Have you noticed the extraordinary number of lockdown weight gain memes on social media since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Weight gain is inevitable for many of us during this period of uncertainty. We have been told to social distance, to stay at home – in some ways we have gone into a sort of hibernation. Many of us are increasing our calorie intake as we turn to food as a way to quell boredom, ease our anxieties, or as an activity to help pass the time, and that may mean a few extra pounds here and there.
But why are we so bothered by a little bit of lockdown weight gain, and how do these memes make you feel?
For many, the memes are humorous, and humour can act as an effective way to reduce anxiety and help people to feel part of a collective larger group. This is part of the reason why these memes are so widely shared.
However, for those suffering with eating disorders, I can understand how upsetting the lockdown weight gain memes could be. They tap into your deepest wounds, make light of issues that cause your pain, and are seen as demonising weight gain and undermining the acceptance of all body sizes. So while these memes may feel inclusive and comforting to some, it’s important to remember they are ostracising and offensive to others.
Personally, I have gained a few pounds over the lockdown period. And while this would have caused me extreme distress 25 years ago, I can honestly say that today, it doesn’t really bother me too much. If you do have negative thoughts and feelings about gaining weight during lockdown, I’d like to share some ideas about how you might reframe these, and ultimately, help you to be a little kinder to yourself and care a bit less about it.
Gaining some weight may mean you have been doing your job
Let’s look at the bigger picture here: by staying at home you have done your job and played your part in doing your best to protect yourself and others. Something you absolutely SHOULD be doing.
Weight gain is a natural consequence of less movement, and it’s natural to eat more if your opportunities for finding pleasure in the world are more limited right now. Having said that, if you feel that food is your sole source of pleasure and comfort, and you are compulsively turning to food for these reasons, please take the time to read my post on The Differences between Emotional Eating and Binge Eating.
Lockdown weight gain is temporary
If you’ve gained a few pounds, it’s because your lifestyle has temporarily changed. Most of us have been more sedentary than usual with the restrictions on exercise, and that might mean gaining a few pounds. It won’t always be this way, and already, we are slowly starting to ease lockdown rules and get out and about more.
Remember the blog post I wrote on ‘Summer and Your Set Point Weight’? Your ‘set point’ weight range is where your body performs at its best. If you have gained some weight and you feel uncomfortable with this, trust that your body will know exactly what to do and will always try to return you to your natural set point. In this instance, I trust that our bodies will do this when we return to our normal routines in due course.
“A couple of kgs does not a person make”
Your weight does not define who you are, nor does it affect the person you are inside. You are so much more than your weight. It’s ok to gain a few pounds; it does not make you a terrible person and you should not feel guilty or ashamed because of it.
Instead of focussing on the kgs, focus on the joy you have experienced gaining those kgs. When I look at my ‘Corona belly’, I see the beautiful lemon pound cake I made (and ate copious portions of) with my daughter, the new recipes I have tried, and my new found discovery of Sloe Gin! If my belly could speak, it would smile and say, “Thanks for the memories, Courtney, I’ve had a fab time!”
Eating is a natural way to cope with distress, and it’s a very distressing time!
People are really frightened by the COVID-19 pandemic. They are frightened for their health and their economic stability. It’s really hard to prioritise the more superficial things in life when there are bigger and more important things to focus on. This strange and unusual time has presented us with the opportunity to reflect and consider it’s not what you look like that’s important, but who you are as a person.
I bet you’ve not stopped to appreciate just how clever you are for being so resourceful when so many of our basic pleasures have been taken away, for example going to the cinema, theatres, cocktail bars, etc.
While we can’t go out and socialise in the many ways we are used to, you may have turned to food as a coping mechanism. Lots of people have been taking the opportunity to cook something they’ve never had time to make before. Food is a pleasure that is accessible to us all. It’s stimulating, beautiful and sensual, and a fantastic way of creating memories with our families as we navigate through these unprecedented times.
So next time you see a lockdown weight gain meme, be kind to yourself and delete it if you feel hurt or offended by it. And though it may be difficult, try to remember that for many, this humour is a tonic that helps them feel connected and comforted during these extraordinary times. I understand how the memes can be upsetting, but I hope reading this post has empowered you to care a little bit less about them and those extra few pounds.
Take care and stay safe,
Dr Courtney x