Quarantine Body Image Struggles and Finding your Triggers (Part 2)

diet & exercise on being vegan podcast Nov 11, 2020

In part 1, last week, we talked about having lots of self compassion when it comes to your body image during trying times like the ones we’re currently going through during the COVID pandemic. We also discussed why it’s so automatic for some of us, that in difficult times we turn to trying to control our food and bodies instead of working on the issues that are truly worrying us. We went on a little journey to find our failsafe roads. Today, in part 2, we’ll be going a bit deeper, getting to know our body image triggers that are often heightened during difficult times, and I’ll be sharing some exercises and journaling prompts you can work through to get back to that place of peace with your body and your habits.


Know your triggers

We’ve talked about body image from so many different angles, I’ve told you about my own journey in our Dieting Chronicles Series (episodes 20-22), I’ve shared help and support during beach season (my biggest calendar trigger) in our Bikini Revolution Series (episodes 29, 31 and 32), and we went in deeper, talking about body image resilience, self love and where our need for control comes from in our body image series (episodes 60-63), and we linked body image and our eating in our relationship with food series (episodes 126-131).

In this season of the podcast we will go much deeper, much more specific, since most of you have been going through this journey with me, and we’ve healed and learned tools to deal with the big feelings, the big moments, now it’s time to go through our figurative fields and rip out each individual issue by the root, like a persistent weed we feel we’ll never get rid of, but we do, one at a time. We will tell it, to its face: it’s time to go.


Part of this work is in combing through your specific beliefs about food, body and exercise (more on this later in the season), but a HUGE part of this work is to catch ourselves before we engage in damaging behaviours or damaging thoughts, this comes in the deep sense of knowing and understanding our triggers.

Quarantine or lockdown is one. How could it not be?

It has changed the way we do pretty much everything. It has made us connect with deep fears, and have to adjust to new things quickly, and I find that often people, myself included, who have struggled with body image, are also people who find change good, but very hard.

The beginning of the summer and beach/ pool season is another common trigger, and my biggest one for sure.

The Holiday season when we’ll go back home and see family members and old friends who might not have seen us in a while is a huge one, and great to explore this time of year if this is one of ours.

A school reunion can be a trigger.

Our birthday can be a trigger, especially if we’re reaching those big milestones, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80…

A sad anniversary. For example the anniversary of a marriage or relationship that has ended, of someone’s death, of a birth that never came to be. I learned this year, the hard way, that anniversaries are hugely triggering for me, and I always thought, after so many years, after so many losses, that I was above and beyond the calendar. Turns out I’m not, and I have to be extra gentle with myself the week prior and the week after these dates.


A friend starting a new diet or exercise regimen might be a trigger.

The visit from an old friend might be a trigger.

A friend or sibling reaching a milestone before us can be a trigger.

Report or evaluation season at work can be a huge trigger.

Starting a new exercise or sport can be a trigger.

Seeing one specific image on social media, let alone our daily use of social media, can be a massive trigger.

Going through a difficult time with our spouse, partner or children can be a huge trigger.

The starts and stops of the year can be a trigger. Think back to school season in September, January and its resolutions and promises (not only the ones we feel pushed to make but the ones we hear others making too).

The end of a relationship might be a trigger.

Having a toxic friendship can be a trigger.

Being tagged in photos on Facebook can be a trigger.

Seeing old photos or video of yourself can be a trigger.

Having someone comment on your body, whether in a positive or negative way, can be a trigger.

Having a lot of free time, especially suddenly, can be a trigger, especially if you’re an overachiever.

There are so many possible triggers, and getting acquainted with them is a very important step of the deep body image work we have to do.

With that in mind, I’m going to leave you with a practical exercise you can do this week.

Journaling Prompts and Exercises for a more Positive Body Image | Find your Triggers and Change Beliefs about Food, Body, Weight and Exercise | Brownble

An exercise:

Remember that any exercises I give you are meant for informational purposes only and not meant to substitute individual mental health support and advice.

Step 1: When was the first time

Set a time aside with your journal or a piece of paper and go through your past year. Can you remember any specific moments or events that came right before you started feeling particularly fired up about body image?

It doesn’t mean that you only engaged in very negative self-talk, it can also be masquerading itself as a sudden rise of your workout routine intensity or frequency, or a time in which you felt your were restricting food slightly or trying to compensate after eating. It might even feel like a particularly empowered moment of lots of energy and enthusiasm to do more and get in shape. The point is, that if we’re associating any of these seemingly positive behaviours (movement is a positive behaviour), with the need to alter and change our bodies, we ARE STILL staying in the loop of a body image struggle.

Once you’ve found one or a few specific moments through the year, identify the triggers, write a list. Keep it handy, and whenever you have a few spare minutes, choose one and go into it by writing longhand about the first time you experienced a similar moment and linked it to your body image.


I’ll give you an example.

It’s a memory I had completely blocked out until very recently, because I had always felt that my information on body image hadn’t come from my upbringing (my mom, who lived in a disabled body always had wonderful things to say about her body, and was more importantly, often never mentioning anything that had to do with the way bodies looked). Of course though, no one is perfect or immune to the messages we’ve absorbed, and one day, she made a comment.

When I was 11 or 12, my very body positive mom took me to this beautiful hotel to spend the day together at the pool. There was a 13 or 14 year old girl in a larger body playing in the pool and my mother turned around and told me “it’s when you hit puberty that you have to be a bit careful because often girls gain weight at that age. “ Well, of course this happens, it is meant to happen to support our hormonal health, but there it was, my very first glimpse into “your body changing isn’t good", and also “people are watching”. It wasn’t my mamma’s fault, she probably suffered at the hands of the body image gremlins just as much as I would for many years to come.

Knowing and understanding that for me, bathing suit, beach and summer triggers had a start then and there, and only got worse as I compared my body to others’, might seem like a meaningless exercise, but everything starts with awareness. Awareness that something else is behind that particular trigger, that it isn’t a truth but more so a belief, and that by knowing what our trigger is, we can realize that it’s just a moment, or a circumstance like any other, except that it’s emotionally charged for us and we can now notice it, and start de-charging it.

You can also do this step in a slightly different way once you’ve found the first memory, by doing it with the most difficult memory, or the most recent memory of this particular trigger.

Journaling Prompts and Exercises for a more Positive Body Image | Find your Triggers and Change Beliefs about Food, Body, Weight and Exercise | Brownble

Step 2: Write it out

A great blog post to help you with many exercises you can do with your trigger is in episode 81.

Today however, I want you to simply write it out. Write out anything you feel, remember or think about this trigger. Write down every single belief that comes to you (we will work on these beliefs and how to change belief systems later on in the season). Just as an example, the beginning of summer is a common trigger, but feeling like you are not loved if people see imperfections while wearing a bathing suit, is a belief. Underline every belief that comes up in your writing. They’ll come in handy for a future exercise I’ll be sharing soon.

Writing has been my cure for every single type of heartache, loss and challenge in my life. It is simply magical, which is why I recommend everyone go scratch that stationary shop itch most of us have and get yourself a beautiful journal, we’ll be using it a lot in coming posts and episodes.

Step 3: Notice, am I in my failsafe?

Notice that a trigger can also simply mean our pain or anxiety is actually about something else. This is especially true for many of us and the feelings we’re having around quarantine and self isolation. Zero in on the fact that it might just be that we’re going back down our failsafe. It’s very sad to think that putting pressure on ourselves or engaging in hurtful self comments is easier than dealing with the real situation and feelings that are bothering us, but it’s true nonetheless. For many of us this kind of talk is so habitual it feels like it’s easier because we think there is just no alternative. There is an alternative, we can learn a new way, it’s going to take time and lots of work but that’s why we’re here.

If you see that your body image is being triggered because you’re using it as a way to inhibit other emotions, divert your attention to those, and do the work with those, telling the gremlins to wait for a bit while you do some digging where the issues really lie. For deep issues, trauma, grief and even sometimes for the simple stressors and anxiety of every day life, reach out to a mental health professional that will go through this process with you in as calm and as gentle way as you can, with lots of support. For serious body image and eating disorder issues you can find help, support and a free hotline at National Eating Disorders.org.

With time, and lots of self awareness, the gremlins will be a sign that something in your mental health needs to be tended to, and that you can then say “thank you very much, you are free to go now, I’ve got this”, and let them be on their way.


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