It almost seems too good to be true -- the world is slowly returning to normal following the COVID-19 pandemic. It is as if the whole world seems to be exhaling a sigh of relief. As vaccines become more readily available and more people leave their houses, you may eagerly find yourself reaching for outfits that don’t include the sweatpants you’ve lived in for the past 18 months. However, your return to society may be delayed when you realize that your pre-COVID pants don’t fit anymore. That your body isn’t what it used to be. That the image you see in the mirror is a bit different than what you remember.
When you first look in the mirror, it may be tempting to fixate your eyes on the part of your body that has changed the most. It’s easier to focus on the flaws of your individual components rather than the glorious sum of them. But instead of jumping to criticism, first, try practicing acceptance. Accept the reality that COVID-19 brought about many changes to the outside world and your individual sphere. Accept that your stress levels may have changed and impacted your weight. Accept that you weren’t able to go to the gym because of lockdowns. Accept that you ate differently than you usually do while in quarantine. Accept that the image looking back at you in the mirror is different from what you remember.
The practice of acceptance is an act of freedom because it gives you and your body permission to just be. A tool often used in dialectical behavior therapy, radical acceptance encourages you to resist fighting reality and, instead, allow yourself to take up as much space as you need. Practicing acceptance often involves sitting in discomfort. This discomfort is something you can readily practice when facing the mirror. You may be tempted to engage in unhealthy behaviors when triggered by your reflection, but instead of impulsively resisting reality, try accepting it.
Acceptance is not an art form -- it’s a practice. Some days will be more challenging than others.
Facing your reflection in the mirror may be a painful experience, but the act of acceptance brings you to a place of peace with yourself and your body.
Sometimes grace looks like accepting the new image you see in the mirror. Other times, grace looks like providing your body with what it really needs, despite how it looks. As gyms open up again and grocery stores open at total capacity, you might have the urge to dramatically increase physical activity or severely restrict your eating. However, it’s critical that you give yourself grace in your new reality.
Grace is defined as unmerited favor. What kinds of favors can you do for your body today? How can you show yourself kindness? Sometimes being kind to yourself looks like eating a rich and healthy meal filled with nutritious foods; other times, kindness looks like treating yourself to a yummy dessert or a satisfying herbal tea. Giving your body grace can include skipping the gym and going for a walk outside instead. Rather than doing an hour of high-intensity cardio, grace may mean practicing yoga. Instead of doing sit-ups, grace may mean going with a friend to the movies or playing with a pet in the park. Grace can look like a salad or a steak. Grace, like the body, comes in all shapes and forms.
When coming to terms with your changed body, it’s essential that you recognize your triggers. One such trigger can be that sinking feeling you get in your stomach when your favorite top just doesn’t fit anymore or when your beloved pair of jeans just won’t button. There’s something unique about the experience that brings on a new level of panic, anguish, and self-hatred. But loving your body in a post-quarantine world includes permitting yourself to outgrow your old clothes.
Society often teaches that you have to fit into your clothes. This idea brings with it size charts and waist measurements. Such an idea brings about the pressure of meeting size standards and the pressure of fitting somewhere along a scale that society deems as normal. There are high numbers and low numbers, and where your hip measurement falls determines how numerically valuable your figure is. What society doesn’t teach you is that if you gain weight, you don’t have to work it off to fit into those jeans. You can stay the same size. You can just buy new jeans.
You must remember that you don’t exist to fit into your clothes. Clothing is a tool used to serve you and meet one of your most basic needs. Your clothes don’t fit not because you’re too big, but because you outgrew them. They no longer serve you. Instead of beating yourself up and cursing your growing body, recognize that your body changes, and with those changes come new needs. Go to your favorite shop or, better yet, a thrift store, and find the clothes that suit the new you.
Coping with bodily changes after a pandemic can be a challenge for you and your mental health. Despite the challenges that may come with weight changes, it is essential that you be kind to your post-quarantine body by giving it the nutrients it needs. Remember that it’s okay to accept a new you. Part of acceptance involves taking steps to love the skin you’re in: accept the reflection in the mirror, give yourself grace, and don’t be afraid to outgrow the clothing that no longer serves you. If you struggle with body image and self-worth, consider consulting a professional at SokyaHealth today. SokyaHealth offers clinical counseling and treatment for a variety of needs. Our team of mental health experts prides itself on holistic and well-informed care while our patients take comfort in the compassionate approach with which they’re treated. We offer services for children, adolescents, and adults in California, Oregon, and Alaska. Call 866-932-1767 for more information.