Quarantine 15 is Real: Struggling With Body Image During Quarantine

Similar to the Freshman 15 (when a student gains around 15 pounds during their first year of college), it seems as though we now also have the Quarantine 15. Quarantine 15 is the 15-pound weight gain resulting from being stuck in self-isolation due to the coronavirus. It is not unusual to say that these two phenomenons are pretty similar.

I have lost track of how many days we have been stuck in quarantine, but I can feel myself slowly but surely going crazy from being stuck at home. COVID-19 has shut down so many parts of our lives in a rather abrupt manner, so it has been very difficult to adapt to. We’re no longer able to see our friends and families. We cannot go to restaurants, malls, movie theaters or other places that are usually teeming with people. We may be facing financial strains that may have exponentially exacerbated or have newly arisen.

Storefront Coronavirus noteAs a society, we are so used to always running nonstop and striving to do one thing after the other; however, the coronavirus has definitely put an end to our hectic schedules and lifestyles, and we have no idea when things will return to normal. Nowadays, we do not really know what to do with all our free time, and every YouTuber seems to be uploading “100 Things To Do When Bored” videos with activities that can only fill so many hours in a day.

However, one of the only things that seems controllable and can momentarily occupy our time is what you eat during the day. Although you cannot go to restaurants to eat out, you can still order in, cook, bake and eat whatever foods you want. However, this can definitely get out of hand. All the restlessness and anxiety resulting from being in quarantine can definitely lead to unhealthy methods of coping, especially eating and baking nonstop. This is what happened to me.

baking ingredients on a table next to a cupcake trayQuarantine 15 definitely hit me in a way that I did not really expect. At first, it was pretty unnoticeable. It came on gradually as I continuously gave myself the OK to eat another serving or eat ice cream for dessert for a whole week straight. I was cooking and baking a lot, and consequently, I was eating a lot. Before I knew it, the Quarantine 15 hit me like a truck. Seeing the photos that someone took of me did not fare well with pre-existing issues of negative body image.

I guess I probably should have also noticed that all of the unhealthy food eating and late-night snacking was leading to excessive mood swings, anxiety, restlessness and fatigue. After noticing my weight gain, I was really upset and disappointed in myself.  I had already been struggling with accepting my body and how it looked, but I felt that the quarantine undid my efforts to try to eat healthy foods and exercise prior to the pandemic.

I was stuck in a vicious cycle. I was unhappy with the way I looked, but I could not will myself to work out. Because I couldn’t make myself work out, I felt more frustrated and dissatisfied with myself. This turned into more stress eating, more weight gain and even more unhappiness with my body image.

This led me to binge-watch YouTube videos of what the skinny, seemingly confident and beautiful girls were eating and doing throughout their days in quarantine. I asked myself why I couldn't look like them and live a healthy lifestyle like them. Why couldn’t I be as productive and energized as them? Why did I lack the willpower to make myself workout?

I decided I was going to put an end to the pity party I was throwing myself. I decided that I should not compare myself to those girls who were living different lives and undergoing different situations and circumstances. Especially during this time of uncertainty, I realized it was okay to give myself a break and get back into it once I was ready. With this new understanding, I tried to work out consistently and eat healthy foods when I was able to.

The process was definitely not easy. Once, I nearly fainted in the shower after trying a new HIIT workout before fueling myself with food. One thing that I have found has worked for me is to prepare my workout clothes the night before and to get the workout over with in the morning before doing anything else. It also helped to have friends who were willing to workout over Zoom. In terms of food, I have been trying to portion control and treat myself only every once in a while.

For those who have been binge eating or filling themselves with less-than-nutritious, unhealthy foods, I suggest that you give yourself a break. It truly is not easy for anyone right now, and everyone is dealing with the circumstances in different ways. If you are eating unhealthy foods, try to reflect on how that may be leading to more anxiety and worry. Try to find alternative ways to cope with your stress, such as drawing, doing puzzles or talking with friends. Be kind to yourself, and remember that things will eventually go back to normal. We will all get through this.