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Why The Quarantine Fatphobia Needs To Stop | Ms. Health-Esteem

Why The Quarantine Fatphobia Needs To Stop

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Why The Quarantine Fatphobia Needs To Stop Title Card. In the background there is a A close up of a stop sign a blue sky and trees

Hi Sweet Friends:

I know you have a lot on your mind right now. Me too! We’re collectively going through something incredibly difficult.

But the one thing you truly shouldn’t be worried about is your weight. Regardless of what all the memes keep trying to tell you.

The fear of gaining weight during this time of social distancing seems to be running rampant.

But it’s not funny. It’s not helpful. And it’s not good for anyone’s mental health.

While some of us may be sharing these jokes with good intentions, in hopes of laughing together or, in the very least, distracting ourselves from the matter at hand, what we’re doing is problematic.

Fatphobia hurts everyone. And the world truly doesn’t need any more hurt.

So I invited Maryann Auger, a non-diet, weight inclusive certified personal trainer, online coach, fitness instructor and nutrition coach to speak with us. She’s going to help us take a positive turn.

Ready? Let’s do this! Take it away Maryann…

No, Those Fatphobic Quarantine Memes Aren’t Funny…

Someone hold their hand up to the camera. In this case, it's hand up in a reminder to stop it with the fatphobia

You’ve probably seen them — the before and after quarantine pictures. In the first picture, a thin woman is looking for food in the fridge. In the next picture, 3 months later, that same woman is still looking for food in the fridge but she’s gained weight.

Then, there’s there are memes that say things like “every few days, it would be smart to put your jeans on to make sure they still fit. Pajamas and sweats will have you believe all is well”.

No. Just no.

There have been several more memes of that nature. Fatphobic memes.

A woman rubs her hands on her temples and looks directly into the camera

“Jokes” like these are so normal in today’s society that a lot of people don’t see these memes as a form of fatphobia.

But they are fatphobic. These messages are conveying that because of this pandemic, you’re going to eat too much and move less and then you’re going to become, gasp, fat.

We’re playing into some problematic assumptions.

Fatphobia memes promote the idea that fat people all eat too much and don’t exercise or are lazy — which by the way, is fatphobic in and of itself.

But its way more complicated than that.

Someone sits on top of a pile of books while reading. Reading and learning more about issues like fatphobia help us move forward together with knowledge and kindness.

Trust me, its way more complicated than that. Hormones like ghrelin (hunger hormone), leptin (satiety hormone), insulin, and more are involved. And they affect our energy balance along with chemicals like Neuropeptide Y (NPY) that affect our carbohydrate intake1.

Genetics and the environment also determine our body size. As well as the set point theory – the weight range your body naturally settles and functions optimally at. A weight your body will fight to stay at.

That’s just looking at the surface of things, there are many other factors that affect the size of our body. If you’re interested in learning more about this I highly recommend that you read Health At Every Size from health professor and researcher Dr. Lindo Bacon and Anti-Diet by Registered Dietitian Christy Harrison.

A woman leans against a wall and looks at the camera

Promoting fatphobia can also be triggering to those who are struggling with an eating disorder.

A ‘fear of getting fat’ is what causes an eating disorder for some people. Seeing those images can spark old disordered behaviors — on top of the pandemic that is already triggering for some.

A global pandemic is not the time to start stressing out about what you’re eating and/or your exercise regimen. We’re already stressed about what is going on.

Stress lowers immune function, which means we should probably avoid unnecessary pressure. Spoiler alert: stigma also increases stress. Another reason this fatphobia has got to go.

Related: 4 Excellent Stress Relieving Activities To Try Right Now

Fatphobia Is Harmful

A woman places her hand on her head and looks down, as if sad or frustrated. A coffee mug sits on the table in front of her. A reminder that Fatphobia hurts all of us.

In case you didn’t know, fatphobia, aka weight stigma, is harmful to those in larger bodies (and to those that aren’t) and can cause an increased risk of:

It also has a lot of mental health repercussions like a higher risk of:

A woman holds her hand up to the camera, partially blocking her face. In this case, it's hand up in a reminder to stop it with the fatphobia

A fat joke — or meme — perpetuates weight stigma and is harmful. Plus, let’s be honest, it doesn’t make anyone feel very good.

Related: Working On Awesome Lifestyle Changes? Avoid These 5 Mistakes

What About The Increased Risks Caused By Weight Gain?

I know what you’re thinking: “but, being fat increases the risk of everything you listed…”

Actually, it’s a lot more complex than that.

This study explains that “Experiencing weight discrimination appears to promote many of the pathologic features of obesity, such as inflammation, lipid/metabolic imbalances [and] glycemic dysregulation”

A woman sits on the couch and looks sideways at the person sitting beside her, who is mostly off camera.

In other words, weight discrimination (IE. Fatphobia) itself increases a lot of the physiological health-risks we blame on “obesity”.

There is a correlation between a high body weight and these negative health markers. But correlation doesn’t equate causation. Studies even show that two people with the same BMI could have different health-risks depending on the amount of discrimination they experienced.2

That means that health issues related to being in a bigger body may not be about the “extra” fat like we thought, but about discrimination.

A woman closes her eyes and looks down. The wind blows her hair in front of her face.

For example, in her book Anti-Diet, Registered Dietitian Christy Harrison, shares that someone in a smaller body that experiences weight stigma would have more health issues than someone in a bigger body that fought against weight stigma. 2

It has been proven that people who experience fatphobia or weight stigma are less likely to participate in healthy behaviors like physical activity or going to see their doctor and that they are more likely to overeat. So you’re not doing anyone a favor by sharing these harmful messages.

Related: 3 Things You Need to Know About Practicing Self-Love

Diet Culture’s To Blame

A woman sits and reads on the couch.

I want to note that some of the people sharing these memes or making fatphobic remarks are doing so without realizing how harmful it is. Because it is so normalized in today’s culture.

I’m not blaming them, I’m blaming diet culture and our society for normalizing these awful messages. However, we can make a difference by being more aware. By noticing the fatphobic messages that come from ourselves and others. And by speaking up when we see them.

Two people stand beside each other in a social room and look at the camera.

I’ve seen some people excuse their use of these COVID19 memes by saying: “I use humor to cope with my stress.”

Humor helps a lot of people. But there is a ton of humorous content on the internet that doesn’t cause harm.

The other argument I’ve noticed is that these memes were “relatable” so people should be able to talk about them and share them. I disagree. It’s ok to relate on the fact that we might gain a little bit of weight. What isn’t ok is when we talk about it because gaining fat or getting fat is bad; when we talk about it because we don’t want to be like fat people.

Try This Instead

A woman holding a cup of coffee leans against the wall, looking off tot he side.

Instead of sharing these harmful memes, let’s encourage self-compassion and self-care.

We’re all going through something pretty traumatic. And the last thing we need is to create unnecessarily added stress and weight stigma.

Related: Navigating Coronavirus – 3 Powerful Things To Remember

Connect With Others

A group of people stand together outside in the woods, looking up towards the sky between the trees.

Before we leave each other, I want to point out that I have thin privilege and that I am speaking as an ally for fat people. However, we should listen to what they have to say.

I learned so much when I started following a wide range of different people, including people of different shapes and sizes, people from different cultures, backgrounds, etc. I highly recommend you do the same.

Here are some of my favorite accounts:

Let’s spread kindness ♡

Final Thoughts

A wall splattered with different colour paints with a sign that says "Be Kind" - A reminder to work to let go of any fatphobia and be kind to people.

Sara Taking back the wheel here. Hello again!

Maryann’s words are so incredibly important. Thank you so much for sharing with us!

In case you’re still feeling the pressure to control your weight during this time, I want to remind you…

You are allowed to experience changes in your weight right now (and always).

This is a pandemic. You have enough on your mind. And it’s absolutely natural to experience weight fluctuations during a stressful period of time (and throughout life, period.)

What matters is that you take care of yourself.

A sign that says love yourself sits on a black backdrop and is decorated with red roses. A reminder to let go of any fatphobia and be kind to yourself

And, right now, that might mean resting more and/or moving less. It might mean reaching for comforting foods and making family recipes in order to feel connected with the people you can’t be with at this time. And it might mean that your weight fluctuates. And that’s OK.

Everyone handles stress differently. But one thing that never helps during a stressful period is self-judgement and self-criticism. Be kind and gentle with yourself. Know that you’re doing the best that you can with a very difficult situation. And, ultimately, know that your weight has and will never define yours or anyone’s value.

Remember – when the dust settles and you finally get to go hug your friends and family, the last thing on anyone’s mind will be what the scale says or what size you’re wearing. That’s not why they love you. They’re just going to be overjoyed to see you. Let’s hold onto that.

Health and love,


Stay safe and stay well. My heart is with you.

Thought of the day: The size of your heart is what truly matters.


The following were from literary sources and were, therefore, not linked.

  1. Tribole, E., & Resch, E. (2012). Intuitive eating: a revolutionary program that works. New York: St. Martins Griffin. P.63
  2. Harrison, C. (2019). Anti-diet: reclaim your time, money, well-being, and happiness through intuitive eating. New York: Little, Brown Spark. P.136, 137, 140

About Maryann Auger

Maryann is the guest author of this 'Why The Quarantine Fatphobia Needs To Stop' post. She is a non-diet, weight inclusive certified personal trainer, online coach, fitness instructor and nutrition coach.

Maryann Auger is a non-diet, weight inclusive certified personal trainer, online coach, fitness instructor and nutrition coach. She creates inspirational posts on social media where she shares tips, tricks, experience and advice to help you build your healthy balanced lifestyle. She’s a self-love advocate that strives to help people find their unique way of being healthy through self-care. She loves her dog Zea, food, Disney movies and fantasy books.

You can find her goodness right here:

YouTube | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter


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Sara | Ms. Health-Esteem

Sara Flanagan is a wellness writer and the creator of, where she shares her story of being diagnosed with Graves Disease, a chronic autoimmune disease, and empowering herself to do everything she can to thrive in spite of her diagnosis. She writes articles on self-love, acceptance, wellness and nutrition. Join the Health-Esteem Family today and share in the journey.


  1. Reply


    March 31, 2020

    I have literally not stopped eating since we went into self-quarantine. It’s fine though, I’ll bounce back.

  2. Reply

    Matt Taylor

    April 1, 2020

    It never ceases to amaze me at how cruel people can be on the internet. Even more so when we are all dealing with the current situation.

  3. Reply


    April 1, 2020

    I think adding weight or reducing weight is all based on one’s physiological state. This is why at this quarantine period, obviously some people are going to add weight while others will seize the opportunity to burn more calories when less they’re less busy- just like me

    • Reply

      Sara | Ms. Health-Esteem

      April 1, 2020

      Not everyone is in a mental space to “seize the opportunity.” Nor do they have to if they don’t want to. Exercise is awesome but focusing on weight and calories can be a huge detriment to someone’s well-being in any situation. As we’re in a pandemic, the focus should be on self-care and mental well-being. And that looks different for everyone. I’m glad exercise is something you can turn to during this difficult time.

  4. Reply

    GiGi Eats Celebrities

    April 1, 2020

    I think the biggest problem in regards to body image and staying at home = we have more time to analyze ourselves and nit pick! You have more time to look in the mirror and point out FLAWS. Before, when we were going to work/had more work to do – it was harder to take time to do that because we had to spend time doing other things. This definitely doesn’t go for everyone (because some people’s lives have gotten 2379832 x busier), but for a lot of people who are “bored” – this is what I feel is the problem.

  5. Reply

    A Nation of Moms

    April 1, 2020

    People do need to just be kind, and mindful of what they say. It is so ridiculous! I do think people should be thinking about eating healthy and focusing on wellness in such a scary time of a pandemic. Focusing on weight is simply destructive and mean.

  6. Reply

    The JOYOUS Living | Influencer (@thejoyousliving)

    April 1, 2020

    you’re right. people do need to be kind. i myself have laughed at the corona15 people are talking about but i see your point. kindness is the #1 thing we owe each other right now.

  7. Reply


    April 1, 2020

    Self care is so important in this time and doing what’s best for your body, not what society dictates

  8. Reply

    Angelica Sereda (@NWMCblog)

    April 3, 2020

    This is definitely a struggle. We don’t want to completely let ourselves go but we need to be extra kind in light of what’s going on and added stress to our lives.

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