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…
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.
“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.
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.
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.
Fatphobia Is Harmful
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 fat joke — or meme — perpetuates weight stigma and is harmful. Plus, let’s be honest, it doesn’t make anyone feel very good.
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”
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.
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.
Diet Culture’s To Blame
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.
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
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.
Connect With Others
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 ♡
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.
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.
- Tribole, E., & Resch, E. (2012). Intuitive eating: a revolutionary program that works. New York: St. Martins Griffin. P.63
- 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 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:
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