The Covid Pandemic and its associated lockdown periods have kicked our collective asses on so many levels.
Our news feeds are constantly reporting on the macro-level changes that will impact us for years to come – from politics to social and economic implications.
But at the micro-level, the more personal, intimate, private level we are also talking about changes that could affect us for years to come. The mental health implications of 2020 will sadly become apparent in the coming months and years. Given this, I was so pleased to hear that the federal government has lifted the number of Medicare covered psychology sessions from 10 to 20 per person (contact your GP for access).
OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OUR BODIES
When the external world is seemingly out of control, one way to cope is to cling to the things we can control. For many of us, our diet and exercise routines have become the object of our laser-like focus, sometimes resulting in extreme behaviours.
Disordered eating patterns are being globally reported as a concerning trend. Both overeating and undereating have emerged as behavioural patterns many people are clinging to for comfort and a semblance of control.
You’ve probably heard friends lamenting their ‘Covid Kilos’ or joking about the extra weight they are carrying around as a direct result of the Pandemic. In most cases, eating and drinking as a form of comfort during a crisis is absolutely normal and healthy.
The BBC reported that 48% of people say they have put on weight during lockdown in a new survey. From a health (and mental health) perspective, it’s not a big deal, but if you’d like some helpful tips for managing your eating levels during lockdown, check out the BBC article.
At the other extreme of the eating continuum are people who have a very complicated relationship with food and an emotional attachment to eating, and for some, the lockdown experience has meant a battle of control.
In fact, a national eating disorder support service says calls for help have doubled since February 2020. If you are struggling with obsessive thoughts, feelings or behaviours in relation to food and exercise, please reach out to The Butterfly Foundation.
HOW TO RETURN TO BODY ACCEPTANCE
Assuming you don’t have any serious mental health concerns, the following tips will help you ‘normalise’ your relationship with your body and start to re-set the balance after the Covid lock-down.
1. Be kind
Self compassion needs to be your number one priority.
Interruptions to your typical eating and exercise routine are normal, and any resulting self-doubt that follows is also to be expected.
It’s important that you don’t allow these doubts to become self-critical.
Consider this: If your best friend was struggling with her weight during the Pandemic – what would you say to her? Would you harshly judge her and blame her for being so undisciplined? NO WAY! You’d show compassion, empathy and probably share a laugh with her about your collective Covid kilos.
Next time you notice yourself being overly critical about your own relationship with food or exercise, say something like this to yourself:
“I’m doing my best during a really difficult time. Sure, I’ve gained/lost a few kilos but I’m in the process of restoring my regular routine and I’ll be back to myself before i know it”
2. Get real
Sometimes, especially when under pressure, we can get caught up with body dysmorphic thoughts. It’s a bit like our mind playing tricks on us, fooling us into believing untrue (and mean) things about our bodies.
Here are a few common thinking traps in relation to our bodies:
- Imagining you are ‘ugly’
- Being excessively focused on one part of your body (usually one that you dislike)
- Telling yourself “I can only be happy if I lose/gain 10kgs”
- Having intrusive thoughts about your body size/shape
- Excessively worrying about other people’s bodies
- Constantly comparing your body size/shape with those of others (this may be heightened with social media use)
- Avoiding people you perceive as more attractive than yourself
If any of these thoughts are interrupting your day (and this is a new thing for you), tell yourself that these are inaccurate thoughts, and probably a response to the covid situation.
One of the things we know about the workings of the mind is that our thoughts are the creators of our entire lived experience. Our thoughts influence our emotions and our emotions, in turn, influence our behaviours.
So, when you are thinking:
- “I’ve gained too much weight during lockdown, I’ve lost control, I’m hopeless and pathetic and it’s going to take forever to lose these extra kilos”
- Ashamed, embarrassed, deflated, disappointed, hopeless
And tend to behave in unhelpful ways like:
- Avoiding others
- Wearing baggy, shapeless clothes to hide your body
- Stopping exercising because you feel embarrassed or it hurts or it just feels too hard
Maybe it’s time to start re-framing these thoughts like this –
When you are thinking:
- “I’ve gained a few kilos during lockdown but it’s normal, most of my friends have too. I’m now determined to get back into my routine and focus on my health”
- A little frustrated, perhaps disappointed in yourself, but optimistic and open to change
And tend to behave in more helpful ways like:
- Being motivated to exercise
- Ready to start eating more mindfully
- Happy to socially engage
If you’d like to delve more into the power of re-framing your thoughts, I recommend the MOODKIT app.
So be kind to yourself, keep it real and re-frame your thoughts whenever you catch yourself being overly self-critical.
I’d love to hear how these tips work for you – join me over on Instagram and share your experience so we can all learn from each other.