While casually scrolling Facebook (for the hundredth time that day), I noticed a meme about looking like a busted can of biscuits when it comes time to go back to work, to go to the beach, go outside, etc. The comments underneath talked about how “disgusting” people would look going out to these activities and how this pandemic was good for forcing yourself to diet. I was struck with a wave of sadness.
I saw myself in these memes: rolls, pooch, stretch marks, and all. In sharing these, the message was clear — you don’t want to come out of quarantine with a body like mine. In a time of crisis, it was more important to focus on body image than health and the privilege of being able to eat.
Frankly, body image is something I’ve struggled with for a long time. Finding a dress for various dances was fraught with tears and prayers of being smaller. Eating would be a chore, and god forbid what I was eating was unhealthy in a public space. Relatives would comment when it seemed like I dropped a few pounds or lament about how much prettier I would be if I were thinner. People on dating apps would say they couldn’t see themselves with someone “fat” while simultaneously stating how they longed to sleep with someone of my size. The most ironic part of this struggle is that my size is average for an American woman. Furthermore, while fat hate is general, beauty standards per region vary. Most women I come into contact with in the South have cornbread booties to boot and hips wider than the Mississippi. “Plus-sized” is our normal!
The fact is that people are bound to gain a few pounds in this time. These are stressful days, and it only makes sense for your body to react to that stress. Fluctuation of weight is a part of life. What shouldn’t be a part of life is tearing down another population who already faces size prejudice for the way they look. Not to mention that size prejudice is a result of anti-blackness and affects communities of color more. It’s an uphill battle trying to love yourself as a fat or plus-size person, and it is only made harder by these harmful memes and worsened through the prevalence of fast-diet and extreme-weight-loss advertisements that assume you must use this time to lose weight.
I love myself, and loving also means accepting that my weight is going to fluctuate being home. My mama is a fine cook, and I’ll admit, food is a comfort during the unknown. I still wiggle and jiggle to Lizzo in my living room when I can and eat my fill of healthy foods. When all this mess is over, I’ll still rock the fun clothes I bought during this weight fluctuation. And that’s okay!
That’s my way of expressing love for my body. Other great ways to do this are engaging in activities that you use your body for, e.g. yoga, creating art, singing, dancing, etc. These help solidify that your body can do and produce amazing things! They’re also reminders that size isn’t directly associated with health. You can do these things at any size. You can follow body-positive influencers who post uplifting messages about their bodies over pushing fad diets and magic skinny teas. I personally love @beyoutiful_taylort, @bodyposipanda, and @jazzmynejay. Finally, accept that you’re not always going to love every part of your body 24/7, but try your best. Try daily affirmations of accepting all of your body by simply looking in a mirror and saying: “This is my body today, and it is worthy of love.”
Bodies are beautiful. Bodies are strong. And above all, bodies deserve love. I hope that y’all can realize this as well.
Kirsten Keels is a junior from West Fork, Ark. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.