COVID-19 has temporarily shut down gyms, restaurants, stores and forced many to work from home. In short, it has altered our lifestyles completely. We are eating differently, working differently, and communicating differently with those around us. Our routines have shifted drastically; as a result, our bodies are changing, too.   

At this moment in time, many feel stressed, isolated, and stir-crazy. We may not be able to control the situation as a whole but keeping our bodies healthy and our minds positive despite the chaos can do wonders to improve our internal wellbeing during this difficult time.

In a recent interview with Industry Elites, award winning bariatric medicine physician Dr. Jan McBarron confronted the physical and mental challenges posed by the COVID pandemic, especially regarding physical fitness and emotional wellbeing. The following is a brief overview of her top tips for maintaining a healthy internal relationship with your physical self-image during this trying time. 

Use social media mindfully

Social media has always tempted us to draw unhealthy, unrealistic comparisons between ourselves and others. Dr. Jan McBarron points out that image-based platforms like Facebook and Instagram bombard us with fitness photos, workout videos, and unhealthy beauty standards. Left otherwise isolated in our homes, we are now consuming more content than ever before, leaving us increasingly vulnerable to unrealistic comparisons and negative thought patterns. 

As a mental health precaution, Dr. Jan McBarron recommends using social media mindfully. Be conscious of who you follow and what forms of media you are consuming. Instagram, especially, is jam-packed with workout photos, diet advice, and exercise regimes that prove more harmful than helpful, especially when consumed in excess. Limit your screen time, stay mindful, and do not be afraid to use the “unfollow” and “mute” buttons liberally.

Regulate mealtimes

If you are accustomed to taking your lunch break with co-workers or look forward to regular Sunday dinners with your family, COVID-related isolation has likely wreaked havoc on your eating schedule. As a result, your body image and overall health may be suffering. While there is nothing inherently wrong with irregular mealtimes, unregulated consumption patterns are shown to increase the chances of unhealthy meals, over-eating, meal skipping, and excessive snacking.

In many ways, our social habits inform our eating habits. Research suggests that in isolation, we are far more likely to feel disconnected from our loved ones, become overly obsessive about our body images, and even develop eating disorders. 

To combat these new lifestyle shifts, Dr. Jan McBarron recommends finding innovative ways to reconnect your eating habits and social life. Initiating Zoom lunches with colleagues or scheduling regular dinnertime phone calls with family can help to reintegrate much-needed structure into your daily habits and promote a healthier, more regulated diet.

Explore your body’s capabilities 

A negative body image is the result of placing too much focus on your body’s physical appearance. According to Dr. Jan McBarron, shifting your mindset from asking, “How should my body look?” to “What can my body do?” can work wonders to boost your confidence and promote positivity. As an added benefit, it may also lead to increased physical activity. 

Although you may not be able to go to the gym during quarantine, isolation is a great time to engage your body with new and challenging physical activities. Try yoga, Pilates, stretching, walking or jogging—anything that is new and different. In reimagining your body as an instrument rather than an ornament, you will bring power and positivity to your overall self-image.

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