Opinion: The quarantine 15

Many have noticed themselves packing on the pounds since the pandemic started – but should we be ashamed of turning toward food during a stressful time?

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Alayna Majkrzak

Weight gain over quarantine should be something that is celebrated rather than shamed because everyone needs to be a little nicer to themselves during such a rough and confusing time in the world.

By Ciara Duncan, McHenry High School

The human body naturally reacts to the environment it’s in. When we’re relaxed, our muscles untighten, our breathing slows, and we emotionally feel like we can take on the world. When we’re stressed, our heartrate quickens, our mind can race, we may be more emotional or angry, and our bodies may put on weight. That’s the way it’s been since the dawn of man, and that’s the way it is during a time like 2021. So, why are we so worried about our quarantine weight gain?

I’ll be the first to admit that my own personal pandemic weight gain has thrown me for a loop. I’m at the highest weight I’ve ever been, and this fact is something I’m still getting used to. As the world starts to open up again and I’ve started going out in public more often, I’ve become more aware of the changes that have taken place within my body. Combine this with having to get used to being around people again, and the usual anxieties that come with the pandemic, and it’s easy to say that I’m a little self-conscious right now.

But, at the same time, I know that I can’t shame myself for gaining weight this past year and a half. I’ve been stuck in my house without the regular daily exercise I would normally be getting, and food has simply been around when my friends and loved ones haven’t been able to be. Food brings people together, and in a time where “togetherness” is the furthest thing from our reality, I can’t say that I blame people for relying on food. 

Boredom eating and the use of food as a coping mechanism have been common throughout the pandemic; after all, food has sometimes been the one exciting thing about peoples boring quarantine lives. I know for a fact that sometimes at the end of a long, monotonous day during quarantine, my family gathering around the table to eat a dessert my mother had baked or to try a new recipe I made would be just the thing to perk our spirits.

Still, I completely understand the health effects and mental effects overeating and lack of exercise can have on the body. On the contrary to the sorts of habits I’ve described, some people have found solace in healthy diet and regular exercise during the pandemic. This is amazing, and I agree that these sorts of coping mechanisms can do wonders for both mental and physical health. I have found that yoga before bed truly de-stresses me, grounds me, and gets me ready to fall right to sleep at night. Even just making healthy dietary choices can help someone feel more confident and in-control. That benefit is something that all of us can get behind.

I encourage those who want to incorporate these habits into their own lives to go right ahead. After all, we all have more free time than ever before to try new things. But, I also want people to understand that their lives are up to them. If food is a comfort to you during these trying times, there is no shame in that. If exercise helps you feel in-control when nothing in our lives is controllable right now, then go ahead and exercise. There is no shame in what helps us get through the stresses of life, and there is no shame in what our bodies happen to look like as a result. 

This story was originally published on The McHenry Messenger on May 19, 2021.