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What Weight Gain Taught Me During the Pandemic

“Your parents should, like, go on a diet.”

These were some of the first words I heard after proudly showing a friend the family photo I carried in my backpack when we were only in kindergarten. At such a young age, I was already internalizing certain dialogues about body image and self worth. Were my parents less than because they were bigger than the other girls’ parents? Was I supposed to be ashamed of them? Was being “big” something that needed to be avoided like the plague?

As someone with plus-sized parents, I faced a lot of hurtful comments about their appearance as well as my own. People would be confused. How was I so skinny when I had “fat” parents? I even loathed when people would compliment me about being a size 0 because it would put that much more pressure on me to stay thin. 

My relationship with my body has always been complex. Some days, I would love wearing outfits that showed off my size, while other days I berrated myself for being even the tiniest bit bloated. All those harmful narratives about how women should look put dozens of toxic equations in my head. Skinny = being lovable, pretty, and seen. Fat = being last choice, homely, and ignored. Despite being so tough on myself, I still loved my friends and family for who they were. I just wasn’t able to give that same love to myself. 

Picture of myself in my semi-formal dress w/ personal photos blurred out in background
Original photo by Christina Puleo

This picture was taken before my semi-formal in 2018. I don’t know if being an athlete kept the weight off, or if I subconsciously ate less to tip the scale in my favor. But what I do know is that the pandemic turned my world, just as it did everyone else’s, upside down. 

At the beginning, I felt so unmotivated. I would alternate whether eating or sleeping would be my next activity, not caring how many turns each had in my rotation. I started to look at remote volunteer work as an alternative, but that didn’t change the way I felt about myself deep down. 

From the beginning of the pandemic to now, I probably have gained at least 20 pounds. The reason I don’t know the exact amount is because I found counting calories and tracking my weight would make me spiral. I finally came to accept my weight gain and began shopping for clothes that actually fit me, even if they weren’t the sizes I was accustomed to my whole life. I started re-posting body positive influencers on my Instagram stories and Facebook, hoping that anyone who felt like me would feel heard somehow. 

Photo of myself on my 21st birthday with the other person\'s face blurred for privacy
Photo by Christina Puleo

I’m not going to lie and say that my life is 100% perfect post-weight-gain, or that I have it worse than other oppressed folx. This is simply a personal struggle that I know many people deal with. I practice gratitude journaling everyday and realize that I am extremely lucky to be able to receive an education, have a job, and most of all, be healthy. If anything, this has taught me that there is more to life than just what I look like. 

I still have those days where I feel like I don’t fit in on campus, but seeing so many diverse body types wearing whatever clothes they want keeps me going on this journey of self-love and acceptance. I want to continue to learn more about my new body and what works best for it. If you’re feeling the same way as me, don’t be afraid to reach out! Being comfortable in your own skin starts from the inside out, one day at a time. 

Christina Puleo

Emmanuel '23

Christina is a Sophomore at Emmanuel College majoring in Writing, Editing & Publishing and minoring in Communications. When she's not reading or making art, you can find her taking long walks while listening to her favorite podcasts and playlists.
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