A: Many folks are experiencing weight change during the pandemic. It can be hard to face the scale with everything going on in the world.
But your health is more than just a number. Here are some ideas to help you focus on what really matters here.
Maybe you have heard about the Quarantine-15. Maybe you have noticed that your clothes aren’t fitting the same. Maybe your eating and exercise patterns have changed a little, maybe a lot. Maybe you find yourself thinking about this often or even feeling ashamed or guilty. If so, you are not alone.
First and foremost, we must remember that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and one is not better than another. Unfortunately, negative body image is pervasive. Negative body image is when someone has a feeling of shame or anxiety about their body and feels that their body appearance is an important indicator of worth. Not only do we judge ourselves for our bodies, but other people do too and that has real impacts on health and wellness. Rather than stigmatize, we need to celebrate the natural diversity and beauty in all shapes and sizes.
Next, it is important to recognize that the number on the scale is not a meaningful definition of health. Eating and exercise are important components of health, but weight is not the key indicator. Fitness and nutrition are more important. You can’t tell if someone is healthy by looking at their body shape.
There is no doubt that stress is through the roof right now and that can play a role in weight as well. Some people cope with stress by eating more foods or less nutritious foods. Others eat less. Stress can cause real changes in your body’s functioning and impact your metabolism and weight. Stress management is more critical than weight management.
So, what can we do? Here a few tips to help get through the pandemic and weight changes:
1) Be kind to yourself. Your value has NOTHING to do with your weight or shape.
2) Use positive language to reflect on yourself and others. Avoid the shame game.
3) Make goals for your eating that work for you that are healthful and nutritious. Multiple studies of rigid diet and exercise programs show participants lose some weight early on but typically gain it back over the long run. Little changes made regularly can increase health without feeling like you are missing out on something.
4) Celebrate your successes toward your goals. When a goal isn’t met, don’t enter the shame spiral. Think about what worked and what didn’t, and then learn for your next goal setting. Refining goals can help us achieve them and give a sense of accomplishment.
5) Eat mindfully. When you feel hungry, ask am I actually feeling stressed, thirsty, or tired? When you sit down to eat, focus on what you are eating and enjoy! Minimize distractions and pay attention to when your body feels full.
6) Focus on movement, not exercise. Exercise can be a dirty word for some and bring on unpleasant memories of gym class or feeling embarrassed about your athletic ability. Move in the way that you enjoy. Hate running but love to dance? Dance away! Find activities that are fun and mix it up to keep it interesting.
7) Talk with your primary care clinician. Share how you are feeling and what is going on. They can help.
For great info and resources, check out the Health at Every Size Approach. This approach focuses on reducing stigma and blame, balanced eating, active movement, and respect for all body shapes and sizes.