By Danielle Lane, Managing Editor
A few months ago I heard on a podcast that a young woman was worried about seeing her family for the first time in over a year due to the weight she had gained during the pandemic. She was worried about what her family would think: would they judge her, think less of her, or speak about her behind her back? She asked the hosts of the podcasts what she should do and if she should cancel the visit with her family altogether.
A couple of weeks later I overheard some of my mom’s friends talking over Zoom about a new diet they were all trying. My mom’s friends would fast for 24 hours, eat regularly for a day, and then fast for another 24 hours. Over and over again they would repeat this until they reached their desired body weight and size. They all felt that they had “let themselves go” during the pandemic and wanted to look good as they made their reentry into society.
I was shocked when I heard this. I sat in utter horror hearing these women speaking about themselves and their bodies so judgmentally and critically. Here were a group of successful wives, mothers, and working professionals so casually reducing their self-worth to the size of their jeans. There was no mention of the things these women had accomplished during the pandemic, no talk about the memories made with the bonus time they got with their children, not a word about the resiliency of these women who had kept their families functioning during a massive global trauma.
These two experiences got me thinking about the way in which we view ourselves and the weight we put on weight. As someone who gained almost 20 lbs during the duration of the pandemic, I related to what all these women were saying. I have clothes that no longer fit, stretch marks in new places, and an increased awareness of the space I take up. I struggled, just like the women on Zoom, to accept this current chapter of my body.
But then I took a step back. I backed away from the mirrors and the scales, I stopped comparing myself to the perfectly crafted images I was seeing on social media and the women around me who had gotten in shape during the pandemic. I put in real time and effort to not only accept but love the skin I am occupying.
This is a long conversation, and it should be. Self-love is an ongoing, life-long journey. One moment, one article, one writer is not enough but hopefully it can start a much-needed conversation. I know that this unconditional love I have for myself might not last forever, and that’s okay because I also know that the size of my body is the least interesting thing about me. The little letter on the tags of my clothes is the least defining thing about me. And the number on the scale is the least important thing about me.
I am so much more than the size of my body. I am a student, a daughter, a sister, and an aunt. I am a loyal friend and a passionate advocate. None of that changes with the fluctuation of my weight. Yes, I gained weight during the pandemic, but I also gained a niece, cooking skills, and a profound appreciation for my community and family. The people I am lucky enough to love and be loved by are in no way affected by the size of my body, if anything they are luckier now than they were before the pandemic because there is literally more of me to love.
As Instagram-er and body positivity advocate William Hornby (@willaimhorby) put it: “your body has kept you alive during a deadly global pandemic, and you’re upset with it because it doesn’t look the way you want it to? It had other priorities, and it delivered on them.”
As we enter into this new phase of life let us hold space to appreciate that our bodies are wonderful and powerful entities that helped keep us going during a global pandemic. Let us remember that our bodies were built to change and that we should honor that change. And finally, it is literally impossible to hate yourself into a version of yourself that you will love so be gentle and kind always.