Ok... we all know about the Freshman 15! Well, say hello to the "Quarantine 15" or "Covid 15" that has crept up on many of us driven by new routines (adios gym, hello home office and living room workouts) and increased stress. As our routines shift yet again, back towards normalcy, getting fit has become a priority for many of us!
Emerging from our quarantine caves as summer approaches can be hard! We can't hide under winter clothes. It's tank tops, spandex, no-shirts, shorts, bathing suits... more skin may be showing than we are ready to show! AUGH! You aren't alone in feeling the dread.
Let's be real for a moment... you weren't alone in your quarantine. Everyone around you is facing the challenges of post-pandemic emergence! Imagine this... your neighborhood pool is finally open. After trying on 5 bathing suits, putting on your cover-up, big hat and sunglasses to hide your identify, you trudge to the far pool chair, turn your back to the crowd at the pool as to not make eye contact as you derobe and lather up in sunscreen. When you finally finish, (knowing well and good that you missed a triangle space on your back because you were going as fast as possible so you could sit down as fast as possible) you grab your book, adjust your hat and sunglasses, and stretch your legs out to elongate yourself and make your tummy look smaller. Yes we all do this.
The things, WE ALL DO THIS. At this time in history, we all have had the same shared trauma. We all have struggled during the past year. Think about this, we are closer to each other than we have been in a long time. Our ability to relate to a stranger is greater than it ever has been. So... by showing yourself kindness and celebrating your body as is, can actually be contagious and help others around you do the same!
But how do you start this body celebration?
Celebrate what your body can do
Did you know that by celebrating what your body can do (aka, body functionality), research has shown that there is a boost in overall happiness. For me, I love swimming. I feel long, lean, and strong when I swim. I'm not fast and I'll never make it to the Olympics, but I can distance swim. I know that I have great technique that lends itself to the swim. After each swim, I feel like a super hero.
Talk to yourself like you would a friend
“We often say things about our own bodies that we would never say about the bodies of someone we loved,” says Renee Engeln, PhD, director of the Body and Media Lab at Northwestern University and the author of Beauty Sick: How the Cultural Obsession with Appearance Hurts Girls and Women. Self-compassion means treating yourself with the same care and concern you would offer a loved one.
If you find yourself beating yourself up in the swimwear dressing room, ask yourself, what would I say to a friend who was talking like this? Then speak that same kindly way to yourself.
Really look in the mirror
Are you avoiding all reflections of yourself? Only looking in the mirror from the face up? When was the last time you stood naked in front of the mirror, really looking at yourself? Uncomfortable right!? Well, take a minute after your next shower or outfit change, and take a look. Say out loud something that you appreciate about your body. This is a hard one for me.
When I did this exercise this morning, I stood there, making only eye contact with myself until I could work up the courage to let my eyes look at myself. It took a minute! What I saw was, yes the Quarantine 15. I also saw:
My thyroid scar from having cancer during the pandemic. It's healing nicely and it actually brings me some peace.
My shoulders. Strong from years of lifting, swimming, and kayaking. Hmm, they are getting a little bit more defined as I've increased my activity level. Yay!
My arms and legs are getting a little bit more tan and I can now see a bit more muscle.
My tummy and waist are not as firm or narrow as they used to be, but at least I now have a baseline!
Just go for it!
Stop putting off an activity you want to do because you think you aren't fit enough or have the perfect body. Don't wait for perfection! Expose yourself to the fear of embarrassment or failure and you will most undoubtably overcome them.
For me, this looked like signing up to participate in the American Cancer Society's 15-mile Swim, a month long swim in July! I had just started to incorporate swimming back into my routine, only swimming 500m or so and then aqua jogging. As a cancer survivor and a former swimmer, I decided to just GO FOR IT and sign up to swim 15 miles across the month of July! I knew that this meant that I'd have to be in my swimsuit in front of people almost everyday! AUGH!!! It also meant that I'd risk looking foolish for having to take more resting breaks than I used to - like the strangers around the pool would think that I was a bad swimmer. Silly right! But all of that is outweighed by how good swimming makes me feel. Remember, your fitness and health is ALL ABOUT YOU, not them!
Just STOP... Stop scrolling through the perfect Instagram abs, cellulite-free booties, 16in biceps, perfect margaritas in bikinis! Just stop! When was the last time you checked yourself? When have you asked yourself, how does this content make me feel? Studies have shown that social media use can be associated with lowered self-esteem. Filter out those accounts that are adding to your self-esteem, inspire you, and provide you with a healthier perspective.
Adapted from Rally Health, Jennifer King Lindley