Your Pandemic Appearance: Is it a Keeper, or Are You Planning a Change?

Many people are torn between resuming their “normal” lives and responding to their pandemic appearance. As stressors of the past year increased, more people began wearing long, gray hair, bushy beards, makeup-free or Botox-free skin, and gaining extra pounds. The result was an increase in mindfulness and natural lifestyles. In response to the relaxed Coronavirus guidelines, more Americans are being exposed to the disease; many feel external and internal pressure to regain their previous appearance.


In the midst of the pandemic, 52-year-old Sandi Duverneuil stopped going to the gym and took a sedentary job at home. As long as she did not have to change into work clothes or turn on her Zoom camera for work, she was fine with her weight gain and outgrown hair. In the process of preparing for her return to reality, she began to worry.


The experience of myself and my colleagues, all of whom practice Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in the Washington, D.C. area, has taught me that many patients struggle with the relationship between their natural appearance, restraining of activities, and increased snacking, which have contributed to weight gain over the past year. Studies have found that physical activity decreased and weight gain correlated with the shutdown. The weight gain has been referred to as a “pandemic 15.”


The topic of losing pandemic pounds has become a touchy subject. Supporters of body positivity argue that you should accept yourself no matter what your weight is. Kelly DeVos argues in her book, “Fat Girl on a Plane,” that you should love yourself as you are. 

 Others, however, see the societal reopening as an opportunity for a fresh start, a chance to improve their health and lose weight. As a result of the pandemic, Sherry Richert Belul discovered she wasn’t the active, energetic, happy person she once was. Her solution was to exercise and eat healthier foods.


 You may feel torn between accepting changes and accepting acceptance while recovering from the pandemic. Below are some suggestions for reconciling them.


As a lasting legacy of the pandemic, accept and love who you are. The age-old lesson that people are more important than their looks has been reinforced by isolation, losses, and existential threats. According to DeVos, we should use this lesson to better ourselves and others. 


In New York City, Christina Stanton, a tourist worker of middle age, was hospitalized twice due to Covid-19. Following those hospitalizations, she spent the next four months barely moving. She gained a lot of weight and her body changed in many ways, but she is glad she survived. As much as she embraced her new look, she has accepted that she will never be her old self again. 


American University professor Nathaniel Herr believes accepting the promotion is not a sign of resignation, but rather an active process. Self-honesty and kindness require courage and strength. Only then will you be able to determine what needs to change and feel motivated to do so.


A unique opportunity has now arisen for us to reengage the world deliberately and intentionally. A more natural, stress-free lifestyle may dictate that you refrain from frequent hair treatments in order to save money and time.  According to Debbie Sorensen, co-author of the “ACT Daily Journal” and clinical psychologist, a pandemic reset is a tool for transforming our lives and appearances. 


Changes that are driven from outside are unlikely to last as long as those that are internally motivated. You might notice that your appearance has changed greatly since the pandemic. It is more important to develop your own new normal than to conform to the pre-pandemic pressure. Inauthenticity and unsatisfaction will result if you have a beauty binge just because everyone else does it.


Motivate yourself to accept yourself and change by tapping into what makes you tick. By putting your money toward your bucket list instead of expensive Botox treatments, you may be able to accept a few wrinkles if you have realized how much you value traveling. Due to her desire to make a change, Duverneuil decided to get more exercise by adopting a puppy. She loved this because she wanted to be healthier, walk more, and she loves dogs.


Now that you have identified something you want to change or accept, it is time to create a plan and take action. Reaching your goals gradually works best. An instance of this could be a balayage treatment or lowlight treatment. Consider taking brisk walks every Tuesday and Thursday at lunchtime rather than exercising every day.


It is just as challenging to give up a bad habit as it is to start it. In order to cope with pandemic changes, try substituting activities such as excessive checking of mirrors and weighing yourself with meditation.


As a social support system, use the real and virtual worlds. You may want to join a group with a similar mindset if you accept your gray hair but feel judged by others, such as Silver Sisters. Being part of a team with a common goal increases our chances of achieving our goals. 


Sometimes it can be difficult to accept ourselves. Change of goals causes all of us to fall off the wagon or lose our motivation. In these difficult times, it is tempting to be more critical of yourself, but the opposite approach is more beneficial. The key to long-term success, according to Sorensen, is self-compassion.


Shireen Rizvi, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at Rutgers University, says that letting go of an all-or-nothing attitude makes it easier to come up with options that are right for you. Research has shown that thinking in either/or terms does not help you choose your goals or initiate them. 


Recalling that we just went through one of the most difficult years in recent history also helps put things into perspective. Taking stock of how tired you felt after the pandemic, recognizing how damaged your body and mind are, and beginning to make meaningful changes now possible, you can acknowledge how worn-out you are. You must recognize your inner bully if you want to make healthy choices. You can then ignore it.