Today I thought about two people I know. One lost a lot of weight over the pandemic, the other gained weight. What led to those different outcomes? Let me be perfectly clear. This blog is not about weight loss or gain. I want to explore weight in relation to the pandemic, specifically, how the forced changes in behaviour have affected us in so many ways that we can only start to untangle now, two years after COVID became a household word.
Weight is not the issue
In fact, physical weight is not the issue. Emotional weight, however, drives this narrative. While physical weight may be the result of the emotional weight we’ve carried over the past few years, our main challenge revolves around how we handle our emotions.
When we struggle with hard emotions, we want to suppress them. We don’t want to feel strong emotions, particularly negative ones. They’re uncomfortable. Unwieldly. Hard to control. And we all know how out of control we’ve felt at times in the past few years. The pandemic is beyond any one person’s control.
Numbing and Avoidance
So, we seek ways to numb and avoid those feelings. We turn to alcohol or drugs … or food. I can control what I put in my body. And when I control myself or others around me, I feel a (false, fleeting) sense of safety. What I’m really seeking is a haven, a place of respite. It’s not about food, alcohol, or drugs at all. It’s about finding ways to take care of myself in whatever way I can.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. Anything I look to externally will never fulfil me. I’ll need more of it – over-eating, starving, drinking more and more – to feel the same sense of safety I felt initially. Spiralling up or down doesn’t matter. Spirals always end somewhere. What happens then? I feel stuck and lost. I’m at the end and need to find my way back.
Removing Emotional Weight
There are ways out. Here are six (6) of them:
- Our bodies tell us so much. But do we listen to what they have to say? Remember the vagus nerve – it informs the brain 80% to 90% of the time, not the other way around. It runs from our gut to our brain. When we talk about gut reactions or butterflies in the stomach, we’re not talking metaphorically as we’ve been led to believe. The body can teach us what the mind doesn’t know.
- We don’t need to accept binary thinking – this or that. Consider that one way is true and so is another. Like the “Yes, and” game we see at improv shows, “yes, and” teaches us to build, re-adjust, and change as circumstances change.
- Talk to a safe friend about how you feel to gain clarity instead of feeling judgement, toward yourself, toward others, toward the pandemic.
- Journal your thoughts if you don’t want to say them aloud to get them off your chest and on to paper.
- Pray for guidance and surrender your worries to forces greater than yourself knowing you don’t need to figure it all out yourself.
- Choose to see you are loved. You belong on this earth and are connected to others.
See the video below for a visual summary of these techniques.