Dear diet culture, I’m busy surviving a pandemic


Enjoying life in quarantine.


I remember when quarantine started. I watched sitcoms, read books I hadn’t previously had the time for and indulged in my mother’s baked goods. In other words, I was feeling great. It wasn’t until mid-August that I looked in the mirror and thought, “there is definitely more of me here than there was before.” 

My thoughts made me question why, in the middle of a global pandemic, when the world seems to be ending, we are still stigmatizing weight gain? My life felt pretty complete until the quarantine started to end, and I had to walk back into reality. But instead of reflecting on everything that I got to enjoy, I was bombarded with “Quarantine 15” regimens telling me I need to lose weight. I say: Unfollow those “fitspirational” social media influencers, and ditch the detox teas because your body doesn’t owe the world anything. 

The scale confirmed my suspicion, and I frantically reflected on what had gotten me into this position. Should I have worked out more? Do I need to skimp on dessert from now on? Can I go on a diet? According to the internet, the answer is mostly yes.

Many (including myself) felt uncertainty during the quarantine, and food has always been a coping mechanism for me. 

Pre-quarantine I tried it all thanks to the internet and my gullible, desperate mind. As a 17-year-old, I’ve tried out the keto diet, detox juice cleanses, intermittent fasting and the Whole30 diet because a skinny woman online told me I needed it. I didn’t do it because I wanted to be healthy; I did it because I wanted to look like her. 

My journey to find a health and fitness plan that suits my needs is a long one. Like everything else, when I wanted to know something, I simply Googled it. My search history consisted of phrases such as, “how to lose weight fast,” “healthy breakfast ideas” and “ab workouts.” You can see a bit of a theme. 

And while these searches aren’t inherently misleading, the articles I found were. I soon developed the idea that “health” looked like lettuce and jogging. My calorie intake was 1200 calories per day, which is perfect for a toddler. 

I went on like this for years, so when I heard that I’d be quarantined for the next who-knows-how-long, I was a little concerned. I knew I’d be eating more and moving less, and if there’s anything I’ve learned from my toddler-eating days, it’s that I’d rather die than live a life without bread and chocolate. 

During quarantine, I fully embraced this all-in mentality. It was liberating. I ate when I wanted to and found myself stopping when I was full. Diet culture told me that I wasn’t capable of doing that. I finally felt like I was establishing trust in myself. 

That’s why I felt a little dismayed during back-to-school season, and I found my social media emblazoned with one message: YOU NEED TO LOSE WEIGHT. 

No, people I’ve never met and who know nothing about me, I don’t. My quarantine mantra is that there isn’t “good” or “bad” food. Food is just food, and I’m giving my body more credit from now on. 

So if you’re seeing this and find yourself in the same position I once was, I’m here for you. Eat the piece of cake you told yourself you couldn’t, or eat an apple instead. I can’t tell you what to do either. Don’t worry about what you see on social media. Those people don’t know your body like you do. Relish in the fact that you’re surviving a pandemic, and appreciate your body for the way it protects you.