Just say "no" to the COVID food police.
I entered “COVID weight gain” in Google and got 161,000,000 hits.
Here’s what I learned. That COVID-19 now also refers to the fear of gaining 19 pounds during quarantine; that you should be afraid of your refrigerator, now that you are home all day; that there are “ten tricks” to avoid stress eating; and that if you don’t control your appetite (in a pandemic) you are failing. In a pandemic, people.
Diet culture is screaming at us at the top of its lungs. Be. Very. Afraid.
Wait, don’t we have enough to be afraid of with a global pandemic and threat of second Great Depression?
If your internal food police have gotten louder, or you are afraid to put on “real” pants, or if you are feeling shame, please know that the messages are coming from the outside. The messages are insidiously harmful, stressful as hell, and totally false. We do NOT need more material to feed the fire of our stress response. It’s already blazing. With things that actually are scary.
We cannot afford to be at war with food and our bodies when we are in a crisis. We need all our physical, mental, and emotional resources to get through each day and do what needs to be done. Now more than ever, we need islands of peace.
We can’t wave a wand and make diet culture disappear. But, each of us gets to choose, what information and imagery we consume, how we react, what we believe, and how we behave.
So choose peace. I know, easier said than done. I’ve been at this for 42 years and I still struggle, daily. In all honesty, I probably think about my body more often than I think about anything else. And it has gotten worse now that I am home 24/7, now that food feels scarce, now that we are eating more shelf-stable foods so that we can minimize trips to the store.
So how do we choose peace? We start to notice the thoughts. We remind ourselves that they are not true. We have compassion for ourselves for the pain that the thoughts have caused us. We speak out. We read the words of fat people, of activists fighting weight stigma. We avoid images that trigger comparison and self-criticism. We try to see ourselves through the eyes of those who love us. We use positive affirmations. There are countless strategies – and all of them are counter-cultural.
Change won’t come all at once – it requires long-term repetition of new behaviors and thought processes. Imagine you are in a forest clearing and there are two paths home. One is a lovely pebble strewn path that you’ve walked back and forth on hundreds of times in your life. The other requires walking through waist-high grass using a compass to find your way. The paved path is diet culture and fatphobia. It’s familiar and it is safe. You know the way. But it is also lined with shame, struggle, fear, and failure. If you choose the other path, it’s going to take a LOT of repeated trips before it feels even remotely familiar, never mind habitual. But that way lies peace, freedom, ease, and endless possibilities for discovery and adventure.
If we all had the courage to follow the harder path, we would end weight stigma and discrimination, which are actually contributing to sickness and death right now. We’d stop circulating the weight-gain memes and fat jokes, which are acts of aggression against other humans who happen to be larger. We’d stop the off-hand comments that cause daily shame and trauma and fear. We’d stop accepting the fact that body weight remains, in 2020 America, a socially-acceptable excuse for discrimination, bullying, exclusion, and denial of care.
Choose to end the war with food and your body. Choose peace for yourself. Just try it once – that’s a start. Then we can reach out to each other and do this together.