I was inspired to write this post in response to copious posts, memes, and comments popping up on social media about pandemic-related weight gain. Colloquially referred to as “the Covid 19” (a play on the infamous “freshman 15” stereotype), these posts come across tongue and cheek, but carry an undercurrent of anxiety and negative self-evaluation.
As an eating disorder recovery therapist and advocate of the “Health at Every Size” model, I’d like to offer you 4 insights to shift the way you think about weight and improve the way you relate to your body.
Remember: Weight fluctuation is normal.
In case you needed it, here is a reminder that you’re supposed to weigh more than you did in high school, the layer of fat on your stomach is protecting your organs, and you were created to do more in this life than fit into an old pair of jeans (and doing so isn’t the answer to long term satisfaction).
Both diet and fitness culture profit off the notion that the number on a scale magically correlates to a beauty, and by extension, worth and health. The reality is our bodies fluctuate over the course of our lives, and both weight and health are the result of countless variables, many of which are outside of our control.
It may be worth taking some of the frustration your directing inwardly and using that energy to question the very systems perpetuating these false narratives.
Shift the goal to body neutrality
It may seem unrealistic and ultimately discouraging to endeavor to “like” your body, let alone love it. That is okay! I invite you to try shifting your goal to “body neutrality”, where thoughts of weight and appearance take up little to no headspace. This has the secondary benefit of freeing up your mind to focus on the things you really care about.
It can be helpful to think of body image on a spectrum, from “wanting to want to like your body” (you read that right), to “body acceptance”, “body appreciation”, and ultimately “body positivity or neutrality”. Where on this spectrum do you fall? There is no judgement. Can you work from there?
PSA: “fat” is not a feeling
As a therapist I have seen my fair share of “emotion words” lists. Nowhere on any of them is “fat” listed as a feeling. Maybe because…it is not one.
If you find yourself thinking this way, take a moment to reflect on it is you are feeling. Perhaps you are feeling insecure, unlovable, worthless, inadequate, or out of control. This may secondarily trigger sadness, self-directed anger, or even fear.
Practicing awareness of what you are truly feeling creates space for you to cope more productively and identify where the real healing may need to occur.
Recognize when you have fallen into the comparison trap.
As I alluded to earlier, weight and health are the result of an amalgamation of things. To borrow an analogy from “Poodle Science” (linked below), you would not criticize a mastiff for weighing more than a poodle- they are not wired the same.
In the same way, the amount of nutritional fuel you need to thrive and operate on all cylinders is different than the person next to you. This is a result of genetics, variances in daily activity, and more.
And keep in mind there may be more to the story behind someone else’s weight loss you just do not know about- including but not limited to an eating disorder or other medical condition. This is one reason among many I advocate against commenting on other people’s bodies: we have no idea what they may really be going through.
To borrow a quote from eating disorder recovery specialist Jennifer Rollin: “Your ideal weight is whatever weight you reach when you are mindfully nourishing yourself with food and movement that you actually enjoy, fully engaging in life.”
Christian Makenna Clements is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist #111159.