Most of us have experienced big changes to our routine in lockdown, including changes to our diet and how much we move about or exercise. This may have an effect on our bodies and, potentially, our body image.
We asked our Activists and bloggers what helps them when they’re struggling with their body image. Here’s what they said.
Give thanks for what your body does for you
I once saw a post online that changed the way I perceive myself. It encouraged others to appreciate their individual body parts for their function rather than the way they look. Since then, I have tried to thank my body. I thank it when it lets me go on long walks and allows me to witness the sea. I thank it when it manages to lift up a particularly heavy box. I also, most importantly, thank my body even when it is in pain, or when it doesn’t want to get out of bed, or even when it doesn’t look good in my favourite outfit anymore because I have put on weight.
It’s so crucial to thank it just for being and for doing all it can to support you – by treating my body like its own person, it automatically gives me respect and love for it.
- Emma, 18
By treating my body like its own person, it automatically gives me respect and love for it.
Practise body neutrality
The body positivity movement is amazing. Seeing people who love themselves for exactly who they are and how they look be so prominent in our society really gives me hope for the future of a more accepting world. However, it can be harder than it seems to break into the world of acceptance and positivity when it comes to yourself and your own body.
For me, the body positivity movement seemed too daunting to even try. It felt very all or nothing - a lot of the language people use made it seem like you either love your body or you hate it. Why wasn’t there a middle ground?
This is where the body neutrality movement is so helpful. Body neutrality, for me, is a more attainable way of making peace with the way I look and the things I don’t like about my body. Instead of forcing myself to love every little thing I try to focus on neutral statements about my body when my brain switches to negative self-talk.
For example: If I notice I’m being negative about the way I look, I take myself away from that train of thought and focus on neutral statements about my body instead. So instead of “I hate my legs” which is a negative statement, I say “my legs get me from place to place” - a more neutral statement.
In my experience body neutrality is a stepping stone to unconditionally accepting and loving who you are and how you look.
- Maddie, 19
Instead of “I hate my legs” which is a negative statement, I say “my legs get me from place to place” - a more neutral statement.
Exercise to feel good (not to punish your body)
Exercise to feel good. There are lots of free home workouts that you can find on YouTube, which can be as short as five minutes. Exercise releases endorphins, which makes us feel happier. It is a great way to feel better about yourself, and relieve some built-up stress and tension that you may have.
- Elsie, 17
If you do feel like exercising, remember that being at home doesn’t mean you can’t keep your body moving! There are lots of ways to exercise at home, from online workout routines to yoga - or you could even have a dance party in your bedroom. I’ve been enjoying following a few workouts on YouTube every so often when I feel like doing something active.
Most importantly, any exercise you’re doing should be for fun or to stay healthy. Please remember that exercise should not be a punishment - it should be something you enjoy doing!
- Alice, 16
Any exercise you’re doing should be for fun or to stay healthy. Please remember that exercise should not be a punishment.
Give your body the nourishment it needs
The same goes for food - adopting a healthy lifestyle can have great benefits for your physical health and mental wellbeing. This doesn’t mean, however, that you have to stop eating all the foods you love! Eating in moderation, having lots of fruit and vegetables and drinking water will boost your mood and help maintain a healthy weight. It’s also so important to make sure you’re eating enough. Restricting what you’re eating will make you feel miserable, tired and lethargic. Trust me.
Your body deserves to be nourished and you deserve to be able to eat foods you enjoy, whether that’s fruit, pizza or chocolate cake (my personal fave). Alternatively, if you’d rather order a pizza and eat ice cream, go ahead!
Your body deserves to be nourished and you deserve to be able to eat foods you enjoy, whether that’s fruit, pizza or chocolate cake (my personal fave).
I have a mental health condition called body dysmorphia, which means I see my body in a very different way to how it actually is. My change of routine has, naturally, led to a change in my body, which started to exacerbate some of my symptoms.
When I’m struggling, I find it helpful to give my mind something to do. The extended period of time we are staying at home means that we can let our thoughts slip into negative patterns, which can result in self-doubt. Instead, actively engage your mind in activities such as puzzles, reading, or other hobbies that you enjoy.
I have a mental health condition called body dysmorphia, which means I see my body in a very different way to how it actually is.
Talk about how you're feeling!
Try to talk to your friends and family about how you are feeling – you may find you have bottled up a lot of negative emotions. We all need some reassurance sometimes from those who are close to us; they can see the real us and not the distorted version that we may have created within our minds.
- Laura, 21
The more you talk about how you are feeling with your friends and family, the more you will realise that many people are experiencing similar feelings to yourself. Having that support system in place allows you to offload some of your anxieties, and have someone to check in with when you are feeling low.
Try to talk to your friends and family about how you are feeling – you may find you have bottled up a lot of negative emotions.
Go easy on yourself
Remember that you are doing your best, and it is okay not to come out of lockdown with a slimmer body than when you came in. Your body is beautiful and tells a powerful story about who you are.
If you find yourself being overly harsh on yourself then practising some self-love could really help you. I know it may sound cringey, but I really recommend replacing a negative thought about yourself with some kind words. You don’t have to say them out loud but simply think something kind about yourself and I am sure that you will begin to feel the benefits of this.
Remember that you are doing your best, and it is okay not to come out of lockdown with a slimmer body than when you came in. Your body is beautiful.
As cliché as it sounds, you are absolutely perfect as you are. Not just due to what you look like in the mirror, but because of all the wonderful things about you that you don’t even realise – the things that everybody else sees. On a real level, people remember you by your personality, your kindness, your sense of humour, your intelligence. Gaining a couple of pounds during this time is not going to affect how anybody sees you at all, I promise.
Just getting through this difficult, confusing time is a massive achievement and is a reflection of how resilient you are. If surviving quarantine for you means adopting an exercise routine and eating more vegetables, then that’s brilliant. If surviving quarantine for you means lying in bed all day watching Disney films and eating chocolate, that’s brilliant too! There is no rule book on how to be ‘successful’ at this time - how you get through the next few weeks and months is completely personal to you and the most important thing you can do at the moment is to be kind, especially to yourself and your body.
Where to get help
If you are struggling with how you feel about your body, have a look at our body image page for tips, advice and information on where you can get help.