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COVID kilos: weight worries amidst a global pandemic

We’re bouncing between baking sourdough bread and practising Yoga with Adrienne. We’ve fiercely committed to comfy pants and rejected jeans. We’re bemoaning our expanding waistlines and the media have responded: just google Covid/quarantine kilos. We’re months into the global Covid-19 pandemic and weight worries still manage to be a concern.

We’re lucky that in Melbourne, Australia we are even able to have such worries. Our national cases and fatalities pale in comparison to most – we are doing better than many other countries. Still, we are experiencing a dramatic change in the way we live, work, and socialise.  For many, stability in employment and housing teeters precariously or is gone. Yet somehow, amidst all of this, we still manage to worry about our weight. The currency of ‘thin and beautiful’ still manages to claim a space in our collective consciousness.

Despite many of us subscribing to and actively promoting more inclusive beauty and body standards, weight is still being discussed in the digital space even when we’re confronted with a global pandemic. It seems that the traditional notions of self-worth and value dictated by our weight and appearance is a cultural norm that doesn’t just disappear even when a more pressing issue arises. No real surprise here. Perhaps it’s just a sad but true reality that we must learn to accept; that unlearning the traditional value that our weight dictates self-worth is an ongoing battle. One that starts with the self.

As we inch towards a more inclusive space with different, non-traditional images of beauty that subvert the long reigning standard of white and thin, do we apply these standards to ourselves? Do we practice what we preach? Our intent to broaden beauty standards is put into practice when we view others but unsurprisingly, many of us are still our own worst critics. Millennials and Gen Z are happy to take part in the comedy of self-deprecation – we’re less inclined to make fun of others but readily poke fun at ourselves. How much truth is there to our self-deprecating humour? I for one seek to practice inclusivity in the way I view other people, but I don’t apply this standard to myself. Whilst actively seeking non-conventional beauty standards through my media consumption and believing that weight does not dictate self-worth, a harmful value long perpetuated in many cultures, I still view myself through a hypercritical lens. For those prone to overthinking and self-judgement, extending kindness and empathy to others can be much easier than kindness to oneself.

In Melbourne right now during a Stage 4 lockdown, there is the issue of suddenly finding ourselves with more time. On the one hand, we have more time to relax and unwind but on the other, more time to overanalyse, criticise and obsess. More time – and for some that does not mean more time to relax. Perhaps the novelty of “iso lockdown” has worn off and we’re forced to think more about our own psychological baggage? Without the routine of work, the support of friends and distraction of recreation there is more time to cascade into successive pools of repetitive thought. Fewer commitments and fewer things to worry about can shift our focus to things we needn’t be worrying about. There is potential to magnify minor issues in amongst the melancholy of these strange times.

All we can really do is continue to surround ourselves with images of different types of beauty that defy convention, and realise that unlearning values ingrained into society for as long we can remember is not something that can be done overnight. The fact that we are still worrying about the scales during this global crisis suggests that our cultural obsession with weight still reigns supreme in our consciousness. Cultural value systems are embedded deep, and we must keep doing the work, starting with our own bodies and remembering that in celebrating all body types we must actively include our own.


Krystal Maynard is a musician, writer, emerging podcaster and serious museum fan. Her music criticism has been published in Big Issue, Mess and Noise, Beat and Vice Magazine and she co-hosts and produces a podcast called First Time Feelings. She can also be found playing in bands around town, tending to her plants, eating laksa and trying to reduce her ‘to be read’ pile. She’s also a communications professional working in the best sector: arts and culture! Krystal is fascinated by human behaviour and learning about this weird and ever-changing world.

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