As far as weight goes, I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum. Back when I was in middle school, I was at my heaviest and most awkward.
Most of us were. However, during that time period, the way you looked really seemed to matter. And thanks to television shows and print ads in magazines, it was hard for me to really be convinced that I was wrong about that.
I’ve also been too thin. The type of thin where people felt like it was appropriate to go up and ask me things like, “Is the sugar-free Red Bull what makes you so skinny?” (The answer to that was no. It was mostly depression and stress.) No matter what, it just seemed like my weight was always a topic of discussion.
It’s something I, and many other women, have grown really sensitive about. If a guy puts on a few pounds, nobody’s quick to point it out. The second a woman gains weight, they’ve “let themselves go.” As if we have a mission to be thin for someone else’s approval. It’s even harder after giving birth, especially since many celebrities make it look easy to “bounce back.”
With time, I’ve become much happier. My husband is supportive of me being healthy but has never expressed a preference. If I gain a few, he’d never say a word. It’s a reminder that it’s what’s inside that counts. But it’s also hard to compare that to the message that the media has tried to push on me for decades. For years, tabloids have openly mocked people for being a little thicker and (gasp!) still having the audacity to wear a bathing suit. And that’s where my true issue lies.
During these times of sheltering at home and feeling scared and vulnerable, I’ve put on a little bit of weight. But here’s why I’m trying not to let it get to me — and why you shouldn’t, either.
1. Right now, we're in survival mode.
We really are. Going into this, we didn’t know what groceries would be available. And we also didn’t really know who to trust. Some of these issues are still around us. For example, while I’ve had frozen broccoli on my grocery list for weeks, the store has been sold out of it every time. Frozen fruit has also been a huge struggle. We try to buy fresh, but since a lot of produce doesn’t have the greatest shelf life, that’s been yet another challenge.
In my head, my goal is to make the healthiest meals I can for my family. But sometimes, you just need to work with what you have and be thankful for what you were able to pick up. It’s just so much harder to count calories when you have restrictions like this.
2. Face it — food can be comforting.
There are plenty of comforts in life. For some, it’s going to the gym every morning. Others really like to shop, and they find retail therapy to be a good solution for a tough week. Others take pleasure in a really good cooked meal, or a snack after dinner.
Right now, snacks are one of the most easily accessible ways of finding comfort. So on certain nights, I’ve found myself gorging on chips and queso. In the moment, it helps. Of course, this isn’t the healthiest coping mechanism, but for right now, it is what it is.
As things are starting to normalize and I’m getting more used to the at-home schedule, I’m trying harder to pull the reins in. I know that long term, this is a bad example to set for my daughter. But the world hasn’t seen anything like this in some time. So I’ve learned to forgive myself for choosing to cope this way for this particular period.
3. Your true friends won't notice your 10 lb. gain, especially now.
Nor should they. Unless your habits have gotten into dangerous routines, like constant binge-eating, you shouldn’t worry about some of your health routines taking a brief vacation for now. And the only people who should have an interest in your weight are you and your doctor. The second someone tells you that it “looks like you’ve gained a few” is right when you should cut them out for a little bit. It’s just rude, especially now.
This virus has changed everything. Nobody’s going to their gym classes, and nobody’s able to manage their stress the way they did weeks ago.
4. There are more pressing things to put your energy toward.
Are you working from home, but also homeschooling? That means you’re literally taking on two full-time jobs right now without the resources and materials you need. That’s a lot of pressure on anyone. There’s a good chance that you don’t get any real breaks during the day, and you’re likely exhausted.
While it’s important for me to keep tabs of where my weight is, I also know that stressing about it too much will just add to my mental pile of things I need to do. A healthier routine will come along with time, and it’s slowly getting better. For example, I’ve tried to fit in more quick walks around my neighborhood during the day, just to move my legs and get fresh air. I’m more interested in making small changes every day.
5. Health takes on many forms.
Overeating is not good. Building healthy, long-term habits should be everyone’s goal. But there are so many different types of health to consider.
I’ve had problems with anxiety and depression. As with many, my depression has gotten slightly worse since all of this began. Suddenly, I’ve had to deal with dark thoughts and the worry that this will never really get better. It can be hard to give your all and see no room for improvement. While a bowl of Doritos won’t solve things, it’ll make me temporarily feel better.
Doritos aren’t the cure for mental health. If you’re struggling, the best person to see is your doctor. But on a temporary basis, I’d rather take the bowl than deny myself the chance of any sort of “reward” for putting my best work in.
6. The unhealthy stuff is often cheaper, which is a big deal for many budgets right now.
If you lost your job, or you’re having issues with getting paid unemployment benefits, you have a lot on your mind right now. While some creditors have been forgiving, others expect their rent and utilities on time. If you normally shop fresh at Whole Foods every week, that may be a luxury you can no longer afford.
That’s why plenty of us have resorted to eating the way we did in college. Ramen noodles are filling and inexpensive. Campbell’s Soup may be heavy on the sodium, but it’s a great go-to lunch that won’t require a lot of time and prep. Small changes like that may be enough to expand your waistline a little bit. But right now, that’s OK. It’s better to gain a couple of pounds right now than go into debt just because of your grocery bill.
7. It's become harder to plan meals in advance.
The tough part about this virus is that product availability (or lack thereof) isn’t just the fault of people hoarding supplies. If too many people on the farm or in the factory get sick, places might not have the labor to get all of their shipments out. The more people who get infected, the tougher it’ll be to make sure your grocery list is completely fulfilled.
Since all of us want to go out as little as possible, making multiple grocery trips to different stores isn’t the wisest of solutions. That means that if it’s between skim milk and whole milk, or fresh eggs and a prepackaged product, you’ll be introducing a lot of new items into the mix. Your main goal right now should be “fed.”
8. In the grand scheme of things, other priorities come first.
Not all of us are able to fund a home gym to make up for the fact that our gyms are closed. Especially since that money is likely needed for other aspects of life. For those of you who still have employment, you may be saving some money just in case things take another turn. If you’re trying to scrape by right now, you’re probably more focused on whether or not you can keep the lights on.
There are more important things than the number on the scale. Your happiness comes first. Your family’s happiness is also important. Trying to get through this the safest way possible is also on the list. The sooner we all deal with the situation for what it is, the more quickly we can go back to our healthier routines. So maybe put the scale away for just a little bit, and be easy on yourself right now.