How to Deal With Feeling Bad About Your Body During Isolation

BY Emily Cassel

If you’ve noticed self-isolation is making you feel worse than usual about your body, experts say you’re not alone. But there are many ways you can manage negative feelings about your body, even in our isolated times.

Unfollow what’s unhelpful.

As if Instagram posts pushing you to sculpt a "beach body" weren’t enough, how about adding pandemic pressure to it? Be aware: those accounts may not be managed by qualified health and wellness professionals, and even if they are, you could be watching fitness videos that were recorded long before the COVID.

“With body image, a lot of it comes with social comparison. Having to be more isolated, maybe it’s not in our face as much, comparing our bodies to others. It might be a good time to limit or disengage [from social media].”

- Dani Gonzales, psychologist and professor at the University of Southern California

Enjoy social (distance) meals.

Studies have shown that we are happier and healthier when we eat meals together. You’ve probably already been using video platforms for class or work. To counter loneliness' potential effects on your body image, add a midday social meal into the mix, too.

“Research says that loneliness is a strong predictor of disordered eating. Feeling disconnected from others can make us focus more on body image.”

-Leslie Sim, Mayo Clinic psychologist

Appreciate that your body can still do a lot of cool stuff.

Gonzales and Sim said it can be helpful to reframe a focus on fitness as “what can my body do” versus “how should my body look.” Even a new hobby counts when it comes to bodily appreciation—think about how your body helps you write letters, or how it moves when you take a walk.

It’s OK if we’re not enjoying our bodies.

It comes down to practicing self-compassion. But how does one… do that? Should we engage with our not-good thoughts? Block them out? The answer is: kind of both. Sim suggested observing your judgmental thoughts, without necessarily listening to them.

Take advantage of online resources.

For additional support, Gonzales pointed again to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA). NEDA assembled a list of virtual support groups and created a COVID-specific forum that’s open and monitored 24/7.


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