6'2" Karen Connell - actor, model and all-round inspiration - says it how it is. Now more than ever we need to be kind, to ourselves as much as others. If that means comfort eating and going up a dress size, bring it on.
28th May 2020
In a time where we are all feeling less than secure, it’s been gratifying and hugely uplifting to see the acts of kindness that have sprung from the seeds of the global corona crisis.
From clapping for the NHS, to the litany of volunteers helping hospitals, medical staff and vulnerable people in the community and the sheer nonsensical fun of TikTok, we are seeing a different side to society. A sense of community, where the veil of separation between strangers has slipped. I'm sure I'm not the only one to have been moved to tears at the outpouring of human emotion over the past few weeks (or months? Is it months? I've lost track!).
On a personal note however, I noticed it is still easier to be kinder to a stranger, than kind to myself. Having spoken with friends about this, I know I'm not the only one. Female friends and community are vital for me to stay feeling connected, cared for, supported - as well as questioned when I slip into poor habits.
“I’ve tuned in and listened… the body I’m in feels safer a little heavier, during a globally terrifying time”
The quarantine has been both heaven and hell for me - I've thoroughly enjoyed the sense of relief (interesting, as I love my work) and letting go a little bit. The letting go part was beautiful at the start but quickly led to poor habits reemerging and then not feeling too great. It's a tricky one. I relaxed my dietary habits and comfort-ate - a lot. As someone who works in fields where consistency in my appearance is significant, this caused me some anxiety, but not enough to pull back. On discussion with my friends, it became a curious topic - eating, relaxing and not exercising versus sticking to my routine. Which behaviour was the most loving? Some felt that this was a wonderful opportunity to relax my habits and let go a little as it didn't matter what I looked like. Others felt that feeling bad about your body or in your clothes was destructive. Two different camps, yet all batting for the same team - self love.
I'm really interested in how other women are handling their changing bodies, if they've changed at all. The consensus on social media points towards a general gaining weight thread for many, for several reasons. Until recently (here in the UK) exercise has been limited to one hour a day, restricted food supply and procurement, anxiety and inactivity are all factors.
My general response to the rug being pulled beneath me is to overeat on comfort food. This felt so relaxing, until I couldn't fit into my clothes! And this happened quite fast, over 4-6 weeks. I was still exercising regularly, but eating foods I'd never normally eat. My diet just wasn't my primary concern. But when I wanted to feel nice and dress in my pretty clothes, not being able to wear them felt like I'd hurt myself. That I'd deprived myself of one of my daily joys - feeling nice in my clothes and appearance. This did not feel loving, yet the thought of going back to my strict diet and workout regime was like anathema to me. I couldn't motivate myself properly, it didn't feel right.
I've thought about this a lot, and what I've come to realise is that this body is beautiful too. That there are ebbs and flows to everything. Yes, it sucks my clothes don't fit. But there are solutions to that. And I don't believe that pushing myself to eat and exercise as I did pre-lockdown is loving, or kind, or compassionate. It feels like pressure, it feels like stress, it feels like I can't handle that right now.
So I've tuned in and listened. And found that somewhere amidst all the noise is balance. And accepting the body I'm in, that felt safer a little heavier, during a globally terrifying time. When I became doing my usual pampering routines, body lotions and masks etc, I realised I could still feel great in my heavier body, if I chose to. If I wore bigger clothes that still flattered me and felt good to wear I could strive for a loving balance. To continue to exercise, but only in a way that made me feel good, not to sculpt my shape. To allow myself to continue to eat comfort foods, but to moderate the quantity slightly.
And since I've done that, I felt a new relationship with myself and my body open up. I understood the need to eat a little more during a totally unforeseen period of my life. I sympathised with the anxiety I was feeling, and was compassionate towards my appetite for foods that comforted me. I now know something I didn't necessarily realise before - loving my body is my choice always. And it is not something that will ever be conditional upon a clothes size again. It will be an unconditional choice I choose to make for her, and me. She is healthy, she can move around, she can sing, and laugh and dance and sleep. And if that isn't love right there, I don't know what is!