Before COVID, I had distractions to keep me from focusing on my worries and insecurities. But once quarantine started, I began focusing on my body and my weight. I felt extremely stuck, as I couldn’t talk to my friends from school that were going through these body changes at the same time as me. Meanwhile, with nothing but endless time, I would scroll through social media looking at the fitness influencers and Instagram models that had perfect skinny, long legs. I had a body shaped like a door. I set a new quarantine goal to improve my physique.
Soon, I was going on two runs a day, while also looking up multiple ab workouts on Youtube seven days a week. One day in mid-April, I was standing on the scale and I looked down to see it flash 109. Three pounds in one week! I stood proudly in the mirror, admiring the slightly visible abs that I had been working for. I scrolled through TikTok as I put on my sneakers, preparing for my morning run. My “for you” page was filled with teenagers with pencils for legs. I wanted to look like them so badly. I stood in the mirror choosing pieces of my skin that I would remove if I could, mentally drawing lines on my legs. One thought constantly invaded my mind: “I’m hungry.” I got so used to this thought that by May, the feeling of an empty stomach felt good and rewarding. I went until three o’clock without eating one day! A new personal record! I never saw not eating as a bad thing, but I was getting one step closer to looking like the girls on Instagram.
By January 2021, I had been isolated for eleven months. Although I had gained back some of the weight that I lost, I had been diagnosed with a condition that made it difficult to continue. On rare occasions, I left my room to try and go on a run in the freezing cold, but I always ended up being too physically weak. My brain just kept telling me to lay in bed and not get up for several days. I practically lived in my pajamas. My baggy clothes were the only thing keeping me from seeing my actual body. I could not stand to see the effects that my condition had on my figure. I had to look away from the mirror every time I changed into a new pair of pajama pants, because if I caught a glimpse of myself, I would just go back to bed.
Socializing improved my mentality so much. Rather than sitting in my room, feeling sorry for myself, I went out with my friends almost every day after practice. I decided to eat when I was hungry, and to eat what I wanted. When I’d look in the mirror, I’d feel proud because I was exercising to improve my mindset, not change my body. I wasn’t insecure when I would bloat after eating a meal because I realized that body size changes are completely normal. I didn’t try to squeeze myself into a size zero to make myself feel better, or throw on my dad’s sweatshirt to hide my body. I bought clothes that actually fit and emphasized the body that I had tried to change and hide for the past two years.
When I went back to school, I began to forget about all of my past insecurities. I was getting actual interaction with people rather than looking at fake bodies on Instagram. I didn’t have time anymore to stare at myself in the mirror and determine my self-worth based on how visible my abs were. It felt so freeing to actually enjoy exercising for the first time, and to allow myself to just eat what I wanted.
Being locked up with myself and my thoughts was so incredibly exhausting. Exercising with friends was just the relaxation I needed.