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Diet Culture Persists Within Pandemic

If you scroll through the latest headlines or your social media newsfeed, you might notice content about “the quarantine fifteen” or the pressure to come out of lockdown in the best fitness of your life. Diet culture is so pervasive that it has infiltrated the largest global crisis of our lifetimes. If you notice yourself feeling preoccupied about food and body image during this pandemic, remember the following:

  • Food can be a source of comfort, and that’s okay. Right now, our mental and emotional energy is being depleted by a collective trauma. Ways of coping that require more mental effort (such as reading, being creative, or meditating) may fall to the wayside, and you may find yourself seeking comfort in food. Allow yourself to do so. Practice self-compassion about this form of coping.

  • It’s okay not to exercise. Remember: we’re in quarantine, not on a fitness retreat. If you do feel compelled to exercise, make sure it’s for healthy reasons separate from the pressures of diet culture. For example, exercise because it improves your mood or is an outlet for anxiety, not because you feel the need to prevent weight gain.

  • The content we consume affects the way we think. If you’re seeing content that perpetuates diet culture, consider avoiding or unfollowing those accounts. Litter your newsfeed with positive images and messages around food and body image.

There are so many other things to prioritize in the here-and-now. It might feel important to direct your energy to the way your body looks, but our mental resources are depleted and we may just need to focus on survival. Making it out of this pandemic safely is priority, no matter what your body looks like at the end of it all. If you have concerns about your current thoughts on body image and diet culture during this pandemic, bring it up with your therapist, who can help you sort out these thoughts.


Bethany Kriegel, LMHC, earned her master’s degree in mental health counseling from Boston College. She has experience working with adults in residential treatment settings, helping those struggling with eating disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder, among other issues.

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