COVID-19 has spread across the world, and we’re all doing our best to minimize the effects of this horrible virus. The resulting social distancing requires us to stay in our homes where, for the most part, we cannot live our normal lives. We can’t go to work, we can’t go to school, we can’t see our friends, and we can’t go to our favorite places.
One way people are coping with this difficult time is by making jokes about self-quarantining and what it looks like for each of us. Overall, they’re pretty funny. My personal favorite is a meme of a cat looking disappointed with the caption, “We need to talk, Karen. Why are you in my house so much lately?”
However, there is one type of “humor” circulating the web that just isn’t OK. The joke about how much weight we’re all going to gain during quarantine.
You might have seen jokes about how “Quarantine 15 is the new freshman 15” and “Gaining the COVID-nineteen pounds is real.” Recently, I saw one that said all of this quarantine weight gain will just make their weight loss transformation seem even more impressive.
Here’s the thing: These jokes aren’t funny. They’re fatphobic. The underlying message is that getting bigger is undesirable and something scary. Moreover, these jokes can be extremely triggering to people who are struggling with an eating disorder. These individuals are either stuck at home suffering in their disorder or stuck at home trying to recover on their own. Isolation, lack of structure, and an abundance or lack of food are already triggering enough for people with eating disorders. They don’t need any more triggers from people who are making jokes about how horrible it is for the body to get a little bit bigger.
In fact, a study about eating disorder behaviors during COVID-19 in the United States shows that 40% of women and 46% of men think it would be worse to gain 25 pound during social distancing than to contract the virus.
This is troubling. Furthermore, it speaks to how we’ve all been tricked into thinking weight gain is the worst possible thing to experience. So, let’s clear some things up:
Your weight does not determine your health. Being fat does not equal being unhealthy. In the same way, being skinny doesn’t equal being healthy. There are so many other social factors, such as discrimination, income level, education level, place of residence, and so on, that are much more influential in determining your quality of health than your weight is. Also, experiencing weight bias can lead to health complications much more than being “overweight” itself can.
Ultimately, these coronavirus jokes, which are grounded in weight bias, are actually detrimental to people’s health. For people with eating disorders specifically, they reinforce all of the thoughts that the voices inside their heads are telling them. This, in turn, causes them to retreat further into their illnesses.
For people without eating disorders, these jokes are surely reinforcing this idea in people’s heads that it’s better to get COVID-19 than it is to gain weight. Which is messed up. These jokes might make them feel ashamed of their body for doing something natural – getting bigger when we eat more and move less. Which there is nothing wrong with, at all. And you shouldn’t be made to feel embarrassed about it.
So next time you think about making a joke about how much weight you’re going to gain… just don’t.
Featured image via Pexels