Health & Fitness

It’s okay that our bodies changed during the pandemic

If your own mind is spitting out negative thoughts on its own, try practicing “thought-stopping,” a technique often used in cognitive behavioral therapy, said Dr. Cox. When a negative thought about your body penetrates your brain, say “stop”. Then, mindfully replace that thought with a positive one. For example: when you stand in front of the mirror and focus on your belly fat, stop this thought and remind yourself that your body carried a baby, ran marathons, or you can haul mulch around your yard.

Diet culture is everywhere. For example the terms “Quarantine 15” or “Covid 19”. These weight gain conditions fueled the idea on social media and pop culture websites that an aspect worthy of your emotional energy stayed thin enough to fit your jeans in the face of mass sickness, unemployment, and other pandemic issues.

Even if no one has ever found a flaw in your body, you most likely have internalized ideas about what bodies should look like. Probably these ideas are separate from our actual health. These ideas are tied to capitalism’s relentless need to sell diet products, said Connie Sobczak, co-founder and executive director of Body Positive, a nonprofit that leads body positivity training. Creating a hierarchy of good, better, and best bodies creates market opportunities for selling what we need to sustain those bodies.

Take a close look at your media and social media consumption. Consider unfollowing or muting friends, influencers, and celebrities who advocate thinness. One more step? Give, if only to yourself, examples of fat phobia in TV shows, movies, and more. When you start deliberately jotting down diet culture whenever you see it, you will be amazed at how it has permeated our daily discourse.

People who live in larger bodies often don’t feel welcome in certain rooms – like the gym, said Dr. Cox. But practicing body acceptance can change that.

“Research shows that shame doesn’t work,” said Dr. Cox. “Shame does not actually lead to changes in behavior, but acceptance encourages behavior changes and encourages us to be active in areas where we are traditionally not welcome.” She referred to a 2011 study in the journal Qualitative Health Research. Participants were invited to join the Fatosphere, an online community where the word “fat” was neutral and treated like any other descriptor: that is, having brown hair or being short or tall. Negative discussions about weight were not allowed, and participants were encouraged to share their experiences in a safe, body-positive room. After a year of participating in the Fatosphere, participants reported positive changes in their general wellbeing. They also felt safer entering rooms that they would traditionally have avoided. When people begin to see their bodies as the wonder they are, not the things they are not, “people actually find the freedom to do things that society tells them they don’t can, “said Dr. Cox.

Taking that first step into a seemingly hostile room can be daunting – especially after a year at home. Dr. Cox recommends starting with positive statements.

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