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  • Writer's pictureBehind the Mask

How Isolation Destroyed My Body Image — Florida

Updated: Dec 9, 2020

The appearance of COVID-19 was the least unexpected thing I could have ever thought to happen. A worldwide pandemic? How do you even process that? When you’re a teenager, you worry about your grades in high school and who you’re hanging out with on Friday night. But now, we were worried about staying indoors and not forgetting our masks if we were to leave the house. The topics of quarantine, depression, and boredom came around often and I can easily say I experienced my fair share.

When I was sitting in 7th period class last year and the principal at my school went on the intercom to tell the student body we would have two weeks off before winter break, our class was ecstatic. We all thought it would give us more time to hang out with our friends and avoid school work, but little did we know it was the start to something much bigger. When you’re stuck in your house all day with no direction or goal, there isn’t much to do. For me, I resorted to eating. A lot. I gained over 10 pounds in the matter of a month and the body I had been so proud of before became something I deeply despised. Body image issues were not something new I had to deal with: ever since I was about 12 years old, I was never really confident. During the start of the break, I vividly remember that I bought a white crop top. I thought it would be the cutest thing that I could wear under a plaid dress I had bought around Christmas time during freshman year of high school. I slipped on the top along with the dress and put on my black combat boots just to feel like I had somewhere to be. My mom barged in the room and asked me what I was doing. I simply told her I was trying on some old clothes. I remember the words “looks a little tight, huh?” leaving her lips and I can even replay it in slow motion in my head. Not only did this feel like a punch to the face, but also all I could think was if other people saw that I looked different, then there was definitely something wrong with me. When you're out and about and busy with other things, you don’t really focus on what your body looks like. And when you’re a student-athlete like myself, who plays travel and school softball along with Olympic weightlifting, being skinny is not only the last thing you think about since you're so busy but also the last thing you expect of yourself. This is because when you’re an athlete, you gain muscle and I can guarantee if you train, you will actually gain weight, especially in sports like these. Being isolated in my house all day left me with lots of time to degrade my body, judge it, and compare it to that of the girls I saw on social media even when I knew my life could be completely different than theirs.

This guilt I felt with the way I looked tied back to me judging everything I ate. I glorified the days where I lost an appetite and scoffed at the times where I let myself eat things I knew as “unhealthy.” I actually pictured what I would look like if I took scissors and cut off all the “extra” skin, fat, and muscle I had on my body.

Body image is something that many people struggle with and when you have nothing else to do but nitpick every part of your life, that issue becomes bigger and bigger. However, I think that our generation is blessed to live in a time where so many people preach body positivity. In my time when I knew what I was doing was unhealthy, I looked to people like Lizzo, Sienna Mae, and Brittani Lancaster for support. Sienna inspired me to find no shame in showing off my belly and so did Lizzo. They both preach confidence which, in this time, was so insanely necessary. Brittani exposed me to something called intuitive eating which has changed my life so much. It’s a way of eating that doesn’t set boundaries but teaches you how not to be afraid of food. You eat whatever you need to satisfy a craving and what you know your body needs; it can be soda, veggies, french fries, fruit, water, bread, meat, etc.

The pandemic brought a huge setback on my life along with my mental being. I lost more confidence in the time I was in isolation than I had ever lost due to any other event in my life. I think anyone would agree with me when I say this year has been life-changing. This pandemic has forced me to face my own personal issues that exist and learn to solve them. As of right now, I am still not perfect when it comes to how I perceive myself but I can almost say I am somewhat thankful for having to stare at my hardest problems in the eyes.

— Mary Polak, 16

West Palm Beach, Florida


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