Don’t Let Diet Companies Trick You Into Feeling Bad About Your Post-Isolation Body
Some states were barely one week deep into lockdown when “quarantine 15” jokes arrived on the socials. Maybe the meme fairies were just trying to make a lighthearted joke while the world burned, but the punch line threw shade we really didn’t need. The possibility that we could look different after an uncontrollable virus took over the world was hilarious, apparently. El oh el, amirite?
And it should surprise exactly no one that the weight-loss industry immediately jumped on quarantine as a marketing tool. A random sampling of seven diet companies’ Instagram posts between March 12 and July 14 found that at least 20 percent—and up to 80 percent—
of the brands’ content used threats of stay-at-home weight gain to sell us their products.
If you’re thinking, Who cares?! Businesses want to make money and I’ll hand it over if they help me lose my quarantine weight! then (1) all these words are for you, boo. And (2) using food to cope in tense times is a very normal reaction (and, honestly, a privilege).
We shouldn’t feel weak or lazy for practicing a little Doritos self-care. Soothing ourselves shouldn’t lead to a negative self-talk spiral. “It’s hard enough to block out body-image concerns in a normal time,” says human COVID-19 survival kit (and my actual therapist) Rachel Gersten, LMHC, co-founder of Viva Wellness in New York City. “Now, most of what we’d normally turn to is gone.” Food as comfort is what’s left, for a lot of us, and it’s fine to just enjoy it.
By posting aggressive pep talks on grabbing this chance to perfect our bodies, diet companies also trigger setbacks in disordered eating. For people trying to deal with legitimate stress-induced eating disorders, being told “now is the time” to trim down can undo important progress.
Look, it’s true that excess weight is associated with many health conditions, but the proven biological connections aren’t crystal clear. We don’t yet know what exactly leads to what, and being overweight isn’t a solid measure of health. Plus, weight loss alone won’t make you healthier. What will: a relationship with food that doesn’t involve calorie math, restrictive eating, or working out just to burn off snacks.
I’m not saying you need to magically fall in love with the way your thighs look in shorts rn (they do look good tho!). The key to dismantling a system that makes $ off your insecurities is ID’ing diet thirst traps and excluding yourself from that narrative. When you’re no longer convinced your body is a problem, the problem is solved.
Please contact the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) help line at 800-931-2237 if you believe you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder and needs help. For crisis situations, text “NEDA” to 741741 to be connected with a trained volunteer at the Crisis Text Line.