March 23rd 2020 was a huge turning point for our minds and our bodies. We can’t deny it, and we shouldn’t – we’re not the people we were before.
Stress and anxiety levels have soared. We’re feeling stiffer and a little softer than we did this time last year. We’re deteriorating, and it’s been rapid and uncontrollable.
But is that true? Is it really uncontrollable? We have a better understanding now of what our minds and bodies need. We’ve learned so much since lockdown began, and we can use that to fight our way back and come out of this pandemic better than ever.
It’ll take time. It’ll take perseverance. But we know we can do it.
What is a Lockdown Body?
You might have heard the phrase “lockdown body” being thrown around for a while now. It can vary in meaning from person to person, but generally it’s used to refer to one thing. How we’re feeling about our appearance, and the changes that lockdown has had on our physical forms.
Before lockdown, we were riding on a wave of body positivity movements and feeling better than ever (though by no means perfect). Now, we wake up feeling squishy and unmotivated. It’s a dramatic shift in attitude, by any account.
Gyms closed. They banned us from meeting people outdoors or even going out more than once a day. You’d pop into the supermarket and find half of your shopping list was absent from the shelves, and as a result we’ve not been eating well. That, and the lethargy sets in and the lure of a takeaway grows ever stronger…
All of these combine to create the lockdown body. Mentally, and physically, we’re not at our best – and is it any wonder? Sure, we should check our privilege and appreciate the fact we’re alive when so many are suffering and dying.
But that doesn’t stop those ever-intrusive, negative thoughts from swanning into our heads and taking over from time to time.
What’s the big deal, and what are you going to do about it?
Honestly? It’s a bad time for self-esteem, and those of us who had a poor body image to begin with are struggling.
And we’ve had just about enough of it. Feeling bad and hating what we see in the mirror… it’s tiring, and we’re ready to move on and do something about it.
If a friend told us they were feeling this way, we’d boost them up! We’d tell them they’re beautiful, and we’d help there where we could – because that’s what people do. We lift each other up.
No one deserves to feel bad about themselves on top of everything else that’s going down. So this is how we’re going to change and transform our lockdown body to come out of all this better than ever.
#1 – Change your Attitude
First thing’s first. If you’re determined to get rid of your lockdown body, you’ve got to accept how you’re feeling about it before you begin.
Body image is such a fluid thing, and it changes daily depending on what we’re influenced by. If you’re finding that you don’t feel good about yourself, then don’t deny it. Accept those emotions and have a little more compassion towards yourself. Lockdown has been hard on everyone, so cut yourself some slack.
#2 – Reality Check
Stop comparing yourself to other people. That goes for every influencer and celebrity image you see online. No one looks perfect all the time, no matter how curated their IG feed is. Comparing yourself to these people is creating an unrealistic expectation. Don’t compare your reality to someone else’s fiction, okay?
Try to think about realistic goals. By that, we mean really sit and think about what you want, not what you think you should want based on other people’s social media.
It helps to set goals that are about progression, rather than a target weight or size. If you want to be healthier, that’s great! But don’t aim to get there by restricting yourself too much, or cutting out entire food groups (we see you, carbs).
Instead, opt for goals like move more, or reduce portion sizes. Try to develop healthy relationships with food and exercise.
#3 – Don’t Hate on the Mirror
We don’t know about you, but working from home has meant two things for our appearance. One, no make-up and dry shampoo (okay, not always even that) has become normal. Two, we get mad at ourselves every time we walk by a mirror.
Funny how that wasn’t a problem in the office, right? Well, no, not really. We’re at home, surrounded by mirrors that we wouldn’t otherwise notice. We’re constantly checking our appearance (whether good or bad).
It all adds up to torture. Body checking is a self-torture, and it’s just not helping.
Every mirror is slightly different. At one time or another, most of us have found “the one”. Not our soulmate, but the mirror that makes us look a little taller, a little slimmer. Which goes to show how unhelpful and inaccurate these images can be.
Mirrors, photos, videos – they’re all just representations. They’re not a true reflection of our bodies, and they’re often warped by our perceptions. So stop checking.
The more you check, the more you’ll see. Look less, and focus less on the things that make you unhappy. Instead, think about what you can do to make yourself feel like you never have to check.
#4 – Focus on What You Can Control
We can’t control COVID. We can’t control how our body already looks. But we can stop it there. We can take back control and refuse to let ourselves get any softer or creakier.
There are plenty of positive behaviours that are just as controllable as they ever were. Diet, exercise, taking time for self-care and your skin routine. You can control how much sleep you get and how often you speak to your friends.
These are all things that can’t be taken away from us, but our lockdown bodies are making us feel apathetic towards.
In fact, each time you do something positive for yourself, your body will reward you with a little boost of dopamine. That hit of dopamine through your system then motivates you to repeat those positive actions, making them easier and helping you to build healthy habits.
#5 – Walk Before You Run
Unfortunately, we don’t all have the luxury of a home gym or expensive exercise equipment. True, many of us have an exercise bike gathering dust in a spare room, but you don’t need fancy equipment to make changes.
Physiology is psychology. Just moving, something as simple as going for a walk, changes the chemistry in your brain and your body to pull you out of cycles of stress. So stick your headphones in and get outside.
Go for a stroll and work your way up to more strenuous exercise. Start lengthening your walks once you’re feeling up to it. Or you could try changing your route to something more hilly and challenging.
Once walking feels comfortable, keep pushing and keep going. Shift it to a gentle jog to begin with, and eventually you can switch it up to a run. Running strengthens all the right areas of your body and keeps you mobile without the need for any skill or equipment.
When running doesn’t feel like it’s enough, add in a home workout or some strength training – even if you start with a couple of tins of Heinz as your weights!
It’s all movement, it’s all growth, and it’s all progress to taking yourself out of that lockdown body mindset and improving your physical fitness. Push through when it gets tough, because the results will be worth it.
#6 Bonus Tip – Forget Instant Gratification
We live in a world where next day delivery is the norm. Hell, even same day delivery. We expect to see instant results, but easily forget that the human body doesn’t work that way.
Your lockdown body likely crept up on you. Those first few weeks stuck at home? Not so bad, eh? Work in your pyjamas, eat what you like, get up when you please without the chore of a morning routine.
Then, gradually, we all noticed that it wasn’t quite so fun any more. We missed the structure and the socialising of going to work. Our home offices and kitchen tables began to be the source of our aching backs, and our pyjamas didn’t seem so comfy.
Getting away from the lockdown body – both mentally and physically – will be just as gradual. Not seeing instant results doesn’t mean you’ve failed and should give up. It means you’re progressing, and progress comes in much smaller increments.
But those increments will still add up, with a little patience.
Remember why you’re doing this. When you’re feeling down about not seeing change as quickly as you’d like, remember that it took time to get to the point where you’d had enough. It’ll take that again, and even when progress is slow, it’s still progress. It’s better than where you started.