Pandemic Pounds: Reckoning With Internalized Fatphobia
Updated: May 3, 2021
I have to say, the early days of the pandemic were super chill for me. Aside from the news, I found it rather comforting to be in my own bubble; on my on schedule; and, on my own time. Most days were spent online shopping; binging on shows; and carving out an hour to workout since my usual spin classes were closed. My husband and I even started a roof workout routine right above our apartment a few times a week to get some fresh air. On one morning while skipping rope I thought, "Wow. Uninterrupted time with my love; no serious work to do; and a workout routine to ensure I don't get fat while we (naively) wait for the world to get 'back to normal.'" Wait, what did I just say? I almost instantly felt ashamed. I had always told myself I loved working out because I felt good moving my body. So, why was my first thought about gaining weight? I brushed it off and focused on counting my skips as I jumped rope.
Like everyone on the planet in early April and May I leaned hard into baking. The only difference is that I was testing recipes for cannabis-infused Keto-ish pastries. My husband and I were flying through our canna-oils, and I was stoned and munching with reckless abandon.
As time passed and it became more clear that the world wouldn't be going back to normal anytime soon, my attitude shifted. "I cannot gain weight, right now," I aggressively whispered to myself. Time for a detox/fast/smoothie. Anything, really, to offset decreased movement and quell my anxiety about indulging in so many treats.
For the next few months I tried a combination of restrictive eating, as much movement as pandemically possible & intermittent fasting. I found a groove with my workout routine and . I spoke lovingly to my FUPA like the incubating infant that strangers assumed it was. I chose affirmation. I focused on my studies. I wore flowy-er clothes. And, I actually maintained my weight for several months. But, alas the roar of summer begun to soften into a murmur. Schedules and colder temperatures quickly compounded the problem of getting outside to exercise. I could not say I was happy with the results.
For most of my teens and 20s I've dealt with some version of disordered eating and body image issues. I have to admit as an adult it became harder to distinguish between what was for health's sake vs. what was obsessive body control as many restrictions snuck their way into my 'wellness' routine--now, multiplied by the ongoing stress of a global health crisis. The pandemic has taken a major toll on all of our bodies and the global uptick in disordered eating is a symptom of our collective trauma.
According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), calls to its hotline are up more than 70% since last March, as people struggle to find healthy outlets for their stress.
People who suffer with anxiety and a history of eating disorders may find themselves triggered by stockpiling, food scarcity and less structure throughout the day. Some are even triggered by the warnings of obesity as a comorbidity to COVID-19 and find themselves relapsing into toxic diet culture. The truth is that the obsessive messaging we receive on a daily basis about what our bodies should or should not look like is disturbing. While marketing strategies have started to reflect a well-needed shift towards diversity and representation we continue to witness and accept the onslaught of harsh critiques of fat bodies (see: Anderson cooper calls Trump fat). And, in order to combat that we all need to call in ourselves, families and friends who perpetuate the hate.
In the days and weeks that have passed since those early days of the pandemic I have chosen to adopt more healthy ways of relating to food and my body. I have found that centering presence and finding ways to get out of my head and into my body have helped me to be more in touch with what I'm eating, and if there are any emotions within myself that I've neglected. I have committed to a daily meditation practice to bring my awareness into the present moment vs. vacillating between past and future anxieties that disconnect me from my bodily needs and force me into maladaptive coping techniques. I have begun to integrate the 3 principles of Health at Every Size (HAES) in order to negate internalized fatphobic diet culture. I hope you will too.