Being in quarantine has put a strain on almost everyone’s relationships. Whether it be romantic partners, family, or friends, we’ve all been put to the test. When you’re suffering from mental health issues, confusion of where your life is headed, financial instability, or the inescapable cabin fever, the people closest to you may be the ones to suffer most. Although all of these relationships in my life endured some level of challenge over the last few months, it is my relationship with my quarantine body that has been the most complicated. We’ve been on a journey of twists and turns between love, guilt, too much wine, hate, and acceptance.
In March I packed up my things for what I thought might be a few weeks, and flew down to Florida to be with my family. A chance to escape the concrete wilderness of NYC for a bit and cure my homesickness was an opportunity I was fortunate to have, and one I couldn’t pass up. The sunshine and home-cooked meals were much-needed medicine for a short while. But much like everyone else during this strange time, it wasn’t long before my mental health caught up with me.
Being stuck inside, living the same day over and over again, being worried about my parents getting sick, and a spike in my generalized anxiety, it all hit me at once before I could stop and find my breath. Before long, I found myself feeding my emotions with endless glasses of red wine and boxed macaroni and cheese from the back of my mom’s pantry. During those first few weeks of quarantine, I had put on weight faster than I binged the first season of Love is Blind. And just like that, I had been introduced to what everyone on Instagram had been referring to as “the quarantine body.”
My relationship with my body has always been a complicated one. It’s seen ups and downs my entire life, through years of disordered eating and shame, therapy and powerful female friendships to help get me through. It is still far from perfect, but before the pandemic the relationship I had with my body had become mostly a positive one.
This quarantine body, however? This was brand new territory for me and I wasn’t having it. I had grown comfortable with my workout routine, my cooking schedule, my overall “balanced” way of living. But then suddenly, right in the middle of a pandemic like everyone else, I didn’t recognize the body I was now in a relationship with. I was the heaviest I had ever been, my hair was thinning from the stress, my stomach was in constant pain, and I had no desire to move except on the expedition from my bed to the couch. I had spent my life learning to love my “partner” in this relationship, but suddenly I found myself with little to no desire to love them at all.
The more I tried to get acquainted with my quarantine body, the more I seemed to struggle. I wanted so badly to find acceptance and gratitude for myself in spite of all the changes. I watched YouTube interviews of women talking about loving their bodies, I followed body-positive Instagram accounts, I even tried upping my meditation game in hopes that I would find peace with my new quarantine body. But deep down, underneath the thick layer of body positivity memes, I still believed that I had done something wrong to get here.
I knew this thought process well as a teenager and an early 20-something. I had grown accustomed to associating weight gain with making a mistake since middle school, and I lived those years attempting to shrink myself in order to change my “bad” body to a “good” one. Fast forward to my late twenties, after years of healing, and I found myself here again. My relationship with my quarantine body wasn’t serving me in the way I wanted it to, so I vowed to find a way to break up with it. Gyms being closed everywhere, along with my newfound love of eating pizza while I binge Too Hot to Handle on Netflix, made this breakup nearly impossible. It didn’t take long for my frustration with myself to turn into pizza boxes stacked tall of shame. My gut might have known at this point that it was time to address what was happening on the inside of my “relationship,” instead of focusing on what was happening on the outside, but I wasn’t quite ready to hear that yet.
I continued to work through some of this quarantine body shame by upping my dose of the “hey girl, you’re a badass” medicine, mixed with other body positive pills of “every body is beautiful” and “every body is a beach body.” These messages were satiating, but they would just be another bandaid in my relationship until I was able to recognize the real issue at hand.
Quarantine pushed on longer than any of us had expected. It was taking a toll on not only the relationship I had with my body, but my mental health as a whole, something that so many of us were experiencing as time went on. One day toward the end of May, I read a beautiful and honest post about how discussing our “quarantine bodies” was an example of privilege. So many of us had the choice to stay home with a roof over our heads and live without worry of where to find our next meal. Our “quarantine bodies” were in fact proof that we had plenty to eat during these difficult times. This post was eye opening to me, and it motivated me to seek gratitude and appreciation in my relationship with my quarantine body.
For a little while, I basked in appreciation for the way my body had kept me healthy, despite it not looking the way I wanted. I was overflowing with gratitude and Uber Eats bills. But even in my awareness of the privilege that my income and able body had provided me, I still found myself sinking back into old shame patterns. It was time to investigate what was really going on inside, so I finally decided to dig a little deeper past the pinot noir and mac and cheese.
In July, I came back to my home in NYC and began to adjust to the “new normal” of quarantine here. I wanted to give attention to this relationship with my body, so I knew I would have to go inward, both mentally and physically. I began asking myself questions like, “Why do I resent my body so much this season?” and “why do I feel like gaining weight is such a negative thing?” The more I asked myself questions like this, the more I learned about the expectations I was putting on my “relationship” with my body. In a romantic relationship, issues can arise when someone brings unfair expectations into the mix. It may leave the other person feeling as though they aren’t being noticed for what they are doing, just what they are not doing. The same goes for the relationships we have with our bodies. I was putting unfair expectations on my body to “stay the same” during such a difficult and confusing time, and I wasn’t able to give it love for just being there and giving me life. Caring for the emotional side of this relationship was slowly helping me let go of the resentment I had for my quarantine body.
I also had the opportunity of meeting with a holistic health coach during this time, who helped me through some of the emotional and physical ways I wasn’t caring for my body. She met me exactly where I was and challenged me to do the same with my body. She gave me practical ways to listen to the signals my body sends me and to embrace these changes as a way to listen even more closely. Working on my body from the inside, with a sense of curiosity and no added pressure on myself, shifted my perspective quite a bit. My goal was no longer to fix, but to accept.
Although this relationship has been a complicated one full of ups and downs, guilt and love, pizza and more pizza, I am learning more every day about going along with the ebb and flow. When we first met, I saw my quarantine body as something that needed fixing. Now, even though I still have days where I complain about the increase in my pant size, I’ve come to learn that change is not the enemy. The way that my body changes with different seasons of life is proof that it is alive, it is aware, and it is full of experiences (and good food). And I believe that the best thing I can do in this relationship is to let it be what it needs to be.
**If you’re interested in seeing a health coach, you can check out Jade Holistic’s website here! She is taking clients in-person (Orlando area) or online!**