A few weeks ago, relatively early in this pandemic I was already struck by the number of posts, advertisements and campaigns that had already begun.
- Give me 21 days and I’ll help you transform your body!
- No quarantine 15 here! Join this challenge!
- Get in the best shape of your life during social isolation!
Then there were the memes about “getting fat”….
- Quarantine 15 is the new Freshman 15.
- PSA: make sure you try on your jeans once per week!
- Due to the corona virus my summer body has been postponed until 2021.
- I’m either coming out of this quarantine 50lbs lighter or 100lbs heavier, only time will tell.
- Will the producers for my 600lb life find me, or do I need to reach out to them?
It bothered me so much I decided to share about it publicly on Facebook. You can read that post here.
IMPORTANT: Now, if you (like many) shared some of these memes or commentary – please don’t feel bad. Please, please, please do not add to the shame plate. Everyone’s “big emotion” plate is full enough. We’re all just doing our best to cope – and humour is a huge tool in the resilience toolkit. Let’s chalk this one up to “when you knew better, you did better” and move on together, shall we?
After my post I saw many more body positive posts with similar sentiment (YES!). And I felt like this might just be a turning point in the body positive, health at every size movement.
Hurray! People are focusing on movement for mental health!
Hurray! Perhaps we’re moving past our obsession with how we look in our bodies, and getting back to how we feel in our bodies!
Hurray! Fitness professionals are telling people it’s ok to adjust course and find creative ways to move that feel good!
Hurray! People are realizing that eating well, moving more and self-care are essential (but don’t need to be complicated)!
Hurray! Diet culture is swindling and society is shifting. Can I get an amen?!
But perhaps I was a bit optimistic (or just in my BoPo bubble), because in the last week or so my newsfeed has been propagated by more sponsored posts and an (unhelpful) evolution of the memes above (sigh).
I’ve had enough! I’m calling it as I see it and calling this (sh)it out. And I’m coming to the table with some productive suggestions I hope can help you.
Calling Out the Crazy-making:
With love, I’d like to invite you to consider how this focus on weight gain and the pressure to “use this time wisely” to get in the best shape of your life could be detrimental to our overall health and well-being. And why I think you can (and should) dial the volume down on that diet culture noise.
Let’s start with the weight gain concern:
- The weight gain memes/ fear reinforces the notion that we “should” be deeply concerned about being in a bigger body (because bigger bodies are unhealthy and undesirable – which is not only untrue, but extremely unhelpful).
- You are under stress (everyone is right now). When you’re under stress your body produces more cortisol. Cortisol is helpful if you’re fighting for your life fleeing or fighting an animal, but not so helpful if you’re staying home and fighting a virus by physical distancing. One of the effects of cortisol is to increase the hormone Ghrelin (aka hunger hormone) and decrease the hormone Leptin (satiety or fullness hormone). Yeah. You’re smart, you can deduce (part) of why you’re reaching for more food and can’t seem to satisfy your hunger. There is more at play here than you “having no self-control.” It’s ok. Breathe and be kind.
- Eating emotionally (for many) might be one of the only tools in your tool-kit. Is it the “best” tool? Well, no. A pint of Haagen Daas isn’t going to quell your fears or make peace with uncertainty. But if this is the tool you’ve got, it’s ok. Could you add more tools? Yes! But lean in (with love). Be gentle with yourself. You’re doing the best you can with the tools in your kit. For more tools…scroll down.
- If you get out of this thing with 15 lbs extra weight, but you are otherwise generally physically and mentally well – I’d chalk that up to a win.
Now lets tackle the notion that you should “use this time wisely:”
- During times of stress everybody responds differently. Some of us over function – get busy and complete tasks. Some of us under function – slow down, internalize and need more rest. Both are normal – and ok. We need to honour our own process for dealing with this very challenging time.
- We have a lot on our mental/ emotional plates….I don’t know about you but my plate is more full than ever. And now we’re supposed to add worry, concern guilt and shame around how we’re filling said plate, and whether we’re prioritizing our fitness amidst the chaos of kids at home while we also try to juggle working or working on the front lines as an essential service? That’s crazy. Or at least crazy-making.
- Changing habits and building new ones is stressful (good stress, but stress). Adding more stress during an already stressful time is not productive to good health outcomes – physical or mental. It’s also not productive to developing new habits or lasting change. Our brains just aren’t wired that way. High stress environments aren’t conducive to good learning outcomes – so cut yourself some slack. Actually, cut yourself a lot of slack. Deep breath.
Body Positive Health Tips to Help you Navigate this Pandemic:
- Unfollow or unplug. Or maybe do both. I talk about using your unfollow options and curating your social feeds a lot. Because it’s huge. You are in charge (to a much larger degree than you might realize) what you see in your feed. If you find something triggering or offensive, unfollow. If you find the energy on social unhelpful, take a break. Even one day or a few hours can go a long way to improving your mood.
- Give yourself permission to feel. This is a lot. We’re all having a lot of big feelings right now. It’s ok. You’re allowed to feel whatever you’re feeling. Have a listen to the latest episode of Brene Brown’s Unlocking Us Podcast with Dr. Marc Brackett. His RULER approach to social emotional learning was not just eye opening – but really practical (and helpful).
- Redefine what “health” means to you – right now. Check out this blog on your “Pandemic Health Zone” that I shared last week.
- Focus on what feels good. With movement, with nutrition, with mindfulness and spiritual practices. With ALL of it. Focus on optimizing positive mental and emotional outcomes and don’t worry about whether it’s optimizing your fitness outcomes. You’ll have time to focus on that later (if you want). But if you don’t have good mental and emotional well-being your physical outcomes are kind of for naught (IMO).
- Find tools that support you – body, mind and spirit. Earlier we talked about how emotional eating is a (valid) strategy to help you cope with the big feelings you’re having. While it’s valid, it may not be the strategy that best serves you. If you’re leaning on food more right now, here are some of the tools you might find helpful right now:
- Mindfulness Meditation is a wonderful tool to help you land in this moment. Meditation is also clinically proven to help with anxiety. For more information on Meditation and some simple (read: short and easy) techniques, read this blog.
- Mantra is another tool I use to stay connected to this moment. Often I find myself emotionally eating when I’m trying to dis-connect or “stuff down” feelings that are uncomfortable. One of my favourite mantras right now that can bring me back to here and now is “I trust the unfolding of my life.” Try it on, see if it helps you. Read this blog for more ideas about mantra.
- Self-Compassion is one of my all time favourite tools when I’m really “in it” (aka struggle). But it’s not just offering yourself kindness or being a friend to yourself, there’s also a yang voice of self-compassion. Many of my clients call this the “inner coach” and that voice can be really helpful as well. Learn more about both the Yin and Yang voices here.
- Intuitive Eating isn’t just being mindful when you eat – it’s about untethering your connection to diet culture and discovering a way to relate to your body and food that is built on respect, appreciation and gratitude. And it can absolutely transform how you nourish your body (and spirit) during times of stress. For more information about Intuitive Eating and some introductory ideas to try read this blog.
- Body Kindness is the practice of appreciating your body for all it CAN do (instead of viewing the body as an enemy you have no control over). It’s about having a friendly allied relationship with your body. This is the basis of this masterclass available in the Studio ($29 a la carte) as well as part of the upcoming Super You Mindset Course starting soon.
- Move (your awesome) body. Movement is awesome. Not just for boosting your immune system, overall physical health and well-being, but also for your mental and emotional well-being. But it’s essential that you find ways to move that FEEL good. Aim to get moving for 30-minutes a day or 150 cummulative minutes per week. Don’t worry about what you’re doing, how high your heart rate is getting or how many calories you burned. It’s not the focus. Move for mental health! That might be 3 10-minute walks around the neighbourhood every day. Or 4 40-minute runs per week. Or 3 50-minute classes per week. Whatever you do – focus on JOY for movement and what feels good. Recognize that what this is might change every day. That’s ok. For some FREE and low cost tools check out this resources page I created: Body Positive Physical Activity and Fitness (and if you need some support – just ask!)
Whatever you do during this very challenging time, please hear this:
You are enough. You are doing your best – and that’s ok. You are not alone. This is tough, really tough. And just getting through this with our physical, mental/ emotional and spiritual health in tact is not only enough – it’s great.
If you’re struggling don’t feel you have the right tools in your toolkit I’d like to offer my support. I’m currently offering One-to-One Coaching on a sliding scale, so please don’t let money be a barrier. I’m here to serve and support you.