“Due to coronavirus, my summer body will be postponed until 2021.” Usually this kind of garbage only hits my feed when Jameela Jamil is ranting about #teatox. I’ve worked hard to unfollow any content that’s generally annoying or makes me feel like shit. But since the government issued its guidelines to shelter in place, there’s been a particularly insidious undertone to the posts popping up that I just can’t shake.
Despite the fact we’re going through an unprecedented health crisis, the prevailing message on social media right now is that we’re somehow supposed to be “making the most” of our time spent indoors. Write that novel! Organize your closet! Bake bread! Get quarantine fit!
Now, I don’t blame anyone for taking up a new hobby in order to distract themselves. You can only have so many conversations with your cat until you begin to feel completely deranged. But that last one—the idea that we should be using all this “extra time” to lose weight, or at least not gain any—moves beyond feeling productive and gives into a societal fear I thought we were moving past: Getting “fat.”
The collective fat panic I’ve seen as I scroll through social media is, frankly, appalling. “So will the producers of 600-Pound Life just find me or…” reads one meme that’s surfaced more times than I can count. A photo of Barbie next to a heavier “Carbie” (get it? She ate too much during quarantine? LOL!) has more than 120,000 likes on @girlwithnojob.
But it’s not just the obviously offensive fat jokes that meme accounts and out-of-touch influencers are posting. What’s more shocking are the dozens of frantic weight gain comments—almost all masked in sarcasm or wry self-deprecation—I’ve seen close acquaintances post. These are smart women—the ones who usually rally against diet-talk and fatphobia—that are sharing photos of cookies with captions like, “Going to have to buy a size up after this” or “Looks like I won’t be wearing jeans ever again.” Eating the pasta is what you’re worried about? OK.
It’s not just within my circle of friends either. An alarming amount of people, it appears, are publicly broadcasting their fear that this time indoors will cause them to gain weight.
“I’m seeing so many memes that show before COVID-19 body and after COVID-19 body, or jokes comparing ‘COVID-15’ to the Freshman 15,” says Elizabeth Denton, an L.A.-based writer. “At first I chuckled, but then I thought about what that means. Whoever posted that thinks ‘fat’ bodies are funny or something to be ridiculed.”