What 14 Days in Isolation Taught Me about Loving My Body: by Ashley Bowers
The last few months of my life have been a whirlwind to say the least. For those of you who don’t know me, in September 2020, I received a job offer and moved to the Cayman Islands to coach at a CrossFit gym. In my head, this move would be just like all my other moves – boy was I wrong.
Before moving, I had spent the better half of 2020 dialing in macros with a coach, focusing on building fitness for local CrossFit competitions and trying my best to be sure I was fueling and treating my body well (getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, mobility, etc…).
Fast forward to moving out of the country in the middle of a global pandemic and I had to complete a 14 day strict quarantine upon arriving in Grand Cayman. That meant I lived in a tiny dorm room with no ability to go outside or leave the room for what ended up being 17 days.
While this was a huge mental battle to fight, it also opened my eyes to a lot of things. One, being the fact that any movement is better than no movement. I preach this to my clients all the time, but until it really happens to you, it’s easy to forget.
Thankfully the gym brought me some dumbbells so I was able to modify WODs and programming to move my body in this small space. Even though the workouts weren’t what I was used to, getting a sweat in for 15 minutes made me feel better for the rest of the day.
Making myself get up out of my chair and pace the room to get some steps in felt monotonous, but it also kept me from sitting in a chair for 12 hours straight for 14 days. Some days my mind felt more stressed than others so I opted for yoga, gymnastics work or mobility. It still felt good to move my body in some way vs the days I didn’t move at all because I was being lazy.
Secondly, I really got to tune into my body’s physiological hunger and fullness cues. This means eating when I was hungry and stopping when I was full. I was given 3 meals a day from the facility I stayed in and my boss thankfully brought me some snacks. I thought that I would have an endless desire to snack constantly, and while I did eat almost an entire Costco sized bag of Cheetos during my first few days, I realized that I wasn’t actually as hungry as I thought I would be.
It was tough, but being able to break down when I was wanting to eat because I was bored vs when I was actually hungry was a huge skill I learned while in isolation. Will I never not eat when I’m bored? No. But will I know I’m eating because I’m bored? Yes.
I’ll never forget, there was one day where I felt like I had eaten so much because a few of the gym members brought me treats and I ate them all.
For fun, I decided to log everything I ate that day in My Fitness Pal (even though I had decided not to track anything during the quarantine). I was really surprised that everything I had eaten that day was still just barely 2,000 calories (which for me is near my maintenance level of calories AKA what I would need to eat to not gain or lose weight).
As someone who works in the health and fitness industry and debunks diet culture on a daily basis, it was wild to me that there are still certain connotations with food, hard-wired into our brains, that make you feel like you have been “bad.”
My biggest takeaway from this is to gather as much data as you can. If you have been tracking your food intake or logging your workouts, keep going. You don’t know what you don’t know and the more data you have about your body and your habits allows you to course-correct and be sure you are headed down the path you want to be on.
Lastly, one of the biggest lessons I learned in my transition is the art of listening to your body. When I got out of quarantine, I thought I would just jump back into training and tracking food like I had done before.
Again, boy was I wrong. Figuring out food and groceries and having to basically start over with everything takes a lot more mental energy than you think. Especially when you’re trying to get a bank account, car, living situation and more setup at the same time.
I made the decision to not track my food for the first three months of being on island. With that, I definitely made some poor choices and choices I wouldn’t have made back home. Eating fast food, drinking alcohol, etc…
However, what this showed me is that my body will always tell me what it wants. After 3 months of doing whatever I wanted, my body was screaming to be taken care of. It wanted sleep and no more late nights out. It wanted proper hydration. It wanted nutrient-dense foods.
Sometimes, you have to let yourself see the other side of what you’ve been doing to fully appreciate and respect the life you have been creating for yourself. Sometimes, you have to listen to your body and when it is begging for low intensity movement over high intensity, honor that. When it is craving breathwork and mobility over staying out on the town, honor that.
In summary, the lessons I learned were to always aim for movement. Some is better than none. Gather data about your body and your journey, whatever it is. Don’t base yout fitness journey off of feelings because those are so fleeting.
Realize that sometimes you have to let yourself see the other side to fully appreciate the lifestyle you have chosen to live. If you are feeling like giving up on your new year’s resolutions, maybe you take a week and let yourself do whatever. I bet by the end of it, you will be craving the discipline that your resolution brought you. Lastly, listen to your body.
Stop trying to force it into one way of being and listen to what it is actually asking for. You will go much farther in life if you can master that practice.