Article Written By: Audrey Bristol, LSW
First, congratulations! We made it through one of the most emotionally taxing years of our lives. The world continues to open up and the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel is shining brightly. As we celebrate, we must remember those who are still grieving their losses – jobs, family, friends, time, etc.
We continue to stand with you and will support you as time goes on. I know all of us are excited to hug our loved ones, sit on a patio in the sunshine surrounded by friends, travel with our families, and begin returning to life as we knew it.
I have begun to think back on my journey of self-love this year, as I had more time to actually implement much of what I teach to others. I too struggled with the pandemic effects. I stopped wearing my smart watch at the start of the pandemic feeling frustrated with not hitting the arbitrary goals due to working remotely and not being on my feet as much. The constant rings taunted me to do more, when in reality I was too anxious, worried, and exhausted from the constant doom and gloom to do anything else.
I reluctantly pulled my puzzles from the shelf and began to spend more time with myself than I ever had. I intentionally decided to put more effort in listening to my body, practice intuitive eating, and find movement that made my body feel good. While this work isn’t easy, I am happy to put in the effort to have a different frame of mind and explore this wonderful thing called self-compassion.
One of my favorite daily habits I developed during this time, has been my lunch walk, where I listen to my favorite pop culture podcast about the real housewives (yes, therapists have guilty pleasures too). One day the “fun-fact” was dropped that a majority of American’s gained weight over the pandemic, affectionately called the “Quarantine-19”. As I rolled my eyes and continued on with my walk, I thought this is just the beginning.
Sure enough, as the month has continued – articles, conversations, and social media posts around quarantine weight and summer bodies have become invasive. When I hear diet-culture threats hounding me, I wonder, haven’t we been through enough this year?
As a body positive/ Health At Every Size (HAES)-aligned therapist, I cringe at the effects this diet propaganda will have on my clients and my patients, many who are already struggling with their share of anxiety, depression, and body discomfort. I think of the traumatic year we have been through and the effects this has on our body and mind.
Many people are feeling an increase in symptoms of depression, anxiety, OCD, substance use, and eating disorder behaviors.
Our bodies are feeling side effects of limited movement and stress, increase in blood pressure or muscle tension. As our bodies naturally fluctuate all the time, many are seeing their body weight increase, which, due to the social stigma, can feel extremely uncomfortable.
In reality, our bodies are amazing machines that protect in times of stress and illness, but here we are blaming ourselves and our bodies for not being smaller during an unprecedented global pandemic.
Before you begin your diet or you engage in an activity that you hate just to lose some weight, I ask that you first look at your body with love and compassion.
The body that has carried you through an emotionally difficult year, that has kept you alive, allows you to love others and yourself.
Meanwhile, I will drop the real ‘fun-facts’ that diets don’t work; up to 98% of weight-loss efforts fail in the first 2-5 years and two thirds of people who try to make their body smaller will actually gain more weight than they lost (HARRISON, 2021).
So, what if, instead of trying to lose the quarantine-19, we celebrate our health? Imagine would it be like to shift your attention from the size of your body to celebrating the amazing human that survived a very difficult year.
Rather than focusing on what foods you are allowed to eat, enjoy dinners and events with friends and family that have been put on hold for a year. Visualize the time, emotions, and compassion you can share with yourself and others when your thoughts are not consumed with numbers and food.
While I know this is easier said than done, I firmly believe we would all benefit from having more self-compassion and kindness to ourselves and that we survived a difficult year.
I can say from my own experience it is nice to fill my days with video calls with friends, engaging in mindfulness, learning new crafts, and taking time getting to know myself outside of the constant bustle of non-pandemic life.
Throughout these many months, I have learned to give myself some of the compassion and gentleness I so often give to others, and so often that I wish clients would give themselves.
I encourage you to pause a moment to celebrate yourself and honor your body for all that it has and continues to do. As we slowly move back to ‘real life,’ I hope we can remember that slowing down, and taking time to ourselves is the key to self-compassion and self-love.
With love and compassion,
HARRISON, C. (2021). ANTI-DIET: Reclaim your time, money, well-being, and happiness through intuitive eating. S.l.: LITTLE BROWN SPARK.
Audrey Bristol is a Licensed Social Worker who works with teens, young adults (and their parents) struggling with body image, low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. She is passionate about honoring health at every size and helping teens and young adults to embrace their strengths, learn to overcome obstacles, and provides support and encouragement along the way. These transitional years can be very challenging. Audrey provides a compassionate, clinically solid approach to therapy and reaching struggling teens. Visit Audrey’s bio to learn more about her and to reach out to her directly for help and support through therapy at Denver Metro Counseling email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read More From Audrey:
How To Bring Body Positive Messages Home To Your Teen
Signs Your Teen Might Be Struggling With Negative Body Image or Disordered Eating
3 Ways To Survive As A Family With Teens In Our “New Normal”
Denver Metro Counseling is a group of clinicians who provide therapeutic support for teens, adults, parents, and families. We help people build positive relationships with themselves and others.