Body image is a huge part of our mental health, especially with the mass consumption of social media that perpetuates the "ideal" body type. Not enough light is shed on the fact that every seemingly perfect picture has gone through the gears of a photo-editing app, equipped with body bending features. One would think that social distancing would limit our exposure to others, thereby limiting the painful habit of comparison.
Unfortunately, social media being at our fingertips and having more time on our hands than ever to dwell on those little things has produced quite the opposite effect.
Growing up, I was always conscious of the fact that my body was not on either side of the spectrum. I was comfortably in the middle, and I convinced myself that by looking so "average" no one would notice an extra roll on my stomach or love handles around my hips. I thought I blended in well in the middle of the curve.
But being at home, with nothing to do but study and overthink, my body has taken on a different shape as a result of my nervous overeating habits. It was easy to put on the pounds, especially with no one around to judge me. The challenge arose when I needed to convince myself that it was acceptable.
The first time I noticed my weight gain was when I was trying on old clothes during a quarantine spring cleaning session.
My favorite outfits from last summer didn't fit me the same way I had remembered. One trip to the bathroom scale later and my jaw dropped at the number I saw glaring back at me.
Shortly after this newfound concern about my weight and body appeared, it quickly settled in and made itself at home. I weighed myself ten times a day and felt my heart sink into my larger stomach each time. Yet I had no motivation to do anything about it. I continued to eat, I continued my normal exercise routine, and I continued my constant worrying about my body.
It took me a while to realize that this strange combination of concern and inaction was completely normal behavior during this stressful time in my life.
I was in the midst of finals, taken in an unfamiliar online format, and was constantly worried about my future plans. I didn't have time to focus on improving my body image, but I could always find ample time to worry and obsess over it.
Although growing and changing are a process, I believe the most important step in that process is learning from ourselves along the way. Observing my behavior every day and the negative impact it had on my mental health was enough to make me realize that rather than focusing on losing weight for the sake of improving my body, I first needed to improve my body image. Body image is different in the sense that as long as I can view myself in a positive light, then I can view the changes in a positive light as well and accept them as part of the ebb and flow of life. By focusing on accepting myself first, the improvements would come naturally.