I’m Keeping the COVID Weight I’ve Gained
By Janice Quirt
Photo © hanna.edwards38/Twenty20
Jul 22, 2020
A lot of people have become new dog owners during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I adopted something equally as ubiquitous, but less popular — a potbelly. And I plan on keeping it as a way to show my kids — and myself — that being thin doesn’t need to be the most important goal in our lives.
Excising, Exorcising and Exercising
Along with “COVID toes," the COVID 10, 15 or 20 pound weight gain has become a much-maligned side effect of the virus. And with our pervasive diet culture, this softening felt like something to be feared and excised, exorcised and exercised from our bodies. And why? Because society still tells us in many ways that fat, soft or plump is not OK.
Or rather, society pays lip service to the notion that all shapes and sizes are beautiful, but when it comes to our own bodies, those extra pounds are the enemy. I absolutely hate this mentality and I can’t stand what it is doing to my kids.
"Sushi and salads have taken the place of chocolate milk and Skittles."
This year I noticed that my daughter, who was in Grade 5, didn’t always eat very much. She’s quite thin and so this set off alarm bells. She would talk about not being very hungry, but the real reason I've discovered is that eating isn’t very cool for 10-year-old girls. Already they’re thinking about their bodies, weight and what they eat.
Sushi and salads have taken the place of chocolate milk and Skittles. And not that there’s anything wrong with sushi and salad — I mean, yum. But already diet culture has begun to infiltrate kids' lives through Instagram and TikTok, with messages that suggest discovering and eating different foods — usually anything beyond a scarce 100 calories — are the enemy, and that only certain foods contribute to a healthy life.
Fuelling Our Bodies
I’m not having any of that. My party line when it comes to food is that we must eat to fuel our bodies for all the activity — physical, mental and emotional — that we ask every single cell to do every single day.
"My son can’t live his life being petrified of eating a muffin while travelling or a slice of cake at a birthday party."
And that means eating all foods, in quantities that meet our needs, and listening to our bodies. This has resonated with my daughter, and she is back to eating quantities suitable for her growing body. When people comment on how much food my daughter now tucks away, we simply mention that we are nourishing our bodies and eating the right amount for us — end of story.
All Foods Have a Place
Sometimes attempts to promote health go overboard. After hearing from school and sports teams about the evils of fast food, sugar and carbs, my teenage son became scared to eat these foods, worried about diabetes and the impact on health.
And I know that’s an important message.
But, barring any major allergies or significant intolerances, all foods can be included in anyone’s diet — with balance. My son can’t live his life being petrified of eating a muffin while travelling or a slice of cake at a birthday party. There will be times when he needs to be flexible with his eating to make sure that he nourishes his body, but, as I see it, society and our diet culture has made this a difficult concept for him to embrace.
Motherhood itself helped this parent learn more about her plus-size body. Read about it here.
Likewise, my son has embraced the concept of exercise, but like many people he hasn’t learned to listen to his body to choose the type, duration and frequency that work best.
The world today often thinks that more is always better — exercising every day, pushing through pain and ignoring tiredness. What I’m trying to teach my kids is the concept of “intuitive exercise,” taking part in activity that matches energy levels and available time that day.
"The world today often thinks that more is always better — exercising every day, pushing through pain and ignoring tiredness."
That means taking plenty of rest days, being aware of soreness and injuries, and not feeling guilty about any of it. But in the face of pandemic pushup challenges, panic over gyms being closed, triumphant posts about completing 1000-calorie workouts and pushing through exhaustion, it can be a hard sell.
Why Do We Hate Ourselves?
Even more challenging to accept is my realization that at the root of it all is this: many people don’t really seem to like themselves, or their bodies, very much at all.
Rather than enjoying the many apple fritter loaves or sourdough slices baked up and consumed during lockdown, people feverishly turned to the need to atone and burn off those that delicious and special sources of energy. Which, in my mind, immediately detracts from the whole culinary experience.
"... many people don’t really seem to like themselves, or their bodies, very much at all."
In our house we’ve switched from talking about healthy foods and not-so-healthy foods to the idea that all foods are OK.
Some we might want to save for every once in a while, or small amounts every day, while others — the usual nutritional superstars — are touted as important sources of fuel for our bodies. We try to enjoy our food, treats and chosen forms of activity. We make it a goal to take part in activity because we enjoy it and the way it makes our minds and bodies feel, not because we have to do it. Not because we are making up for some transgression. Not to hive off part of our beautiful bodies.
Kids and parents get comments about their bodies. This mother wants you to know she's not pregnant, just fat. Read about that here.
No More “Cheat Days”
I’ve been guilty of using the phrase “cheat day” in the past in terms of both food intake as well as parenting. But I’ve tried to remove it from my vocabulary. Because what does it tell my kids if I say I’m eating a piece of chocolate cake because it’s my “cheat day.” Or that I’m taking it easy and reading a book on the couch instead of going for a run, because it’s my “cheat day."
They know that cheating isn’t a desirable act and that it has serious, negative consequences. I’ve taught them that cheating is bad. So of course they’re confused to now associate something like eating or resting with “cheating,” an action that is prohibited in society.
Soft bodies are beautiful. Muscular and thin ones are, too. Let’s not be at war with our bodies — our kids are watching. Let’s not taint an enjoyable gastronomic experience with the sour taste of guilt — our children need to see food, all foods, as fuel. Let’s be active for the love of movement, not because we want to remove flesh, or because we feel that we have to. Let’s teach our families to listen to our bodies, not chase endorphins.
Let’s love all sizes, and include our own shapes in that proclamation.
Let’s adore both the puppies and the potbellies.
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