For some strange reason, it was far easier for me to love and accept my body during the start of the pandemic and the isolation that came with it. As a body positivity advocate, I feel like a fraud for feeling like this, for disliking parts of my body I once preached to love.
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I Felt Free to Accept My Body as It Was
Growing up, I had a tough relationship with my body. I was never a slim child or teen, and I’ve never been slim throughout my early, mid or late 20s. I battled bad body image throughout school, but at 18, I discovered the body positivity community on social media and felt like I was on the right track.
Having always been a bit bigger—plus size, if you will—it has taken a lot for me to get comfortable with my body, and the lockdowns at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic seemed to be the ultimate solution. For me, the series of unexpected stay-at-home orders in 2020 felt like a chance to heal and explore—maybe even to find self-love. I learned to love my body in ways I never knew possible and began to accept what society had taught me to loathe.
Keeping myself isolated and secluded from the world in order to stay safe meant I only had myself to compare myself to, leading to the biggest boost in my confidence in ages. There wasn’t anyone around to judge my body or what I chose to wear. I wore bikinis for the first time in years, and I found ultimate happiness when frolicking around my home in nothing but knickers and a T-shirt.
Finding my footing with body positivity, I documented my journey on Instagram through photos of my body, stretch marks, cellulite and belly rolls. Inspiring others and seeing myself in this new light allowed me to truly accept my body in an entirely different way than ever before. Instead of disliking it and comparing my flaws to the perfections of other people, I learned to love everything about my body and what it does for me.
Once Lockdown Was Over, I Feared Being Fat Again
When stay-at-home orders began to lift and life resumed to a new normal, things started to go downhill. Negative thoughts and harmful old habits slowly crept up on me: I found myself comparing my body to other people again, worrying what they thought of me, my body and my size.
My sparkle slowly began to fade as a more normal life returned, and I soon felt the need to change my body. Fearing fatness after finding peace in the word, I became worried that I was heading in the wrong direction. I’ve completely reversed all the progress I’d worked so hard for.
I felt—and still feel—like a complete fraud because I'm supposed to be a body positive advocate who loves her body, accepts it for what it is and is confident no matter what. But instead, I’ve been struggling with constant negative thoughts all year. I constantly ask friends and family if I've “gotten bigger” or if eating a certain food is “bad.” That self-love and understanding I’d built in quarantine was swiftly and immediately erased when the world opened up again. I’ve backslid so much that I fear I’ll never reach my peak positive self again.
I’m Trying to Dismantle Old Habits
Midway through spring earlier this year, I hit a real rough patch with my body positivity journey. Feeling like I was “getting bigger,” I succumbed to buying an exercise bike to tone up. In my teens, exercise was a grueling task that was only done to lose weight, but I didn’t want to lose weight this time—I only wanted to maintain it. I thought working toward maintenance would help keep negative thoughts at bay. But ever since, I’ve had diets on my mind, toying with the idea of fasting, drinking slimming shakes and adopting restrictive habits. Knowing that kind of lifestyle would be detrimental to my mental and physical health is the only reason I haven’t succumbed to those extremes…yet.
Feeling like a fraud isn’t fun. Promoting body positivity and self-love online while I secretly battle with feeling ugly, disgusting and like I need to slim down isn’t great either. But I am working on myself again and ensuring I take my own advice. Reading through old social media posts where I preach about loving the skin you’re in, moving for joy instead of as a punishment and eating good food to nourish my body in an intuitive way are all helping. And I’m wearing clothes that make me feel good. I’m faking it until I make it.
Sometimes, when I get home and look in the mirror or see a photo somebody took of me on a night out, I’m overcome with wishing we were back in lockdown so I could be that version of me again—the me who loved her body and didn’t care what people thought, and the me who truly accepted every inch for what it was and how it served me. But I'm working on it. I’ll find her again.