Mallory Welsh, LCSW

I work with many clients who have been discussing in recent sessions feeling a sense of lower self-esteem related to putting on some extra pounds since March related to the pandemic. At this point in time, it has been about 5 months since our lives have been adjusting to the chaos of the pandemic, and gaining a few extra pounds has been quite common for many of my clients and myself included!

I recently read an article from The New York Times that touched on this very topic, “Don’t Be Ashamed of Those Extra Pounds” by author Courtney Rubin. Below describes Rubin’s key points from her article. 

  • Be cognizant about your-self talk. It can be very easy to slip into a negative slew of things to say to yourself regarding adding on a few extra pounds during the pandemic or any other times while in crisis. We are all in survival mode at this time and just trying to get through to the next day. Keeping that in mind, pay attention to when you start saying mean things to yourself regarding what you’re eating and the number you see on the scale. Attempt to speak to yourself the way you would speak to your close friend or how you would speak to a child. Also, reflect back to where you learned that weight gain was seen to be something that you should feel ashamed of. 
  • Questions to ask yourself regarding body negativity. Did you learn this growing up? Did you see it on social media? Does this belief help me to be the person that I want to be? What am I gaining from emotionally when thinking about the meal I ate earlier today? What could I be doing instead with this time and energy spent on about worrying about a meal?
  • Eat when you feel like it. Many diet cultures encourage people to only eat when they are absolutely starving; however, humans are actually designed to get pleasure out of food as it can be a way to connect with friends, family, and coworkers. Sometimes food can even create a sense of comfort and that is absolutely okay in moderation. If I had a bad day, I definitely tend to gravitate toward eating a pizza as opposed to a kale salad, and one should eat that pizza guilt free!
  • Body Movement Vs. Exercise. I actually don’t like the word “exercise”, and I often replace that word with “body movement” with my clients. The word “exercise” seems to imply something you feel forced into doing while moving your body implies something that is not only enjoyable, but something you truly want to do. When choosing to do some form of body movement, whether it is going for a walk, run, yoga class, lifting weights, whatever it is, it is important to do it with intention. Doing things with intention not only is more pleasurable, but it is also helpful for our mental health. Instead of having all of your attention going into trying to diet and lose weight, maybe it can be channeled into changing the language we have around body positivity. I even encouraged one of my clients to make a challenge with one of her friends to only say kind things about their own bodies, and first one who slips up and says something mean about their body, owes the other person a coffee or lunch. Needless to say, my client got a few free coffees! At the end of the day, the year of 2020 is challenging enough, let’s just give ourselves some slack and grace about a few extra pounds we likely have all put on.

If you are currently struggling with feeling ashamed regarding some weight gain, it may be a good idea to connect with one of our talented counselors at Symmetry Counseling today. You can contact them at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment for therapy in Chicago