What I Learnt In Lockdown

What Lockdown Taught Me About Loving My Body

"Without prying eyes, I could wear whatever I wanted and start to understand how I saw myself, instead of how I saw myself reflected in others."

Mollie Quirk learnt to love her body in lockdown.
Courtesy of author

While being able to remain at home and having a home to remain in during the coronavirus outbreak is a privilege, it's hard to deny that lockdown has been a challenge. It tore us away from the comforts of everyday life — the joy of sharing a pint with friends or celebrating a birthday with family. Yet for many of us, the experience has also given us the chance to pause and reflect, to take stock of what matters most. In What I Learnt In Lockdown, writers share what this period has meant for them and what lessons they'll take away as we all begin to emerge from our COVID-19 cocoons.

When the UK first went into lockdown in March 2020, I was a few years into a new relationship with my body. After almost a decade of fad diets, I had finally learnt to embrace my shape for what it was and I was excited to see what the future held. But as anyone who's struggled with body image will tell you, practicing self-love is a daily effort, and one that can be easily knocked off course by life-changing events – like, say, a global pandemic.

The first lockdown saw me confined to my flat day in, day out. My mental health began to worsen and, with that, so did my relationship with my body. Feeling isolated and not having my usual routine to stabilise me, combined with the relentless discourse surrounding "lockdown weight", my mindset shifted without me even realising. I began trying on my clothes and obsessing over how they fitted my figure. Were they shrinking or was I getting bigger? I began to use exercise as punishment and restricting my diet. Before I knew it, I had slipped back into my old ways. I knew something had to change, or I risked losing everything I'd worked so hard to achieve.

Could I use this enforced "me" time to find news ways to love and appreciate myself?

So I asked myself, could lockdown have the opposite effect? Could I use this enforced "me" time to find news ways to love and appreciate myself? It started with a simple routine: waking early and getting dressed, eating intuitively again, and moving for joy rather than results. Not going out meant there were no unsolicited judgements from strangers – something I used to deal with on an almost daily basis. Without prying eyes, I could wear whatever I wanted and start to understand how I saw myself, instead of how I saw myself reflected in others.

Before lockdown, I had not worn a bikini since 2014. But when summer 2020 rolled around, something about being at home, in my own space, gave me the courage to put on a two piece and sit on my balcony. It might not sound like a big deal but, for me, it was groundbreaking. Now, when life finally goes back to normal, I may even be ready to brave a bikini on the beach sometime – and that's huge.

Not going out meant there were no unsolicited judgements from strangers – something I used to deal with on an almost daily basis.

Like everyone else in lockdown, I started to see just how important social media could be in my life, especially when it came to continuing my journey with my body. It became a lifeline for me, in many ways, as my only outlet to express myself and connect with other like-minded people. I began promoting a positive body image on social media by taking photographs of myself in my bikinis and posting them. The result was overwhelming. I was getting messages from strangers daily, telling me how I had helped them – but in truth, they were helping me. Had there not have been a lockdown, I know for a fact that none of this would have happened.

I am now in the best place I have ever been with loving my body. Sometimes I still find it difficult, of course, but this time of self-reflection has done wonders for how I see myself, and that's something I can always be grateful for.