I Need You to Know It's OK to Gain Weight While Social Distancing
All across the world right now, many of us are practicing social distancing in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the new viral strain in the coronavirus family that affects the lungs and respiratory system. While unfortunately not all of us are complying yet, many states have thankfully begun enforcing shelter-in-place and curfews. COVID-19 is a serious matter. It’s vital we take action now.
With many of us quarantining at home, lots of us are utilizing social media. And with us being on social media more frequently, we may be seeing an influx of diets and exercise routines placed right in front of our eyes. I’ve seen some people joke about gaining weight during this pandemic and becoming “ugly and fat.” It’s so important to not conflate the words “ugly” and “fat” because fat people do exist and there is no reason to insult them for existing. I love the quote, “I’m not pretty for a fat girl. I’m pretty. Period.”
If you are seeing lots of weight loss tips on your news feed, first of all, feel free to unfollow anyone posting them. It’s especially triggering to those in eating disorder recovery, so don’t feel bad for putting your health first. Weight loss posts can normally be triggering to us, but with the additional stress right now, it may seem more appealing to try it out. Know that you don’t need to lose weight with your free time. Please reach out to a professional if you need support. Many therapists are utilizing video sessions right now.
As well as not having to lose weight, I’m here to tell you that it’s perfectly OK if you gain weight during this time. It makes perfect sense. Some of us are stress eating or emotionally eating. Some of us are choosing to relax. Some of us can’t exercise as much. Some of us are snacking more. Some of us have more time on our hands and feel bored.
While I’m not eating more than usual, I’ve found that I’ve been eating my food quickly, likely due to stress and anxiety. Many of us are overstimulated right now. I bet many of us have trouble turning off the news or putting down our phones. I personally want to know the latest updates so I can be aware and abide by laws and regulations to keep myself and others safe.
I enjoy practicing intuitive eating, which is a wonderful practice of mindfulness to combat disordered eating or eating disorder behaviors. I slow down, notice how my food tastes, listen to my hunger-fullness, check in with my thoughts and emotions and am aware of how the food is affecting my different senses. However, we may not be able to practice intuitive eating right now due to stress, worry or anxiety about COVID-19.
One of my previous therapists, who specializes in eating disorders, told me it’s OK to sometimes use food to cope, when I shared with her I felt suicidal when I was a teenager. She said she’d much rather me lean on this coping mechanism than not be alive. While of course, we want to lessen eating disordered behaviors and have a nourishing relationship with food, sometimes stressors arise where we have limited means of coping. We sometimes use food to cope. And that’s OK. We are human. We aren’t perfect. We are ultimately trying to protect ourselves, cope and feel better.
It’s heartbreaking that many people in recovery from eating disorders are struggling with quarantining right now, because that mirrors self isolation, which is something many of us struggle with in the depths of our illnesses. In treatment or therapy, we are told to not isolate and to be around supportive people. Right now, that’s going to look a bit different because we can’t physically see every person we’d like to see, and we must self quarantine. I encourage people to video chat and text their supports right now. It’s not the same, but it is a way to keep connected and ideally feel less alone.
We may come out of this quarantine however many pounds heavier, but is that really a bad thing? If that’s the worst thing to happen, we did good. If you gain weight right due to emotional eating, snacking or eating more, or not exercising as much as you usually do, you are still the same person you were before. Your worth doesn’t decrease or disappear if you gain weight.
If you’re struggling with the idea of gaining weight right now, I encourage you to write down five things you like about yourself, that have nothing to do with your appearance. You could even write it in the “Notes” section in your phone so you can access it quickly as a reminder. Are you a good friend? Are you a good listener? What do other people value about you? If you gain weight in the near future, take out this list and read it over. Take it in. You are more than your body. Weight gain could never change what people love about you.
Here are mine:
1. I’m compassionate. It helps me be understanding of others.
2. I’m a talented writer and artist. I express myself through writing and art and other people value my work.
3. I’m perceptive of other people’s emotions. I am quick to pick up on other people’s feelings, which means I can offer support and kindness.
4. I’m mindful and self aware.
5. I value my friendships and enjoy making friends feel special and loved.
Please know it’s OK to gain weight while social distancing.
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GettyImages photo via Joko Yulianto