As I open the fridge door and look at the contents inside, and hear a slow and dull voice within me state “you don’t deserve to eat..”
Realizing what I am hearing, I respond in somewhat shock and disbelief as my eyes widen and my neck whips back. This is a familiar feeling, however, it’s been so long, why is my 21 year old version of myself showing up in my apartment today as an unexpected visitor?!
What is it about isolation and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic that has increased feelings of body shame, the need to restrict food, and self criticism regarding what food I eat and when?
Perhaps, it’s because our dominant discourse as a society is regarding food access and food scarcity. Due to this, I am noticing my internal value regarding food to shift ever so slightly. I am noticing that food is holding a much greater value than substance alone; food is survival. Therefore, when opening the fridge, I am noticing that I am not feeling worthy of food.
This feeling is not unfamiliar, and I imagine if you are reading this, it may not be unfamiliar to you as well. My disordered eating began in my early 20s, while balancing university and working in the restaurant industry. I remember my first experiences working in the service industry and being ‘accepted’ onto their staff, it felt like I had won a place in the Miss America pageant. I was also in disbelief that ‘they’ saw beauty in me, and I began a painful journey of trying to change into what I thought was ideal beauty. Tanning salons, whitening teeth, freshly shaven legs every day, short skirts, low tops, skipping meals and taking shots; this was the recipe for survival in this industry. If you continue down this path for long enough, you can imagine the increased feelings of being not good enough and not worthy. It became almost second nature to stop thinking I was deserving of things like food and being treated with respect.
It can be easy to look back on that version of myself with criticism and self hate, something that I experienced before seeking counselling. I have been privileged to receive counselling throughout my adult life to help heal wounds from the past regarding self worth and value. Through this development, I have been able to maintain a positive relationship with food and also myself.
Living in a society that perpetuates the idea that women are only as good as their physical appearance, continues to challenge the relationship I have with my body. However, when these ‘shame gremlins’ (As Brené Brown likes to call them) arrive, I feel much more equipped through my practice of self compassion to tackle their presence.
Although there may be a sudden increase in my thoughts regarding food restriction due to the pandemic, I have resources to tap into when those uncomfortable feelings arise:
- I check in with myself, acknowledging the feeling and being compassionate about where it comes from/why it's showing up now
- I call upon my regular supports, i.e. I continue to access counselling sessions with my therapist through video or phone
- I have vulnerable/honest check ins with safe people
- I give myself permission and a gentle reminder, that I can try again tomorrow
My name is Kristen, and I am a therapist at Peak Resilience. I know that in order to be a great therapist, I have to know what I need to be a great Kristen :) That may include meditation, asking for my partner to join me in cooking dinner together, eating a bag of chips without looking at the ingredients or calorie break down, sleeping longer during times of stress, walking outside, listening to rap music or talking to my plants. One of the biggest things I've learned during this challenging time of pandemic living is allowing for self-care to be exactly what you need in that moment.
Interested in knowing more about Kristen? You can check out her profile, watch her intro video, or send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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