Quarantine sucks in a thousand different ways. I’m not walking as much, I’m working out at home, we’re eating and drinking differently, and ultimately, I gained weight. Most of my old clothes, especially my workout clothes, no longer fit. In addition to feeling frustrated, anxious, and depressed about the current state of the world, I also feel bad about myself and my body. I’ve always been an athlete, petite, and relatively small. And now I’m a weight and size I’ve never been before. It sucks.
At first, I tried to fight it. I committed to walking more, eating less crap and more veggies, and watching what I eat in general. But that didn’t feel good either. I was stressing about what I ate and how my body looked, and obsessing over food. And I was hungry.
When listening to one of the few bright spots in my life, Seek Treatment, the guest (I THINK) Malin von Euler-Hogan mentioned the book, The Fuck It Diet by Caroline Dooner and how it changed her relationship with her body and food. I bookmarked the book and didn’t revisit. Until Quar.
I started listening to it and was instantly sold. Dooner is not a medical professional or dietitian, but she does draw upon studies and research and of course her own experience yo-yo dieting and hating herself. And the ultimate wisdom of the book boiled down is so simple it’s dumb: eat when you’re hungry, your body will settle where it needs to be. As humans, we’re not designed to be skinny, and we’re definitely not designed to restrict how we eat in any way.
The one study that really stuck with me was the Minnesota Starvation Study. The psychological effects of restricting food made the subjects irritable and moody, and gave them severe body dysmorphia. And then when they were allowed to eat “intuitively” again, they had to eat WAY more than the calories they’d normally need to restore their bodies’ equilibrium.
It’s obvious, right? Or else, it should be. Eat when you’re hungry, and stop making food seem bad. And love your body as it should be, not as how society tells us a good body should be.
One really helpful thing about The Fuck It Diet is that you can sign up for her bonus material that gives writing prompts to help explore your own hangups with food or your body. Journaling – as lame as it seems – has helped me understand how little my weight or appearance means in the grand scheme of things. It doesn’t make me any better at my job to be skinny. It doesn’t make me any more loving of a girlfriend or daughter or friend. It says nothing about my brain or how smart or thoughtful I am. It doesn’t mean I can’t be strong — I’m still working out, not for how it makes my body look, but how it makes me feel.
Another thing I try to remind myself of is that when I was my “skinniest,” I was miserable. I was arguably at my most fit while I was cheering in high school and college. And while I was active for hours a day, I was also out of my mind with untreated anxiety, crying constantly and having panic attacks over virtually nothing. And so when I remember that time in my life, I don’t remember being fit or having abs. I remember hating other parts of my life.Another thing I’ve discovered is how important food really is to me. Some of my best memories of my family are of food my mom or dad cooked, or restaurants we went to. Now, cooking meals from scratch for my family and friends (or mostly, just Andrew) brings me so much joy, and I can genuinely enjoy the food and company and try not to worry about it.
But even now, it’s definitely not easy. Psychologically, it’s very stressful to wake up every day and see my body in a way it’s never been, in a culture that tells me it’s bad to change this way. And it’s equally frustrating when some of my most favorite clothes don’t fit anymore. But that’s actually the fun part.
Typically, I am the kind of person who will hang onto things that I love but no longer wear or use, and then one day I will just get rid of it. I was hanging onto a lot of my favorite clothes for the past few months, “in case I did lose the weight,” and then one day I just decided to move on. I listed a bunch on Poshmark, and essentially got a whole new workout wardrobe in a matter of weeks, thanks to the Lululemon and Athleta annual sales. And it feels incredible. To size up even one size held a lot of emotional baggage for me, but as soon as I put on my new shorts and tops that actually fit and were functioning the way they should, I felt like a million bucks. And now I have all this new stuff to look forward to wearing!
In the words of a Olivia Muenter, Philly-based influencer that I really admire, “It isn’t a win or a loss if your clothes fit differently now than they did in March. You didn’t “fail” or “succeed” if you’ve gained or lost weight during quarantine; you just existed. And not only that, but you managed to get through one of the most stressful, scary times most of us have ever known.” Seriously, followher.
So here’s my reminder: yes, we are in unprecedented times. But even in normal times, your body doesn’t define you. We’re never guaranteed a tomorrow, and we’re definitely never guaranteed the “perfect body.” So let’s enjoy what we can in this fucked up world, and stop punishing ourselves. It’s the least we can do.