Quarantine 15? Maybe it’s time we merge the “wellness” conversation with the “body image” conversation
As a woman, I’m no stranger to body image issues.
It started when I was 13 and most of my friends were male. They definitely were not shy about telling me how much less attractive I was than other girls because they developed early.
Cut to 21 years later, it turns out they just “developed.” I’m OK with this now, and I actually have a very positive view of myself and my small breasts, but it took me years to get there.
This is what I’d call an example of “body positivity.” I have a body, and I love it for how it is. I don’t really care about what men think of it, nor do I care what other women think of it.
I have gained a few pounds during COVID- three to be exact. They’re a pesky three pounds that I acquired after I had a running injury. I’m not really working too terribly hard to remove them. I know that with the right diet, over the course of a few weeks, they’ll remove themselves. Those three pounds do not lend to me being “overweight” by any means.
Some people, though, gained a lot of weight during COVID. In this NY Times article entitled “Tailors Know New Yorkers’ Pandemic Secret: ‘Everybody Got Fat!’,” it states that in terms of alterations to account for weight gain, some tailors have seen a rise in business by 80%!
People, by in large, are accepting their weight gain, because “body positivity.”
Here’s where I see some some conflicts between the conversations about loving your body as it is, and the acceptance of your gaining “the Quarantine 15.”
Our society has slowly been moving toward this era of empowerment, trying to undo the damage of, well, exactly what happened to me- people shitting on us for how we look, and destroying our self esteem and own view of our worth. There’s been this rhetoric that people, particularly women, should love their bodies regardless of what they look like, and I think that’s really important. I think we absolutely should be moving in that direction and loving ourselves fully.
What people have been doing, since we’ve been on this course of self love, is accepting their bodies for exactly how they are. Again, very healthy. It’s very empowering for people to do that. Stretch marks? We all have them. Freckles? Sure. Some extra skin? I’ve got it, baby.
There’s just one main issue — people have been lumping “obesity” into the body positivity conversation, and obesity literally kills people.
As we’ve seen with COVID-19, obesity puts people at significantly higher risk to experience serious illness, or possibly death. You can read about that here, and here. (If you’re not a link clicker- it’s got a lot to do with stress on your organs and Ace 2 Receptors.)
Even before COVID, though, obesity has always led to very serious illnesses, usually acquired later in life, but sometimes, acquired at a young age. This isn’t really new.
I have been on the other side of obesity, but I was there for a very short period of time. I started walking down the overweight road at the beginning of my 30’s, and I thought “this is just how life is, now.” I looked at other people around my age and they seemed to be gaining a little weight too, and it was just something I chose to accept.
I thought that the darker skin where my legs rubbed together was just something women my age got as they got older. I was pretty sure the small aches and pains I had every day were commonplace. I developed some horrible sciatica, and I thought “well, my shoes are shitty.” I started experiencing unbearable acid reflux that just wouldn’t go away ,and I thought “my grandmother always talked about heartburn. It’s just a normal part of life.” My blood pressure was slightly elevated and I thought “well I’m just a little stressed because I’m at the doctor’s office.”
None of those things are a normal part of life, by the way. They were all the result of me not taking care of my own body.
Like a lot of things in society, people who are heavily involved in “wellness” tend to gravitate toward one another. People who aren’t as interested tend to gravitate toward other people who will reinforce that ideology. We spend time with people who are like us, as I’ve written in previous articles, and that is possibly the one thing that keeps us exactly where are, feeling how we feel, and looking how we look.
I was watching a PBS Thirteen special in January, right after the surge of New Years Resolutions, and this doctor on the program, Dr. Amen, said “find the healthiest person you can stand, and spend as much time around them as possible.”
I loved that, and I told a friend that I wanted to post about it to help people stay motivated with their resolutions. He said to me “don’t be the skinny bitch on Facebook.”
Fuck him. I never ended up posting it, but it got me thinking about my circle of friends, and the people I have surrounded myself with through the years.
I thought about how most of my friends right now are very health conscious, and agree with me that being healthy is possibly one of the most important things in your life. People who are into wellness, in general, don’t really talk about calories or the number on the scale. They talk about nourishing their bodies with good food.
Actually, this is one of the things I hate the most about Whole 30.
Whole 30 is a diet that is very, very good for you, and it’s effective! The name “Whole 30,” however, is self-defeating. There’s a deadline- an end point- with Whole 30. It lasts for 30 days, and then a lot of people just go right back to eating processed foods and foods that turn directly to glucose once they’re ingested, and they don’t ever learn about nutrition, or how your body utilizes food for energy. They just don’t ever “get it.”
This is because Whole 30 still tends to fall on the side of the “body image” conversation, rather than the “wellness” conversation. The short time frame and the usually drastic results push it over to former, when in actuality, it should be part of the latter.
You hear this stuff from people all the time on Whole 30:
“I can’t eat bread.”
“I don’t know.
This is a fine example of why we need to merge the conversations. People who are well, and want to remain well, want to know those answers. And I’m going to tell you the hardest truth you don’t want to hear, and that’s that if you want to remain well, you have to eat well for the rest of your life.
This isn’t to say you can’t have a piece of cake or a Wendy’s Triple Baconator (my personal favorite) every now and again, but, by in large, every day for the rest of your life should be focused on making healthy choices. It doesn’t end after 30 days. It never ends. It’s forever, like a diamond, or Herpes.
The issue you run into when you’re not joining the body image conversation with the wellness conversation is that weight gain, particularly quick weight gain, is a good indicator that something is not right in your body. You’re either not taking care of it, or something is acting up. You shouldn’t be overweight “just because.”
I say this, and the “wellness people” will say “100%, absolutely.” The “body image people” will probably be less happy with me. In reality, we should all be on the same team.
If someone has gained a lot of weight during the pandemic, we should absolutely not place judgment on them for why it happened, or judge their worthiness as a person because of their weight.
However, those people should want to get that under control, because, fuck, you should want to be healthy! Health is so precious, and we are seeing just how fragile we are every single day as we progress through this pandemic.
We really need to merge these conversations, because while you should love who you are, not all aspects of you indicate that you are well.
We shouldn’t blanket “accept” all parts of ourselves if they indicate that we may be headed toward serious illness. There are things we can’t change, like our eye color, stretch marks, some extra skin, hip dips, whether you’re an apple or a pear — all of this, but none of these things are going to kill you.
Obesity is something you can change, though, and it should very much be addressed. If you gained a whole ton of weight in quarantine, you should want to change it, because you deserve to live a long, healthy life. You deserve to not have a hard time when you’re in your 60's- or fuck, in your 40's! When you don’t take care of your body, you’re basically punching your 60-year-old self in the face. Don’t hate yourself like that.