I read a story written by a nice lady who confessed that she gained weight during the lockdown, and she doesn’t care about it. I found the topic intriguing, so I decided to write about it because while reading it, I realized that we’re in danger of putting all the bad habits that we recently built — and, I agree to call it like this — on the exceptional times, we’re living.
Fortunately for Li Charmaine Anne, she affords to practice self-compassion because she has a balanced lifestyle (the extra details she provided in response to my comments clarified the context). However, not everyone that does this is in the same situation. Therefore, please take this road with caution since this excuse may draw a fine line between compassion and unhealthy gratification.
I’m also practising self-compassion. As much of a broken record this must sound like by now, I will say it again: we are not living in normal times. Therefore, why should we hold ourselves up to normal standards?
When I responded to Li, I wasn’t aware of her situation's complete picture, which she provided later on. Still, my comment is reasonably applicable to people on the end of indulging — and I’m sure you’re plenty.
It’s a slippery road that you can avoid with minor changes.
Hey, Li. It’s good if that works for you, but that’s not generally good advice. I think you’d be happier if you would slowly regain control over your eating habits and level of activity. I firmly believe that you can exercise while at home. And if your father cooks for you, you can ask him to go for healthier options than comfort food (which is great and acceptable, but in 20% of the cases and only if the other 80% means healthy + exercise).
On top of that, mental health is a component that we need to evaluate ASAP when indulging becomes the norm. Depression can hide in your fries and Netflix. Li also mentioned that she’s struggling with depression:
Then the pandemic hit, my anxiety skyrocketed, and now I’m back on my antidepressants. I’m not proud of it, and I do hope to wean myself off antidepressants at some point, but I’m forgiving myself for relying on them now because these are not normal times.
I know what depression means. I recently published a story in which I stress that a lack of hobbies may indicate depression. And I would like to add to it now, inspired by Li’s story, that a “f*ck it” attitude may show the same. In Li’s case, depression is kept under control through both medication and a balanced lifestyle. Still, there are plenty of people worldwide for which depression hides in the fries and Netflix they’re watching compulsively.
I feel you, I’ve been depressed too. For years I’ve been telling myself that I am not fat. I told myself that I can lose weight in no time. That’s a fallacy. I’ve been deceiving myself with this cheap lie only delaying the moment. I’ve even started a mantra telling myself with each weight milestone reached: “Well, I’d guess I’m gonna dress this body now.” Yes, you’re right! That’s not a healthy attitude.
As much as I wanted to support people that need this kind of validation, I won’t because it’s not helpful. As rough as it may sound, we sometimes need somebody to tell us the plain reality. Shame is an emotion that is not all negative in this sense. When we realize that we’re not right because we already knew it in the back of our heads and someone points it out to confirm it, shame can act as a trigger for change. And in some situations, that’s all that will work.
In the same twisted way, self-compassion is not all positive when used as an excuse for not taking charge of your situation. And again, the kind of feedback I have given was not all negative because it wasn’t meant as a critique.
Li doesn’t need it, but for all of you that could use to hear the plain truth, here’s my takeaway on the topic:
Sorry that I can’t provide you the validation (…) that this attitude is fine (and you probably know it too). Because in all honesty, it’s not. I don’t know you and I sure thing don’t want to shame you or produce you any harm, but if you were my friend I would encourage you to break the habit and start something new. You can do it. One salad a day. And only 5 minutes a day of exercise. The secret is to be consistent and increment when you feel comfortable.
I’m expecting that my advice to this story (because I’m presenting the situation here, not putting the spotlight on the person who wrote it) will generate some wave of critics because of my lack of support, but I maintain my position regardless.
And while writing this self-fulfilling prophecy, I already received a comment in this sense from Nicola Thomas:
I couldn’t disagree more. While for some during this pandemic they may have experienced a change of lifestyle (not going out etc) but they can still live their life in stable housing, with stable relationships and stable income, of course they can exercise and eat well.
But if you are facing this pandemic with no social support, unemployed, in insecure housing, or facing systemic stress, then eating healthy and not exercising is ok. Getting through the profound stress of coronavirus for people facing poverty/ill health/ oppression is an accomplishment. Forget trying to maintain a perfect body.
I agree with the difficulties around the pandemic, still, add to this list the consequences of bad health, and you’re in for disaster. Health, both physical and mental, should be our number one priority if we want to stand any chance of future employment and all the indirect related social and financial aspects.
Doing “as little” as taking care of your health will impact the energy levels and drive us further to build resilience during the pandemic. It’s not about “maintaining a perfect body,” and if this is all you took from my message, then I rest my case.
Also, just for the sake of it, I’m going to add that my advice comes from personal experience. Hence, I believe that if I can support a healthy lifestyle with my struggles, then most of you can, too. And if not, then this calls for specialized therapy (which should be a priority).
Li Charmaine Anne — thank you for allowing me to use your story as inspiration.