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How to cope with negative body image

How to cope with negative body image

Coping with re-enter anxiety from negative body image

If you’ve caught yourself daydreaming about getting to attend birthday parties and weddings again only to be shocked back into the reality of having to find something to wear that will feel good on your post-pandemic body, you’re not alone in this experience of negative body image.

You’re also not alone if the same daydream has ended in a realization that once again trust will have to be placed back in the hands of others to serve you an allergen-safe meal after months of not having to take the risk.

In part one of this series, we covered how to cope with pandemic weight gain and loss. No matter which direction the scale has moved, many people have been dealing with increased body dissatisfaction as of late, something that can take a toll on the already fragile state of our collective mental health. 

As much as multiple lockdowns and social distancing have been difficult, they have also brought a level of comfort, safety, protection, and relief from some of the anxiety-inducing food experiences that used to be a part of everyday allergy life.

It’s hard to give up comfort once you’ve got it. 

Re-entry anxiety from negative body image

Research suggests that the pandemic has resulted in a substantial increase in body dissatisfaction. With limitations on the usual ways we exercise, easier access to food while working from home, and an uptick in the amount of time spent looking at our appearance on Zoom – that really comes as no surprise.

One study found that just under half of the respondents agreed that they had been more concerned about their appearance during the lockdown. (1)

Here are some tips and strategies to help deal with negative body image so that you can start to feel better in your own skin.

7 tips to combat re-entry anxiety stemming from negative body image

1. Do a social media detox

This is the only kind of detox I will ever recommend! Unfollow accounts that make you feel badly about your body, or better yet delete apps and take a break altogether. Comparison is truly the thief of joy.

2. Turn off your mirror image on video calls

It’s easy to find flaws when constantly examining yourself and it’s not normal to be looking at yourself all day! If you can’t turn off your mirror image, try placing a sticky note over that part of the screen. More focus and less distraction on calls may result as an added bonus!

3. Get rid of your scale to help get rid of negative body image

If you’re hopping on to check your weight more than once a week, it may be time to say goodbye to your scale.

Try shifting the focus to your mindset (ie. mindfulness, self-compassion, middle path thinking) and behaviours (ie. self-care, balanced eating, meal planning, joyful movement, bedtime routine) instead of playing the numbers game.

4. Strive for body acceptance

You don’t have to love your current body, but it’s much easier to care for your body in a loving way when there are neutral feelings about it. Thinking about all the things your body does instead of how it looks can help to reduce negative feelings about it.  

5. Resist the urge to diet 

Confidence doesn’t come from clothing size. Using weight loss to fix negative body image is like taking your car to the car wash when the check engine light is on. 

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Check out our intuitive eating articles to help you breakup with dieting.

6. Remind yourself that there is no one universal picture of beauty

Flowers and Christmas lights are both beautiful and they look nothing alike. We can eat and exercise exactly the same and still look different.

Be honest about whether the things you are doing to try to ‘fit the mold’ are actually healthy. There’s a big distinction between looking and being healthy. 

7. Gently get used to wearing “real clothes” again

Get used to wearing more structured garments again by planning exposures. 

  • Challenge yourself to wear jeans or a fitted top around the house for an hour at a time a few days a week to get used to how they feel again.
  • Make sure these items still fit beforehand  – if they don’t, it’s ok (and encouraged) to get a new size that fits your current body if it’s accessible to you.

If you are having re-entry anxiety due to social eating we have 4 tips to help you get back into the groove so that you can celebrate life again.

(1) MacKenzie Robertson, Fiona Duffy, Emily Newman, Cecilia Prieto Bravo, Hasan Huseyin Ates, and Helen Sharpea. Exploring changes in body image, eating and exercise during the COVID-19 lockdown: A UK survey. Appetite. 2021 Apr 1; 159: 105062. Published online 2020 Dec 3. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2020.105062

Still battling negative body image? Check out more from our Intuitive Eating Series

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