“The COVID-19” Jokes and Why I’m Not Laughing

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Raise your hand if you’ve seen a social media post or heard someone joke about gaining “The COVID 19” (lbs)? I’m guessing most – if not all – of you.

The jokes and talk of “The COVID 19” is a reminder that diet culture is everywhere, all the time, EVEN during a global pandemic. There are “jokes” about wearing your mask indoors to help you keep from eating or to wear your swimsuit instead of your pajamas all day. It seems we can’t take a break from promoting weight gain as the devil, even as people are dying.

If you’ve made one of these jokes or shared them, it’s OK – you’re human. To be honest, I’ve participated in a text message exchange joking about whether new jeans I ordered online will now fit. For some people, “The COVID 19” jokes are funny and perhaps they go in one ear and out the other and don’t really affect them. But for others, that’s not the case. And that’s why I’m writing this post.

“The COVID 19” plays off “The Freshman 15,” which is maybe why it strikes a nerve for me. Why? Because negative talk of the “Freshman 15” before I went to college encouraged me not only to NOT gain “The Freshman 15”, but to LOSE weight. And that time period kicked off my relationship with disordered eating. (There are a variety of inputs that contributed to my body image struggle, but this is one of the most identifiable for me). I did lose weight … but I also lost socialization (e.g., not going to parties or drinking a beer at tailgates for fear of gaining weight) and I gained an obsession accompanied with guilt that put me in a mental prison.

We all want to be loved. We all want positive attention. And the message that I heard as an impressionable 18-year-old was “People will notice you, judge you and look down on you if you gain “The Freshman 15.”

Today, a lot of people are hearing that same message just with “The COVID 19” replacing “The Freshman 15.” In a world with so much uncertainty and struggle right now, is that the message we want to share?

I hope the answer is ‘no.’

I hope we recognize that our longing to be with friends and family right now is because we truly miss and value connection. We miss their embrace, their souls and their personalities. Not the size X shell that house those things. If this rings true, I encourage you then to ask yourself if the message you want your loved ones and friends (and you!) to focus on during the pandemic is to make sure they don’t gain 19 pounds. If not, then consider refraining from ‘liking’ the next “The COVID-19” joke you see on Instagram. Consider what you’re saying to spouse, co-workers and especially yourself when it comes to food and weight. Are you being critical or compassionate?

And if you are someone struggling with body image, fears of weight gain, etc., right now, please know YOU ARE NOT ALONE. I am struggling right along with you. Below are some folks who are helping me, and I hope they help you, too.

View this post on Instagram

Same applies to chocolate. Have a nice day my loves. ❤️

A post shared by Jameela Jamil (@jameelajamilofficial) on

When my mind starts to beat myself up about potential weight gain this week, these are going to be my responses to myself:

“…if your quarantine body looks different than your usual body, it is okay.” (@katejbaer)

Your weight may fluctuate. Your worth will not. … Our worth sits in SO. MUCH. MORE. than some stupid number on a scale. It’s in our ability to reach out with kindness even as the world rocks. It’s in our brains. Our souls. Our determination to fight for something better. Our hope for the future. Our love for each other.” (@danaemercer)

“Self compassion is a far more helpful response than self punishment.” (@chr1styharrison)

“We don’t need to come out of this thin, we need to come out of this alive. That’s our only job … Be gentle with yourself.” (@jameelajamilofficial)

Sending love to you all,


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