Body Dysmorphia In The Age Of Covid-19

Let’s get straight to it: I have never been really open about my body image issues. I’m embarrassed of it to be honest. It makes me feel weak and vulnerable. “Taylor, you’re a fitness instructor, get your shit together!” has been a thought one too many times. And unfortunately, this whole stay home order isn’t really helping me push out those (quite negative) thoughts.

Growing up I was typically what they’d call “skinny.” I wasn’t a very active child (allergies and bugs are to blame mostly) but my mom made sure our meals were nutritious and balanced. As puberty hit, I noticed changes in my body but “good” ones. Boobs happened! I got my first period (I cried for 3 hours straight after finding out). My legs got even longer. Boys were noticing me more.

11 year old me with my 5 year old sister.

I broke 100lbs when I was 10 or 11 for the first time. I was heartbroken. What am I if I’m not the smallest in my class? What does this mean for me? Am I fat now? (I hate that word so we will be refraining from using it again in this post!) I had this idea in my head that if I didn’t have a flat stomach then I had a problem. 18 is when I started limiting certain foods but thought I was doing it in a healthy way. “It’s a diet endorsed by x” and “Well, x did it and she looks great and had no health issues!” etc. Let me tell you, eating only cabbage soup for 7 days straight ain’t good for you!

I never labeled myself as having an eating disorder. Even though there were plenty of times I ate nothing at all for days. (I was “fasting.”) Or when I was binge eating. (“I’m going through a lot right now.”) I went through it in waves.

Let’s fast forward to me now. 25 years old and a certified Pilates instructor. Since the beginning of the diet days at 18, I’ve been up and down with my weight. Between moving, college, getting married, job changes, depression, and just growing up, I’m finally at a place that is considered to be “healthy.”

This was taken 1 week before the stay home order.

This means I don’t weigh 99 pounds. This means my weight fluctuates around 5lbs throughout the week. This means I eat regularly and not just “diet” foods. This means I workout regularly. (Some weeks, it’s every day! Most of the time it’s 3 times a week.)

Long gone are the days of working out for 3 hours a day and trying every possible thing to stay “skinny.” I was in a good space again. I felt the best I’ve ever felt. And then Covid-19 happened.

The Stay Home Order

I woke up at 5am Monday morning, March 16th to take a 6am class at my studio. I awoke to late night texts from my husband (sound asleep at that hour) linking me to the latest Covid-19 update. Fitness studios and gyms were now closed in LA for 2 weeks. What? This wasn’t happening. 2020 was supposed to be bomb af! Now this?! I was in denial. I was job-less? But can I still go to the studio? What about the clients?! I had so many questions and no answers for them anywhere in sight.

Working out at home means interruptions.

Which brings me to now. Over a month into staying home and not living what was our “normal” life. The first couple weeks felt a little off but I did my best to treat this like the vacation Kaleb and I needed after him being sick the past year and a half. (His Crohn’s surgery was successful in February! Thankfully before all of this!) But as we approached the 2 week mark, I found myself struggling. I was working out more than ever! 2, sometimes 3 times a day! I was also eating more than ever as I felt myself feeling the same depression symptoms I experienced late last year.

There are a ton of factors involved here. It doesn’t help that I’m on Instagram more. I see people I admire posting photoshoot images and their “bikini-ready” bods as the temperature increases. I scroll and scroll as I tell myself to get out of bed so I can go workout and look like that. 

I’ve had more time than ever by myself. More time to do nothing except think about things I don’t want to think about. And if you’re presently unemployed like me, you’ve really got the time! Pre-pandemic, I’d be leaving my studio right now after teaching all morning to get brunch with a friend or go to Target. God, I miss Target…

It took me until a few days ago to face this head on. I’m fortunate to have close girlfriends (some in fitness, some not) who shared with me the same feelings I had. We are all going through this together. 

It made me feel so much better when I looked around and realized, I am not alone in this. This pandemic is something most of us have never dealt with before. (I called my grandmother the other day and she said this was the worst world event she’s been through in her life. She’s in her 70s!) So, let’s keep that in mind!

Just like any slip up in your health journey, it  doesn’t erase your progress. You aren’t starting over from 0. Just pick up again the next meal/workout! You are human. If you’re struggling, it’s okay. You can do this. You are stronger than you realize. But it’s okay to not feel it right now. This is a weird and confusing time to be living in this world. Would you be this mean to another person? No? Great! Let’s acknowledge you don’t deserve that abuse either.

Since coming to terms with the corona virus being a part of our new normal and facing my body issues head on, I’ve compiled a list of things I’ve found to be helpful during these weird times we’re in:

  • Keep a schedule – I wake up at 7am every day, put on workout clothes, take my dogs out, workout, make a protein shake, etc. As someone who LOVES a schedule, having some structure has made me feel better overall. It also makes me feel more accomplished.
  • Limit your time spent on social media – this is a hard one. Especially because it’s another way to stay in contact with family and friends. But it’s important to focus on you and not the lives you’re following online.
  • Stay social! You can still call a friend or text. If you’re up for FaceTime or Zoom – even better! I feel so much happier after I’ve FT’d with my mom, sister, and friends. It’s become a part of my routine in the morning! I make my calls to check in after working out.
  • Seek therapy – My therapists (yes, plural) have moved to phone calls/virtual calls, obviously but it still gets the job done! Even if you don’t have a regular therapist at the moment, there are tons of options online (especially now!) for you to get the help you need.
  • Be kind to yourself – it’s okay if you’ve gained some weight during this time. You are not a failure. You are not any less than of a person than you were when you were a few pounds lighter.

Your weight does not define you.

Do you have tips to help deal during this time? I’d love to hear them! We will get through this together! And honestly, 2021 is the new 2020.