I Gained Weight During Quarantine. Now What?

7 tips to prioritize your physical and mental health in pandemic times

Stay home written out in tiles Unsplash - Priscilla Du Preez

Another day, talking to a friend, she reported feeling bad and guilty for having gained weight during the quarantine. I remembered how many times I also felt embarrassed for having gained weight, thinking that I would be judged, excluded, rejected.

That happens because, socially, we view weight gain as the worst of defeats, especially for a woman. This way of thinking is so strong that, in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, “before and after quarantine” posts went viral showing skinny people who became fat as something funny.

You need to be careful with this type of content for two reasons.

The first is that this reinforces a pejorative stereotype of fat people, associating them with lack of control, laziness, sedentary lifestyle. This is far from the truth!

The second is that this type of “joke” is a direct blow to our mental health and increases our insecurities about body image and food.

Dramatic changes in routine — such as social isolation — may indeed have led many people to gain weight. In addition to reducing the load of physical exercise, we experience an atmosphere of tension, fear, and sadness due to the spread of a disease that affects millions of people around the world. Not to mention that people who suffer from compulsive eating may also experience these symptoms at a time like this.

Working from home in the kitchen

To help ease your tension on this topic, I have seven tips to help you stay lucid and not despair.

1. It’s okay if your body has increased in size.

This does not define your worth as a person and you can, in the name of your health, walk away from anyone who makes you believe otherwise. Your top priority, especially now, should be to ensure your physical and mental health and not to have a “perfect” body.

2. Breath.

Breathe as deep as you need, as often as you like. Despair doesn’t help you make healthy choices for you. When we are desperate, we tend to take reckless actions to “fix” our appearance, which often causes damage to our health. Look for ways to feel more welcome and calm that don’t involve a “21-day detox damage containment plan”.

3. Try to eat without distractions, when you are physically hungry.

In those moments, the effort needs to happen in order to reconnect with your body — and not count grams of carbohydrate. If you’ve been eating more than your body needed, for whatever reason, turn your attention to the signals it gives you. She is eager for you to respect her again.

4. Watch out for social media.

The last thing you need is to increase your anxiety and feel more dissatisfied compared to the body of others. Police what you are consuming daily, analyze your feed and do a good detox: unfollow and hide whoever you must. Your mental health thanks you.

5. Do some physical exercise that you really like.

This will strengthen you, increase your immunity and self-esteem and reduce stress. In addition, moving your body is a great way to remember that it is an instrument for your life, not an ornament to be molded on a particular pants size. Get moving and notice how your body is functionally amazing to support your life.

6. Avoid malicious comments or judgments about the body of others (and about your own).

This vigilance only reinforces the feminine value associated with the image and does not help anyone to have peace. Shame and guilt never lead to change, only to despair (review point two).

7. Remember: the body is dynamic and will always change.

This is part of life. The only thing you can do is to make sure that she has all the conditions to be happy and healthy! Nourish yourself with healthy food, respect the signs she gives you, eat with pleasure and moderation.

Cooking at home in the kitchen

What I said to my friend — and I tell you now — is that our priority must always be to take care of our physical and mental health. Remember that breathing, moving your body, keeping your mind busy with quality thoughts and eating well and consciously are basic ingredients for a balanced life. Not only in quarantine but in all the other difficult periods you face in life.

I am a Brazilian girl (living in Sao Paulo with my fiancé — and other 20 million people). I love coffee, books, and good food. I also really enjoy studying and learning new things that allow me to further develop myself both professionally and personally. I have a degree in Food Science and hold a Ph.D. in Agri-food Marketing. In addition, I am a Certified Nutrition Coach and an enthusiastic Nutrition student.

After 15 years of living in war with my body and with food, I found freedom through mindfulness and intuitive eating, practices that allowed me to overcome yo-yo dieting and binge eating.

I’m passionate about helping women rewrite their food and body histories so they feel free and confident to live their lives to the fullest.

There is a power that comes alive when women free themselves from the food prison in which they have learned to live, when they realize that they are capable and deserving of feeling fantastic in their own bodies, and that confidence is a state of mind — not a body lotion which you get the right to use when you reach a weight-loss goal.

My work is dedicated to nurturing, celebrating and sharing this message.

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