One Unhealthy Thing You Need to Stop Saying During COVID-19

These negative words can be extremely harmful.

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There has been plenty of fodder for discussion over the past few months—particularly with the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe—but one of the most commonly discussed topics is still weight gain during quarantine. Although weight gain and body dissatisfaction have been consistent topics of conversation for ages, particularly among women, these discussions are extremely unhealthy. As quarantine has altered diets and exercise regimens, many people have felt disconnected from their bodies and health, which has made negative "body talk" even more pervasive.

Women's body dissatisfaction has been so pervasive for such a long time that body image researchers began referring to it as "normative discontent" back in the 1980s. This phrase refers to the fact that women are so inclined to dislike their bodies that it is considered the norm. However, this "norm" is not healthy, nor should it be considered normal.

As Charlotte Markey, PhD, wrote for U.S. News & World Report, "Conversations about weight and appearance concerns seem to provide an opportunity for female bonding. These concerns span age, ethnicity, class, and political leanings and seem to be conceptualized as 'safe' topics of conversation." Amid all the controversial topics 2020 has brought to light, discussing weight gain feels comfortable to women, who assume the women around them will simply agree. However, Markey writes, "Body image research suggests these conversations are anything but safe," and these negative "body talks" have only gotten more prominent during quarantine.

two white women with face masks walking through a city
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And it's not just women who engage in negative body talk. Markey refers to a recent study from the University of Missouri's Center for Body Image Research and Policy, which "found that 37 percent of women and 44 percent of men of over 800 young adults surveyed would rather contract COVID-19 than gain 25 pounds while social distancing." This study suggests that the repercussions of body talk permeate people's lives to the extent that they would prefer getting a potentially deadly disease to gaining weight.

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Cutting yourself off from negative body talk isn't all that simple when it is so ingrained in society. Some research suggests that the best way to alter the persistent culture of negative body talk is to challenge it. When you catch yourself talking negatively about your body, challenge your own thinking and examine the real reason you're looking to discuss it. Moreover, you can challenge your social circles to have more productive conversations during these unprecedented times, moving away from discussing appearance—and toward discussing things that really matter. And if the pandemic has been especially challenging for you due to disordered eating, check out these 7 Tips for People Struggling With Eating Disorders During Quarantine.

Allie Hogan
Allie Hogan is a Brooklyn based writer currently working on her first novel. Read more
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