as a scared high schooler. My stomach protruded over whatever I wore; even wearing compression pants could not hide the ever-present bump.
The disorder I have does not have an easy cure and is something that people typically have for years and can even be lifelong. This news has been difficult to handle, especially for someone who has reached recovery from a past eating disorder.
I began restricting my eating, initially to avoid the stomach pain and then once following a doctor’s plan to ease some stomach pain, I was restricting to try to lose weight. Additionally, I became obsessive with exercise, as I did when I was anorexic.
It took me a month or so to realize that I was losing weight, but not where I wanted to. My stomach remained the same, but I lost weight in places I wanted the weight, like my arms and legs. It came to a head when I visited my parents in February after not seeing them for a month and one of the first things my dad said to me was that I looked a lot thinner, especially in my arms.
From the way he said it, it did not sound like a compliment, as I already had bony arms and legs to begin with. It brought me right back to my junior year of high school when a boy in the cafeteria asked why I was so thin, and said his friend told him I looked like an anorexic. The fear came rushing back, and it made me realize I was letting myself go down that same dark road.
The past two months have been difficult on my body image with being in quarantine. During my normal routine, I kept very busy with work and socializing and didn’t spend much time looking in the mirror. Now that I am seeing myself and my body all day every day, I am hyper-focused on what my body looks like. It is something I have not experienced for years.
Despite the new challenge, I am incredibly grateful that I have not been restricting myself during this time. I eat whenever I feel hungry, and I am exercising but for healthy motives, not to see the scale go down. I am still battling with the thoughts and seeing myself differently, but I am making sure to consume positive media to help reaffirm body positivity. Whether it is a body positive YouTuber or my best friend holding me accountable, I have found a bit more peace in my situation and in my body.
During this time in quarantine where we are spending a lot more time with ourselves and our thoughts, it is important to replace any toxic messages with positive ones. One of my friends during this time did a social media cleanse where she unfollowed any accounts that made her feel insecure or doubt herself. She did research and followed body positive and self-love accounts so that all her feeds were filled with positivity and self-affirmation.
It can be difficult, but you must show yourself love and respect during this time. Remember, we are living through a pandemic, and it is important to take care of yourself in the healthiest possible ways.
Are there any accounts that you follow to provide positivity in your day-to-day life? How have you been practicing self-love during quarantine? Please feel free to share below!