Don’t Beat Yourself Up If You Didn’t ‘Glow Up’ During Lockdown
Like many people, the initial stages of lockdown left me feeling scared, confused and really quite disorientated. Kind of like the ground had shifted beneath my feet and I didn’t know which way to tread next.
However, at this earliest point at least, there was one surefire way to pull my mind away for a few minutes from the sadness and fear which overwhelmed me after every speech by the prime minister, every tentative trip to get groceries.
I tried to imagine, in a rather self-absorbed way in retrospect, that my time indoors could act as a sort of chrysalis from which I could emerge having shed a good couple of stone; cider tummy shaped into unrecognisably firm washboard abs.
Hiding under my duvet with a hot water bottle, I would make grand plans for my jaw-dropping transformation. I would go out running every day, and would finally make use of my long neglected Couch to 5K app.
Despite having a bedroom floor the size of a postage stamp, I figured I could definitely do at least two online workouts a day as long as I didn’t wave my arms around too much. Maybe even a YouTube yoga class to help me relax before bed.
My mind was whirring with a thousand worries, but there was one small space cleared in the corner of it, where I allowed myself to indulge in a little bit of a Cinderella daydream.
In this neat part of my otherwise cluttered head, I imagined sashaying into an amalgamation of so many loud, crowded, carefree pre-pandemic bars I’ve been to, looking svelte in the sort of smooth, figure hugging dress I would normally shudder at the thought of.
I would join a group of mates, who at first wouldn’t recognise the trim fashionista before them; emerging from her living room without a trace of stress acne or patch of dehydrated coffee-addict skin.
In these early stages of lockdown, before the severity of the situation hit me, I held this daydream close to my heart. I suppose, looking back, it was a way of feeling in control over things during the immediate confusion. But then it did hit me, and I was terrified.
I couldn’t stop watching the news, looking out for every alert that would let me know which way things would turn and twist next. I watched the death toll climb with a horror I had never before felt, and lay awake listening to my own breathing, feeling around in panic for that tell-tale shortness.
Social media would have you believe that many people have dealt with lockdown well, revving up for charity marathons while launching a podcast, and perhaps some people have. But for me, and for many others, this has been a case of putting one foot in front of the other, within permitted spaces of course.
My well-meaning plans for a gruelling fitness regime were soon replaced by calming, decidedly non-intensive, walks in the woods with my dogs. Meanwhile, my intentions to whip up healthy, Instagram-perfect breakfasts quickly disappeared beneath cravings for greasy comfort food and strong, sugary tea.
The UK has slowly begun opening up again, with gyms permitted to dust off their cross trainers from July 25 onwards. However, I for one will be easing a very creaky, run-down version of my body back onto the treadmill, a far cry from the ‘glow up’ I had secretly longed for.
Every inch of me feels tired and heavy, with the – admittedly scarce – parts of me that had once felt muscular having softened palpably, rising under my clothes like the tops of so many sourdough loaves.
I know I am absolutely not alone in this. And I’m definitely not alone in viewing myself and my body quite differently, and more critically, than I did before lockdown.
Unfortunately, the way we view our bodies affects our lives significantly, from body confidence to mental health to how we set about improving our fitness.
According to a recent poll of 2,000 residents from charitable enterprise Better, physical changes – such as weight fluctuations – make for the biggest impact on body confidence.
Women are more likely to be affected by this, but men certainly aren’t immune. Sadly, 18% of men and 26% of women surveyed were found to stop taking part in physical activities, such as hitting that circuits class, due to low body confidence.
Many of us will now be trying on our old gym clothes in tentative preparation, and may well feel the waistband to be a little more restricting than we would like.
Some of us may feel weary doing things which previously felt quite natural; a quick walk up a flight of stairs, or even the mental exhaustion of learning how to socialise again after so many weeks.
One woman by the name of Amy got in touch with UNILAD to say that she had never felt worse about her body confidence that right now, ‘including post partum’.
Lockdown has seen my body confidence hit total rock bottom. My body was previously my absolute pride and joy – it’s now fallen victim to drive thru KFC, gym closures and home schooling.
Even professionals in the field of well-being have experienced difficulties in this area, with leading life coach Nick Hatter opening up about his own body confidence struggles.
Speaking with UNILAD, Nick revealed he has lost some of his ‘gains’ during lockdown, and is a little bit apprehensive about what he will look like once he’s back in the gym.
Offering advice to others who might be feeling this way, Nick said:
A question I would advise you to ask yourself is ‘who am I really?’ Often we can define ourselves and self-worth by our bodies, our jobs, our money. But as we have found in this epidemic – some or all of those things can be taken away!
If you base your self-worth and self-esteem on your muscles or your body fat %, then you’re going to have a very unstable foundation for self-esteem, which can be taken away at any time!
Nick suggested separating your character from ‘what you have (or don’t have), and how well (or not well) you do what you do’. For example, if you were to ask your mates why you were friends, it’s most likely nothing to do with your ‘ripped body’.
It’s all too easy to be hard on ourselves, and to make comparisons about how our various body parts looked and felt prior to lockdown. But it’s important to be as patient with yourself as you possibly can, bearing in mind the unprecedented difficulties of the last few months.
When heading back to the gym, we need to be as gentle and as supportive of our own personal progress as we would be of a good friend, putting ourselves in a positive, encouraging frame of mind for the road ahead.
UNILAD spoke with personal trainer Eni Adeyemo, the founder of Barbell Brunch Club & Booty Bootcamp Fitness. Eni is dedicated to helping her clients get into their best shape while – most importantly – building up their confidence both in and out of the gym.
We were facing a global pandemic – as much as we may feel bad about not working out, we have to remember the world came to a standstill. Everyone’s coping mechanisms are different and when we are stressed, we all deal with life differently. Be easy on yourself!
Most of us, even personal trainers, didn’t have access to weights or fitness equipment, so it does take a lot to pluck up the motivation to exercise; especially in your comfort zone.
We have all had to turn our homes from a place of rest to somewhere we work, eat and sleep everyday for the last four months. Day One at the gym we are all going back to basics.
Eni suggested to ‘take each day as it comes’, and work day to day on improving any bad habits you may have picked up during lockdown. For example, just taking a 20-minute walk each day to get yourself used to the thought of exercising again.
UNILAD also spoke with transformation coach Charlotte De Curtis, whose body positive book Riots Not Diets details this kind of attitude and approach to self-care.
Mum-of-two Charlotte overcame her own body confidence issues by first clearing her social media of accounts that made her feel negatively about herself. Certainly a good tip for those of who have been living vicariously online for the last few months.
Charlotte also worked to find three things she accepted about herself and her body every single day, while gaining clarity on what the words ‘health’ and ‘normal’ meant to her, not to anyone else.
For Charlotte, self care at this complicated time should be a ‘nourishing’ act, with a strong focus on ‘protecting your energy and feeling your best’. She suggests a ‘great playlist’ to get yourself ‘hyped’ for the gym, and is keen to remind people it’s ‘completely normal’ to have lost some of your fitness levels, ‘but focus on the little wins’, and look after your mental health as a priority.
I’m looking forward to going back to the gym and feeling my limbs stretch and strain in ways they haven’t done for months. I’m looking forward to feeling my heart pounding in my chest, physical and vital and alive.
Yes I feel a little heavier and out-of-sync than I was, both inside and out. But the pursuit of health and self-care isn’t a competition or a race. Now more than ever you should be cutting yourself some slack.
If you’re experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They’re open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58 and they also have a webchat service if you’re not comfortable talking on the phone.