How your so-called “quarantine weight” is really a damaging idea
Graphic by Esra Rakab/Production Coordinator
cw: discussions of eating disorders, food and body image
As spring and summer roll around, the rhetoric we grew up hearing about the “perfect summer body” also comes around. Despite the dialogues about body positivity and eating disorders that are increasingly creeping up in our social dialogue, the societal norms of what is an attractive body still dominate our narrative.
Many people have always experienced a certain level of pressure to have a certain physical appearance and if one does not have what we can now call “pretty privilege,” they may be discriminated against.
Studies have shown that a bias against people who are not conventionally attractive is a very real phenomenon associated with how you are perceived on dating apps and even more surprisingly, one’s ability to gain promotions at work.
So how have the demands of beauty standards changed in our current time of the pandemic? With gyms closed and no need to dress well (albeit just a nice shirt for a Zoom meeting over your pyjama pants), how is it that we continue to be so self-conscious about our bodies, that we dread the moment our baggy winter sweaters leave us when warmer weather comes along?
Many online influencers on YouTube, TikTok and other popular social media platforms constantly preach about the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle through rigorous exercise and an impeccably “healthy” diet. “Quarantine workout routines” dominate the algorithms of all social media we consume, but I believe this trend to be of poor taste.
Saying that you need to maintain a rigorous exercise routine when all of us are isolated and locked in our house stems from a place of immense economical privilege, misinformation about the human body and a disregard for how our mental health is looking currently.
While there is absolutely nothing wrong with incorporating a reasonable exercise regimen and a nutritious meal plan in lockdown, for many of us, it is incredibly difficult to build a picture-perfect lifestyle as we’ve seen rich influencers do online.
With gyms being closed or inaccessible, not everybody has the means to buy workout equipment, the space in their living area to do exercises or the mental energy to be able to do the latest Chloe Ting challenge.
Many individuals are unable to afford nutritious food and are eating what they can to feel satisfied and have enough motivation to fight through another day.
The idea of the dreaded “quarantine weight” is unnecessarily punishing a whole generation of young people who were already greatly impacted by unrealistic expectations from photoshopped social media pictures prior to 2020.
It may be difficult to accept, but your body has allowed you to survive in the middle of a pandemic and it is enduring unbelievable amounts of stress on your behalf.
It is tempting to beat yourself about not having a perfect sleep schedule, a perfect work schedule, or a perfect diet and / exercise schedule like you see many thin online influencers claim to have in their “Get Ready with Me, Morning Routine Edition” videos.
But it’s okay to not have a perfectly aesthetic bedroom to sleep in and most importantly, it’s okay for you to enjoy food and not feel guilty about it.
Organizations such as McMaster’s own Women and Gender Equity Network even took the time to host virtual initiatives such as “Bodies are Dope” which addressed many of these issues and even provided spaces for racialized bodies to talk about some of their experiences.
If you are feeling alone during quarantine, WGEN provides weekly spaces for Mac students to drop by and talk about anything they feel is weighing on them. WGEN is also able to connect you with a variety of appropriate resources, should you need them.
Please be gentle with yourself and understand that even if you are unsatisfied with your body and wish to change it later on down the line, there is absolutely no rush to do so and you are allowed to take care of yourself at a pace that is right for you.