Covid Kilos, Lock Down Blues, & Self Compassion
There is much heartache with the toll Covid is taking on people's mental health,
It is a hard time, a scary time and a lonely time for so many of people.
If ever there was a time for self-compassion it is now. At the risk of sounding a bit "out there" I feel it is something worth talking about.
Many people are reaching out, worrying about potential weight gain during lockdown.Food has become a greater source of comfort, of a way of relieving boredom, a way of punctuating the day, and as a way of being creative and using this time as an opportunity for learning new recipes and cooking skills.
Its understandable that with so much available time to focus on food and eating that some weight gain might occur. To be clear I am talking about some extra eating and snacking here. However, if you have a binge eating disorder that feels like it is escalating, then reaching out for help is extremely important.We know that for people with eating disorders, these lock downs and isolating times are causing their eating disorder that once may have being managed to resurface.
So where does self-compassion come in? Now is the time to go gently and kindly when you hear that inner critic berating yourself for having an extra chocolate or a few more snacks than normal. We are in a time of life where nothing feels familiar, normal or safe. Food at the moment might be the one thing that is providing a sense of control in a very out of control situation. It is super important to address rigid thinking around food and eating, and to try and step back a bit and acknowledge that what ever you are doing to help yourself through this time is not unreasonable. A bit of weight gain is something to try not to beat your-self up about. If you do gain some weight during this time, it is important to try to accept it and not plunge into diet mode. This does not mean you will keep gaining weight, it just means accepting that a few extra kilos is a result of trying to adapt, and manage living in such difficult times. And is totally understandable. Its kind of like accepting that sometimes we gain some extra weight after a significant physical injury or illness.
So why is self-compassion so important?
If a child reached out for an extra biscuit or chocolate and an adult berated them and yelled at them for doing that, what might be consequences of that? If this happened time and time again, what might the consequences be for that child?
Maybe the child will feel scared to ever ask for, or reach for and ask for certain foods again. Maybe the child will internalise this as something they should be really ashamed of. Maybe they will learn that if they want this food they will need to do it in hiding and alone. But then when they find a way to get that food and eat it in hiding and alone, that just reinforces that it really must be something shameful and naughty.
Fast-forward to being an autonomous adult, but this berating and shaming, and harsh judgment is still being replayed, only this time it is from your self to your self. Ironically being mean to yourself, being critical of yourself rarely changes what you are doing. It just causes more suffering.
What if we said to that little child reaching for a biscuit, something kind and caring like "would you like a glass of milk with that"? Or, what if we made NO comment at all. Then this act of eating the biscuit was not bad or good it just was.
This is how being kind to your self might work in these times. Try to remove the constant criticism and the harsh dialogue about how you should know better, or that you should be eating perfectly, that chocolate is bad and celery is good. Being kind to yourself is giving permission to yourself that while you are trying to navigate a world wide pandemic in completely unchartered waters, you may eat a bit more.You may eat a bit more of foods you normally don't eat much of, but you are doing the very best you can. Once you surrender to this, it might also stop the cycle of intermittent attempts to put in place dieting rules, which usually involve deprivation. Deprivation runs the risk of propelling you into a disordered way of eating as it tends to involves wanting /craving the food you have eliminated.
You would not berate a friend or someone you love for eating a chocolate or overeating a bit but for some reason we think its ok to do it to ourselves.Self-compassion begins right there. No berating, no harsh criticisms of self. Treating yourself the way you treat others is a good place to start.
A lot of research is saying that if you have gained weight over the last little while due to Covid, going on a diet will be a counter productive way of losing weight and will leave you vulnerable to more weight gain.
While nothing can replace face-to-face sessions, I am working entirely online via zoom, face time or phone calls for the foreseeable future. The upside of this is you can live anywhere in Australia or the world, you do not have to travel, find parking, or navigate PT, you can be comfortable on your own lounge and have a lovely cuppa of your choice while we work together.
My online group is running weekly if you would like some support on a weekly basis with other people who will have your back. This is a very safe non-judgmental space to work through all sorts of thoughts, challenges, experiences and concerns
Please reach out if you would like more information about sessions or the groups and do take good care of yourselves in these toughest of times.
Ginette Lenham (C) 2021