It has finally happened! For the first time in my life, I’m part of a current phenomenon, and not about five years behind, which is usually my style. No, this time I’m right in the front with so many of us who have all experienced yet another delightful experience of 2020: weight gain. As with everything else, some people have taken offense to naming it something amusing like “Quarantine 15” or “gaining the Covid 19,” but I like it. I appreciate puns and jokes, and I love people who find humor in everything. It makes life so much more fun.
As a woman, I’ve obviously been affected by everything surrounding dieting, fitness, eating, body image, feeling inadequate in my body, and all the other fun stuff that the patriarchy and diet culture have invented to keep women small and too distracted and hungry to protest the gender inequality that is still happening today.
I made peace with my body in my mid-30s. It was partly due to reaping some reward of the long-awaited, age-related wisdom that finally made it my way, but mostly it was part to me being in great shape during that time.
I was toned, fit, and strong. My yoga photos on Instagram took off like (a very small) wildfire, and I never felt better.
People I knew IRL commented favorably on my back muscles, my metabolism was still my friend, and I could indulgently look at my cellulite and meaty thighs, resting assured that they were in fine form, imperfections be damned.
I felt on fire, because I was. My body had never felt more like my own, I had never felt better, and best of all? I had finally reached that fabled destination by letting go of external pressures.
It was a golden, body-perfect time.
I didn’t diet. (And I never will again.)
I didn’t obsess. (And I never will again.)
I didn’t follow any diet, or plan, or “lifestyle change.” (And I never will again.)
I felt invincible. I believed in cutting ties with anything diet- or “lifestyle-change”-related (still do, always will), but I also was in my personal peak body condition.
I’m not anymore.
I’ve gained about 20 pounds over the last 2-3 years. It wasn’t all due to the pandemic, even though it definitely played a part. It’s so much more awesome to eat junk food as part of a social movement than it is doing it by yourself because you’re bored or stressed out, right? All the celebrities were doing it, too! It was like being let loose in a candy store as an eight-year-old, without parental supervision, for several months on end. How could I not participate?
So I did. And I don’t regret it. I’ve heard rumors of people using the quarantine to up their fitness regime or lose weight, and good for them. But I almost feel sorry for them. Talk about poor timing. They missed out on experiencing something essential: every agonizing, excruciating step that made up the collective social adventure of our first-ever pandemic:
Buy toilet paper in bulk, then lie about it.
Watch Tiger King in one incredulous, deliciously disgusted binge.
Feverishly monitor your store’s website for news when the next truckload of sanitizer will be in.
Overdose on watching the news, get sick of it, then make up for it by binge-watching Friends.
Bake a lot of bread.
Say goodbye to your tightest pants. Who needs them, anyway? We’re all wearing yoga pants now.
Learn a new skill. (A lot of people will be getting poorly hand-knitted scarves this Christmas.)
Lie motionless on your couch, too overwhelmed by everything to do anything.
Discover that it’s not 5 o’clock somewhere, it’s quarantine o’clock everywhere.
Watch the news in an increasingly numbed, disbelieving stupor: Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. 162 more names for the first eight months of 2020. Everything Donald Trump says. The West coast burning. None of us being able to travel or see our friends.
Embrace pizza as one of the main food groups. (Did you know that it’s a terrific breakfast food? It is.)
Throw away the scale—nobody needs any more negativity in 2020.
There are a whole bunch of steps in between and after, but I’m summarizing. Long story short: if you’ve been paying attention this year, you may have been too busy to count calories and get regular workouts in.
It’s been the most unusual, unsettling year in most of our lives. And we’ve all been struggling to find ways to survive.
In my case, it consisted of working too much and spending the rest of the time thinking as little as possible. My favorite ways of drowning out reality, my thoughts, and too much awareness are losing myself in stories in the form of books, audiobooks, and Netflix; drinking wine; and sleeping.
I traded yoga for hours of Netflix, veggies for sour candy, and being mindful for trying my hardest not to think.
I’m not surprised that my body changed.
For a while I stayed in blissful ignorance: not weighing myself, ordering clothes a size up, telling myself to appreciate my ass getting bigger, approaching Kardashian-dimensions without having to pay a dime for it.
But the other week I did reluctantly step on the scale, just to see what I already knew: I had gained weight.
Did it shake my world or my self esteem? No, it didn’t. Success!
Did it annoy me? Yes, it did.
For about 10 years, my weight has been stable. Without deprivation, diets, or any “program,” I’ve been maintaining what has been right for my body.
This new weight doesn’t feel comfortable. It doesn’t feel right. I’m not sure if it’s mainly due to my lack of exercise and trading veggies for junk food (even though I have a strong suspicion that it has a lot to do with it) or if it’s also due to me being in my 40s.
All I know is this: I want to return to my healthier habits.
I’m not going to restrict anything. I’m not going to go on a diet. (Never again!)
But I’m ready to be more mindful again, to do yoga regularly again, and to listen to my body’s clues. This is not the beginning of a before/after. This is not a weight loss journey.
This is me waking up from a stupor.
Taking a step back from numbing myself.
Making choices that serve me more than my ego.
Getting prepared to face my innermost thoughts and demons on the mat once more.
Getting strong again, mentally and physically.
And observing where those changes lead my body’s physique. Maybe I will lose some weight, if that’s what my body needs. Maybe I will stay where I am now. It doesn’t matter.
The only thing that matters, the only thing I’m really excited about, is to get reacquainted to my body again. I used to know her intimately. I used to know exactly what she could and could not do.
But I lost her. I lost the knowledge, and the close connection to my body.
The last few years have been an intense roller coaster of my husband’s mystery illness, then coming to terms with his chronic illness, me taking several new jobs, publishing two books, and dealing with some private issues.
I didn’t realize it, but I’ve lost myself.
And my body, my reliable, trusty, incredible body, has been doing everything it can think of to get my attention.
It developed a persistent, wheezy shortness of breath with no discernible cause.
It gave me an allergic reaction to a wasp bite for the first time in my life, forcing me to take a day off work.
It took my voice earlier this year, rendering me effectively speechless for three days.
And now it’s been plumping up my butt, belly, and thighs, just like it did 20 years ago when I was at my unhappiest.
Is it a last-ditch effort to get my attention?
Or just the consequences of “being bad”?
I don’t believe in vilifying food or body movement (or the lack thereof).
But I most definitely believe in our bodies trying to tell us something.
I hear you, body. And I’m listening.