Thought Cataloge/Unsplash

It’s time get curious about some of the “health” myths we’ve accepted as facts

Source: Thought Cataloge/Unsplash

The past few years have been a (sometimes unrelenting) lesson in stress, uncertainty, and coping with loss. Unsurprisingly, our bodies have changed as we’ve experienced this collective trauma. Here are my top 10 tips for navigating pandemic weight gain:

1. Educate Yourself

The tide is turning on diet culture and the “secret” is becoming more widely known: diets don’t work. In fact, they can cause physiological and psychological harm and have been shown to increase the risk of long-term weight gain. Food restriction often massively backfires. It’s time get curious about some of the “health” myths we’ve accepted as facts. In reality, nutrition and morality really have nothing to do with each other. Fat is a body type, not a feeling, a bad word, or a failing.

Great starting places for learning more include:

Jade Destiny on Unsplash

Fat is a body type, not a feeling, a bad word, or a failing

Source: Jade Destiny on Unsplash

2. Challenge your assumptions

As we educate ourselves, we start to notice that our long-held beliefs are nothing more than culturally-informed assumptions. Notice your assumptions about food and bodies as they arise. Open them up to questioning. Have you always assumed that weight and health are interchangeable? (They are not). Do you assume you’re failing at having a body because you can’t control its shape or size? (You are not).

  • What if: there is nothing wrong with your body?
  • What if: you gave yourself a break from the shame that tells you otherwise?
  • What if: you deserved more than a life of restriction, hunger, and trying to shrink yourself?

3. Think critically

There is a $72 billion industry that profits off your insecurities. You can choose to opt out. However, just like Kentucky Fried Chicken rebranded as KFC when the cultural tide villainized fried foods, the diet industry will not go quietly. Even some of the most egregious proponents of disordered eating now advertise by explicitly saying that they are not diets.

To clarify—I am not anti-fried foods. I am anti-disingenuous and manipulative marketing that profits off your suffering.

4. Use media for good

  • Silence or delete accounts that cause shame and activate urges to diet.
  • Surround yourself with body-positive voices and fat liberationists.
  • Make sure you’re seeing body diversity in your social media feeds.
  • Listen to the voices of fat people. Read their books, listen to their music, watch their shows.
  • Start to notice the roles (or lack thereof) of fat people in the media you’re consuming. Are fat people used as a cheap punchline? Or are they featured as leads with narrative agency, good ideas, and (god forbid!) healthy sexual relationships?
Tim Mossholder

You can learn to turn the volume down on the bully in your head.

Source: Tim Mossholder

5. Set new boundaries

You are allowed to set boundaries. Diet culture is toxic and contagious. You have the right to protect yourself! You are allowed to:

  • Display discomfort around body comments: “That was an odd thing to say out loud.”
  • Opt out of diet talk at work: “I’m not comfortable talking about diets,” “That’s not a conversation I’m able to have right now”.
  • Opt out of conversations about bodies with your family members: “I’m not comfortable talking about other people’s bodies.”
  • Create rules for how food and bodies are handled in front of your kids: “We’re teaching the kids that all bodies are good bodies—please don’t make comments like that in front of them,” “We’re teaching the kids to listen to and trust their own bodies—they can decide how much they eat.”
  • Opt out of being weighed at the doctor’s office (You have the right to informed consent!): “I don’t want to be weighed today,” “If you must record my weight for my chart, please don’t say it out loud.”

6. Practice self-compassion as you retrain your thoughts

Your thoughts have been trained by our fatphobic culture to equate size with worth. You can learn to turn the volume down on the bully in your head. By noticing and labeling our thoughts, we separate from them and consciously remind ourselves that our thoughts are not facts. Then, we can respond to these unkind thoughts by extending self-compassion and saying out loud, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry you feel you don’t deserve love because of the body you live in.” Noticing the cruelty of that inner voice and making amends may sound hopelessly cheesy, but it’s an act of self-compassion that disrupts negative thought loops.

Veronica Carswell, Unsplash

You will need support

Source: Veronica Carswell, Unsplash

7. Start with Body Neutrality

Starting from a place of neutrality is more accessible than forcing a false sense of body love. Think of body neutrality as a truce with your body; a divorce from constant evaluation of your physical appearance, a break from thinking about appearance at all. Doesn’t that sound like a relief? Work toward observing your body with no judgment. As you look in the mirror, start with a statement like, “There is nothing wrong with my body.”

8. Cultivate your support system

Dismantling the way you’ve been indoctrinated to relate to your body and eating is hard work, akin to recovery from a lifetime of gaslighting. You will need the support of close friends, an understanding partner, a therapist, a book club, favorite podcasts, supportive social media groups, anyone you can count on to share the journey with you. This is too hard to do alone.

Womanizer Toys, Unsplash

Your body deserves your love. You deserve peace. Learning to befriend your body is the greatest gift you can give yourself.

Source: Womanizer Toys, Unsplash

9. Clean out your closet

The clothes that hurt your feelings need to go. Holding onto clothes that represent shame and deny you comfort will not help you feel better in your body. You have better ways to spend your time and emotional energy than fighting with your clothes each morning. Find ways to part with them peacefully—give them to friends, donate them, thank them for their service. If you are uncomfortable in your pants: the pants are the wrong size—not your body.

10. Thank your body for carrying you through this life

This has not been easy. Bodies are made to change. These changes reflect survival. Your body deserves your love. You deserve peace. Learning to befriend your body is the greatest gift you can give yourself.

Liberation awaits you.

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