How the pandemic is changing my relationship with my body

I’ve learned to love my body in isolation

It’s important to listen to what our bodies need.

This article discusses eating disorders and may be triggering for some readers. The Canadian Mental Health Association Crisis Line can be reached at 1-800-875-6213.

A lot of things I love have been taken away by the pandemic, but one thing I have gained this past year is a greater appreciation for myself and my body.

I want to preface what I’m about to talk about with the fact that I’ve had significant privilege through the pandemic. I’ve been able to work and learn from home in order to safely self-isolate, and I haven’t experienced food insecurity this year, something that isn’t the case for many university students.

That being said, being in this privileged position, lockdown has provided the chance for me to better examine my eating habits and, as a result, my body image.

There isn’t one woman in my life who doesn’t have a weird relationship with food. Some of us feel guilty for enjoying sugary coffee drinks. Some of us skip meals during the day and demolish a family-sized bag of chips after 8 p.m. Many of us, with and without these habits, had or currently have eating disorders.

Simply put, we’re all afraid of being fat. Not for health reasons—we should know by now that weight isn’t an indicator of health, and that each body looks different when you’re treating it right.

We’re afraid because we’re taught to be afraid, and the only way we’re taught to cope with this ridiculous fear is to eat less—wayless. Maybe even eat nothing.

Many of the reasons for that are external.

A lot of us girls grew up around women who centred our value around our weight. For those of us who were around women who didn’t criticize our weight, we probably still heard these women critique themselves or, at the very least, restrict themselves from enjoying food.

Men, of course, play a big role in cultivating these values. Whether or not we’re attracted to them, men are constantly coming up with new standards for women. They’re on Tinder and TikTok and Twitter telling us exactly what they want women to look like, and thinness is always at the centre.

Finally, we spend our lives consuming entertainment that glorifies women being a size zero—taking up absolutely no space, because that’s how women should be. The pandemic hasn’t eliminated these external factors entirely, but it has put into perspective what’s truly important to me.

A lot of people in my life have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Some have passed away. Others have long-term complications. Many more haven’t gotten the illness but have had their lives permanently changed by the financial or social circumstances created by the pandemic.

There are very few good opportunities in quarantine, but one of them has definitely been learning to love my body more. It works very hard to tell me what I need. It bugs me to drink water. It strains my eyes when I’ve been in front of my screen for too long, reminding me that I have legs to get up and stretch.

It begs, when I skip meals to keep working, for me to feed it.

It sounds insufferable, but the pandemic has really taught me to love my body because my body is the only thing I have in isolation. 

It’s also taught me to love my body because, when people are dying from a preventable illness, it shouldn’t really matter if I have stretch marks or a stomach that spills over my jeans.

I have a better relationship with my body now, and I also have a better relationship with food—my body likes food. It’s okay if I’ve put on ‘pandemic pounds,’ because there’s less guilt associated with each bowl of carbs. There are fewer headaches from chugging coffee on an empty stomach. There are fewer symptoms of poor health that, in normal times, I ignored, because thinness reigned supreme.

The pandemic has brought difficult times for everyone, and our bodies are working hard—whether or not we have the privilege of quarantining. Now, more than ever, it’s important to listen to what our bodies need, even if that’s more food or less exercise than normal, without feeling guilty about it. 

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