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Let’s Talk About Pandemic Weight Gain

On March 13, 2020, many of us woke up to an email in our University inboxes informing  us that classes had been cancelled for the day due to the coronavirus, and that there would be an additional update soon. What came next was a move to an online reality, which we are still living almost a year later. As we approach the one year anniversary of the move to online life, I can’t help but look back over the months and think of the ways my life has changed. I now spend most of my time sitting at my desk at home, wearing comfortable clothes, and only really leaving my apartment to get groceries or to take my dog for his daily walk. These last months, I have often found solace and comfort in food, whilst also transitioning to a life which is more stationary than I have ever experienced. The result? I have put on what I jokingly refer to as the “quarantine-15.” Rather than criticise myself and punish my body for taking up space, I have made the (sometimes very difficult) decision to show my body love and appreciation, regardless of the number on the scale or the way my “before time” jeans fit. I encourage you to make the same conscious choice as well. 

Even prior to the pandemic, many of us are likely to have had a somewhat precarious relationship with our bodies and food. This precarity is all too often compounded by the unachievable and unhealthy images we are confronted with via diet culture and social media. These negative messages surrounding food and our bodies have unfortunately continued despite the current health crisis. These messages fail to acknowledge the most important jobs that our bodies--no matter their size--have continued to carry out in spite of the pandemic: they have kept us healthy, they have kept us safe, and, most of all, they have survived. Surely, if for no other reason than this, they deserve our love and gratitude. 

More than simply showing our bodies basic appreciation for all that they have done for us throughout these difficult times, this appreciation should be unconditional. I know for many of us this unconditional appreciation is incredibly difficult and may even feel unattainable, but I prefer to look at this as an aspiration for each day. Each day, no matter what I have eaten, how much exercise I have done, or how productive I have been, I aim to be kind to myself and my body, hoping to appreciate all that she does for me, regardless of the day’s events. For instance, in my spare time, I have turned to baking as a coping mechanism. Along with this comes a lot of sweets, which I very often overindulge in (i.e. stress eat). However, I’ve come to realize that so long as I am not eating a piece of cake for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, 365 days a year, it really does not make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things, and hence, there is simply no point in punishing myself--my body--for a simple indulgence in a time when small joys are often few and far between. 

If you do anything today, be kind to yourself and your body. If your weight has changed or your jeans are tighter than they were 12 months ago, remember this: weight is nothing but a number, and you can buy new jeans. You can’t, however, purchase a new body. So appreciate all that it does for you, even if you don’t always love its shape or size. 

Stephanie Shin

U Alberta '22

Stephanie Shin (she/her) is a third year honours pre-law student, majoring in sociology and minoring in political science. When she's not studying fervently, you can find her enjoying a book, sipping at a cup of tea, playing with her miniature dachshund, Bentley, and spending entirely too much money on food.
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