If you gained weight during Covid, read this
a) you are not alone, b) maybe that’s a good thing
And, sure enough, another pair of pants didn’t fit.
The pile in front of me was getting smaller and I was getting more and more confused.
I was trying to pack for my first work trip after 18 months, which, in the past, was a quick routine. This time, after 30 minutes of struggle, I was able to find 2 pairs of pants that I could still wear and that was a success. I put them in my suitcase and went in front of my mirror to investigate my body a bit more closely.
Am I the only one struggling to squeeze myself into my old business clothes from the pre-pandemic time? Hell no. Our lives have changed, our bodies have changed, no surprise there.
Colleagues told me that they’ve been struggling with pants, with shirts, with blazers. Some were recommending brands that make work pants out of the material for yoga pants, more comfy and forgiving compared to your ordinary work pants. Some tried diets, some are adjusting workout regimes. Mostly everyone is acutely aware of the changes we are all going through.
I am not sure how much weight I gained during the pandemic. I am not weighing myself for years now because I believe it is a form of torture hidden behind the cold hard numbers. Numbers that ultimately do not matter. But I knew that it’s happening based on my clothes.
If you asked me in the past how I would feel about gaining weight, I would probably tell you that I consider a weight gain as a failure. Even though I was never considered overweight or even chubby, even though I have never been on a diet and have no history of eating disorder, I could not stay immune to the cultural conditioning that being skinny is somehow virtuous and that we should all be trying to lose weight all the time.
Being skinny makes me feel sexy, accomplished, and appreciated. As if I am doing something right. Society gives me thumbs up.
But I also know that in the periods when I was the skinniest, I certainly wasn’t my best and healthiest self.
I was manic, obsessive, drinking excessively, always being on the go, frustrated, and deeply, deeply unhappy. The desirable number on the scale or the small jeans size could not fix my deep pain and insecurity. Yet, being skinny is sold to us as THE solution. Which, of course, it’s not.
I knew that I was gaining weight throughout the pandemic and the fact that I couldn’t put my old pans on after 18 months just came as a checkpoint, as a confirmation. I noticed it and frankly, I didn’t really care. I had much bigger things to worry about.
Aside from the pandemic, recession, isolation, and general turmoil, my body wasn’t working properly. I wasn’t able to sleep, I was depressed, and I had several panic attacks. There were times when I couldn’t get out of my bed in the morning and days full of deep fatigue, during which I could only lie on the floor, frozen. Sometimes I would cry for hours and my entire body would shake as if hit by the earthquake. It was fucked up.
Do you think that I could afford the luxury of worrying about gaining a few extra pounds? Hell no. I had much more pressing issues to deal with.
I took many measures to improve my physical and mental health, but among other things, what helped me stabilize substantially were the antidepressants that my psychiatrist prescribed.
For some antidepressants, a side effect is weight gain. And you know what? I didn’t give two shits about getting chubby. All I wanted my body and mind to start functioning properly. What I would wear, how sexy I would look, and will my bikini body be ready for the summer were trivial considerations I simply couldn’t waste my extremely limited energy on.
We were taught not to be grateful for our miraculous healthy bodies. Instead, we developed highly abusive ways to relate to our bodies.
We don’t appreciate our abbs for enabling us to breathe, speak, stand straight, laugh, twist and whatnot, we treat them as Instagram props that should be showcased but only if they fit into the strict 6-pack box.
We don’t appreciate our legs for taking us places, being able to run, skip, and jump. We want them to fit into tight pants and conform to fashion stereotypes of starved, zombie-looking, heavily photoshopped models.
We don’t appreciate our brains for helping us think, create and process the abundance of information. We feed it crap, we distract it, we don’t give it a rest, and we expect it to perform flawlessly forever.
I could list examples until tomorrow, but you got the point.
Our relationships with our bodies are abusive and that has to stop.
We can’t wait for our bodies to fail to start observing them differently, we can start right now.
Self-love and self-care do not necessarily have to include bath bombs, glasses of wine, expensive cosmetics, and Instagram-worthy moments. Perhaps self-care and self-love can be more generous, gentle, and forgiving. Perhaps the unconditional self-acceptance, that is: lovingly, kindly, empathetically loving, celebrating our imperfect, quirky selves, with all our ups and downs is what we are searching for when we talk about self-care.
If you gained weight during Covid, you are not alone AND you are worthy of acceptance and self-care. Before you go on a restrictive diet, make a crazy New Year resolution, or join the CrossFit gym, make a pause. Think about how this weight gain can be an opportunity for introspection, observation, self-compassion. Think about how influenced you are by the beauty standards, diet culture, and how affected we all are by the thin privilege.
Acknowledge everything your body and mind have done for you. Maybe your weight gain was a coping mechanism for all the stress and anxiety we’ve all been through. Maybe it’s not your failure, but rather a success to survive all this craziness and only gain a few extra pounds. We are not robots, but sensitive, interconnected human beings.
Of course, accepting where you are with love and kindness doesn’t mean that you have to continue sitting on the couch, eating chips, feeling self-righteous. See what your body wants and what kind of movement, exercise, and food feel the best.
Do whatever makes your body feel good. I know for me, it’s long walks, breaking into a sweat once a day, doing pilates in the morning, and yoga at night. You know your own body the best.
But whatever you do, make sure it comes from the place of love rather than hate and despair to fit into some imaginary standards.
Your turn. Did you gain weight during Covid? What was the most important lesson you learned on your journey? Share it in the comments below and let’s keep the conversation going.