The Quarantine Fifteen

The past two months have played out like an alternate reality simulation gone awry.  These days, we crave the routine of listening to a podcast while stuck in traffic, spending $22 on stale popcorn and warm beer at a crowded baseball stadium, and feeling the exhilaration of someone texting to cancel plans we wished we’d never agreed to in the first place.  We’re perpetually worried about the wellbeing of loved ones and we reflect wistfully upon the days we hugged our parents with reckless abandon.  We fear for our financial stability and wonder when the economy will recover.  And on top of it all, it’s been nearly impossible to get out of our own heads because OUTSIDE IS CLOSED.  As we prepare for phased re-openings of states, we also realize that as much as we’ve complained about being in quarantine, we’re uneasy about the consequences of rash decisions on the trajectory of the virus.

I’m reminded daily how lucky I am to be safe at home with a supportive partner, gainfully employed in a job that can be done remotely, and only a Facetime call away from checking in with family and friends.  Sure, I was bummed to have had to cancel my vacation to the Bahamas last month, but it didn’t stop me from taking a different trip to an island!  (I’m referring to my kitchen island…and let’s say I’ve been a frequent flyer.)  I’m acknowledging my tremendous good fortune so that I don’t come across completely tone deaf and out of touch with reality when I admit that one of the nagging concerns I’ve had while in quarantine is that I’ve gained a few pounds.  I feel guilty that I’ve used the pandemic as an excuse to excessively indulge in treats I wouldn’t have eaten under normal circumstances, and those feelings are compounded by not having access to gym equipment I typically use.  Even more so, I feel ashamed to have the privilege of obsessing over something so superficial while people around me grieve significant losses.  As much as I’d love for my readers to believe the brain behind this blog belongs to an intensely profound, infallible yoga goddess with a heart of gold and abs of steel…I’m only human.  Fortunately, my experience has been that humans tend to be more relatable than Instagram influencers, so if you’ve been stressed about the “Quarantine 15” too, here are a few thoughts that have reassured me in these uncertain times.

My weight is not what the world needs from me right now, or ever for that matter.

During this pandemic, not a single person has asked me what size is printed on the tag of the sweatpants I’ve been wearing like a uniform since mid-March.  All anyone cares that I’m doing is sheltering in place and not coughing near their nana.  Even without a pandemic, I feel comforted knowing that no one with a meaningful life of their own cares how much I weigh or needs me to be a particular weight.  My life’s purpose is more promising, rewarding, and interesting than achieving or maintaining an aesthetic.

My weight is not what people value about me, nor is it what I value about other people.

When I think about what I admire most in others, the characteristics that come to mind are resilience, sense of humor, wisdom, grit, humility, etc.  As I rattle off common attributes among people whom I hold in the highest regard, their weight never occurs to me.  Even in folks whom I happen to find attractive, physical traits aren’t part of what makes them worthy of love and respect.  A person’s worth is not measured in pounds.  Therefore, the time I spend slaving over the scale is time I could dedicate to cultivating practices that bring out qualities in me that I cherish in others.

I can prioritize my health, eating well, and physical activity at any weight.  

My weight is not part of my identity, nor is it an indication of my health without additional context.  Eating a balanced variety of foods and moving my body in ways that feel good have a place in my life even if I were to gain the quarantine fifteen.

How would my life change if I weighed my ideal weight right now?

I would still care about spending time with my family.  I would still choose to be in a relationship with the dude who’s stuck in an apartment with me now.  I would still work hard at my job.  I would still connect with friends who make me laugh and challenge me to grow.  I would still need to schedule time to prepare nutritious meals and stay physically active.  My values, priorities, salary, relationships, and beliefs about myself would remain largely unchanged.  Realistically, my life wouldn’t look dramatically different or happier at a lower weight.

More fits into frame with a wide-angle lens than a microscope.

I’m constantly receiving updates about the pandemic through work, in the news, and in casual conversation.  As someone who gravitates toward problem solving and peacemaking, it’s been uncomfortable to sit with feeling helpless over an issue I can’t resolve on my own.  For right or for wrong, laser-focusing on my weight in quarantine has served as a familiar channel for my anxiety that gives me a tangible, reinforceable perception of control each time I weigh myself.  The danger of adopting such a narrow, limited awareness of my surroundings is that something as relatively minor as my weight starts to feel like a big deal.  If I broaden my awareness to include not just my body, but also its sensations and emotions, I have more space to observe facets of my life that incite positivity, appreciation, and fulfillment.  I’m not suggesting that gratitude ought to be used as a distraction to suppress difficult emotions, nor should I shame myself for taking my blessings for granted; the benefit of taking a more comprehensive perspective is to find breathing room between ends of the emotional spectrum and to recognize that, much like my weight, each feeling is dynamic and fluctuating.  While my feelings may not change in the moment, observing myself through a “wide-angle lens” (settle down, I know there’s a fat joke somewhere in that analogy) helps me see my weight-related concerns as a very small piece of what I’m experiencing rather than my sole focus.  As my awareness expands further, I’m able to identify that others are likely coping with similar experiences, and that we can reassure each other that we’re not alone.



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