Open hearts. Honest conversations.

Episode 2: Loving Our Bodies, Loving Ourselves – During a Pandemic

Our guest is Joanna Zelichowska, a Registered Clinical Counsellor who has been working in the field of eating disorders for more than 10 years. Joanna is the Manager of our Jessie’s Legacy Eating Disorders and Prevention program at Family Services of the North Shore.

Together Val and Joanna  talk about the ways the pandemic has affected many people’s relationship with food and body image, and some of the reasons why. We describe eating disorders as something much more than how many calories a person is eating in a day, and Joanna offers ideas on how to start a conversation about disordered eating with someone you are concerned about. We also talk about some of the ways we can be more at peace with our bodies during this very strange time.  

Joanna and the Jessie’s Legacy team serve the province of British Columbia by providing eating disorders prevention education, resources, and support for youth, families, educators, and professionals. 

Show Notes:

  • Diet culture is like the water we swim in, we are immersed and it is so hard to separate ourselves from it.
  • Food has been a big focus during the pandemic.
  • When we’re not able to actively engage in our normal routines we can start to feel differently about ourselves, and when that shifts, it’s no surprise that there are shifts in how we are relating to ourselves and to food.
  • Without the normal markers of routine and-or structure, it can become difficult to regulate ourselves and our food intake.  This can look like over-control or lack of control which can lead to the development of more anxiety or nervousness around body image and food intake.
  • When life is feeling chaotic one major thing we can control is what we put into our mouths, and this can then become a significant point of focus.  For instance, the thought may be:  “If the world is so uncertain in this giant upheaval the thing that’s making me feel safe is to do this thing [over eating/restricted eating] that gives me a sense of control”.
  • Eating disorder symptoms can act like a coping mechanism to help a person feel more in control.
  • Eating disorders thrive in secrecy, and with the isolation many are experiencing, the environment makes it ripe for behaviours to return.  This is why it is so important to stay connected with others in whatever way we can.
  • Disordered eating and eating disorders exist on a spectrum of thoughts and behaviours regarding body image and weight.
  • Eating disorders are typically noticed first by a friend or family member of the person exhibiting the disordered eating behaviours.
  • If you are concerned about someone, try ‘zooming out’ on that person’s life, and try observing other behaviours.  For example- are they still interested in their usual activities, are they still socializing the same way, or are they isolating in new ways?  Has something changed in their life lately?
  • You can say something like:  “I noticed you’re not socializing as much as you were before, has something happened? Can I help?”
  • If the eating behaviours are challenged head on, it can make the person defensive, feel threatened, and could drive the behaviours into greater secrecy.
  • If you are worried about your own eating behaviour – Jessie’s Legacy offers a screening tool that helps people assess their relationship with food, and attitudes toward eating and body image.
  • You can also zoom out on your life, for example where could you bring in some balance, do you need more sleep, more leisure, more social time, more time outdoors?
  • Isolation and uncertainty can elevate triggers and behaviours for many.  The most important thing people can do is talk about it, reach out, connect with others, and name it.  Take advantage of new ways of connecting through technology during this challenging time.
  • Many of us are consuming more social media right now than ever, and typically these platforms mainly offer the ‘highlight reels’ of peoples’ lives, and as a result set an unrealistic perspective.
  • Just like animals and nature, we follow different cycles and as the world changes, so do we.  Our bodies and eating behaviours change with the seasons.  We naturally ebb and flow just like everything else on this planet.  Allow yourself some grace as you move through.


  • To learn more about Jessie’s Legacy – the story behind the program and the range of resources available to you, click here to visit our website.
  • To access counselling for children, youth, and adults, email our intake counsellor
  • If you are interested in getting involved as a volunteer, click here to learn more.
  • If enjoyed the podcast and would like to support our work, click here to learn about becoming a donor.

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