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A touchy subject: COVID-19 and the COVID 19... pounds

It’s kind of a running joke now, people talking about how much weight they’ve gained over the course of this quarantine and pandemic.

Although I don’t find it very funny.

Eating disorders love nothing more than isolation and aloneness. Like mold or termites, they thrive in dark, lonely places. And like mold and termites, they’ll tear down your foundation a little bit at a time, until the walls fall in on you.

I’ve struggled with eating disorders since my teenage years, but no one knew it. This quarantine could have been my undoing, after two+ years of therapy and pages and pages of writing about my disorder.

The media isn’t helping. It’s summer, which is normally a booming time for weight loss ads, from WW to Jenny Craig to random non-FDA approved supplements that guarantee a bikini body in six weeks. And since we’re all home more often, and on our devices more than usual, we are bombarded by images of thin and wispy women, buff men, beautiful people, and the message that we are not quite good enough and if we only lost however many pounds, we’d be perfect.

And now companies are taking advantage of our lockdown status, telling us we should be losing the COVID-19 pounds, racking up miles on the Peloton, joining WW online, and generally reprimanding us for anxiety eating. Not cool.

There’s no such thing as perfect, and being thin does not guarantee happiness. Losing 40 pounds will not make one magically forget childhood trauma, or rebuild a self-esteem long damaged. It just means you buy a different size pant.

My eating disorder is called ARFED – Avoidant-Restrictive Feeding and Eating Disorder. There is nothing I love more than someone telling me what I can’t eat. I’ve done all of them – Candida diet, low carb, no carb, Atkins – all except Keto, but only because I was in therapy already when that particular diet got popular.

Give me a list of foods to avoid and I will gleefully not eat them for as long as I can, and feel far superior to others.

Until I can’t, and then I eat them, and then I feel terrible.

Over the last two years, I’ve worked hard to disassociate my self-esteem with what I put in my mouth. Food is fuel, and necessary for living. It is something we consume to give our bodies energy to go forth and do the things we love, like breathing, thinking real hard, and Pilates.

I have been much thinner than I am now, but each of those times I was at my thinnest, I was also unhealthy and miserable. It’s hard to let go of the idea that I should be thinner, because that’s basically a part of my DNA now. However, that voice is becoming smaller and more distant. I can eat now more normally. I can enjoy my food and stop when I’m full. I can eat Chick-fil-A for breakfast now and then and not feel bad about it or punish myself by over-exercising (that’s another of my disorders but we’ll save that for another day).

If you’re struggling with eating during the quarantine, that’s normal, but don’t listen to the outside world. You’re perfect just the way you are. You don’t need to take on new exercise routines, unless you want to, and are doing it because you enjoy it, not to punish yourself.

If you gained weight over the quarantine, so be it. It changes nothing about your worth.

Same if you lost weight. You’re no more superior than anyone else. Your worth is not a direct correlation to your weight. Weight is just mass times gravity. Math.

It’s just a number, and it’s one you don’t necessarily need to know. I don’t know how much I weigh, although I’ve lived with this disorder long enough to probably make a pretty accurate guess. It doesn’t matter.

If I keep saying that often enough, I might believe it 100% one day.

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