Whether it was from the stress put on our bodies, having to stay home, or understandably engaging in emotional eating, many of us gained weight during quarantine. This can be stressful, especially as the world opens back up, since our society puts so much focus on body size. We may worry others will judge us and stress about having to spend money on new clothes.

As an advocate for body positivity and the “Health at Every Size” movement’s tenets, I do not believe health can’t be defined solely by food intake and exercise. I know our worth doesn’t come from our force of gravity (aka our weight) and that bodies were all created differently. Health looks different depending on the person.

I believe quarantine weight gain isn’t something worth our attention, and have developed five reasons why you don’t need to worry about the infamous “quarantine 15” now or ever.

Health is much more complex than just weight

While we usually learn that health equals what we eat, how much we exercise, and how much we weigh, it entails so many more factors. Besides our mental health, which is often neglected, and signs of physical diseases, many social determinants of health exist and are important to pay attention to as well.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), social determinants of health fall under six umbrellas: healthcare access and quality, education access and quality, social and community context, economic stability, and neighborhood and built environment. Examples under those umbrellas include safe housing, discrimination, access to nutritious foods, polluted air, and more.

So the next time you worry you’re suddenly unhealthy because you gained a few pounds, try to not let it get to you, because health isn’t that simple.

Your size can’t determine your worth

Your purpose on Earth is not to “look good” or to fit into beauty standards. Regardless of the number you might see on the scale, you are not loved and special because of how you look, nor will your appearance be a topic of discussion at your funeral. I encourage you to remember that your size doesn’t make you worthy or unworthy of love and support; you are so much more than what you look like.

Your body knows what it needs and will tell you

For a long time, I didn’t realize just how smart bodies are. However, after looking at research, it all makes so much sense. Bodies were created to help us survive. They know what nutrients we need and when we need to choose rest, and they’ll tell us. It’s our job to tune into those signals and listen to them, even if those choices put us out of our comfort zones.

Dieting can lead to unwanted health outcomes

Dieting is not the be-all-end-all that it’s been made out to be. Not only can it lead to deadly eating disorders, but rapid and intentional weight loss that can cause a slower metabolism, muscle loss, and other health issues. Further, if you do lose weight, you probably won’t be able to keep it off: in fact, dieting is linked to long-term weight gain.

This isn’t because you “failed” or because you’re “bad,” but because dieting isn’t meant to work for weight loss. If it did, the dieting industry wouldn’t be worth $72 billion. So save yourself the unwanted weight gain, health issues, and wasted money by skipping out on dieting. 

You survived a literal pandemic so cut yourself a break!

Instead of being hard on ourselves about weight gain, what we actually need more of is self-compassion and self-care. We survived a literal pandemic! That is not something to take lightly. Our bodies endured so much stress we may not even know about, and we handled it as best as we knew how. That’s all we needed to do.

About Ashley Broadwater

Ashley Broadwater is a freelance writer and graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill's Hussman School of Journalism and Media. She's been published in POPSUGAR, Medium, and more. You'll find her writing about body positivity, relationships, mental health, and entertainment regularly.

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