Bodies in Quarantine

Ruby Wang

In July, a paparazzi snapshot of Lana Del Rey on a 7-Eleven run blew up on Twitter. The viral photo amassed criticism as Del Rey wore a tight top and short shorts, revealing she had gained weight. As I scrolled through the users who fat-shamed her, I posed the question as to why this was even newsworthy— why was this celebrity receiving scrutiny for gaining weight during quarantine? Should I also feel bad for putting on weight during quarantine? 

I was not by any stretch of the imagination “fit” before the pandemic struck. I’d grimace at the thought of running or completing a pushup. Nor was I healthy, as I lived a busy schedule swarmed with classes, extracurriculars, and a part-time job, resulting in days where I’d skip meals, or the only food I had were the fortune cookies at my job’s desk. My unhealthy ways worsened because of Covid. I became sedentary, with my daily steps collapsing from 5,000 to 500. With my days feeling so terribly elongated, I filled my boredom by snacking on bags after bags of popcorn and pita chips. My sleep habits worsened as well. I became nocturnal, sleeping at 8am but wide awake by midnight. I lost all motivation to work out, as I thought, “I’m not seeing anyone, so why does it matter?” As if my body existed only as a view for everyone else, not for my own well-being. 

After a few months stuck at home, a realization struck that my body would inevitably change because of my poor habits. My friends started messaging me about their daily runs and workout sessions. They were invested in their new favorite smoothies and health bars. I learned of the infamous “Chloe Ting ab challenge”, a 2-week online program intended to give participants Chloe’s desired physique. Despite initially not caring about my body’s appearance because I was hidden away at home, my sentiment changed after this point. A feeling similar to FOMO filled me, as I feared that everyone had become slim and fit with 6-pack physiques, and I was slipping behind, becoming increasingly flabby and unattractive. Thus, I embarked on a mission to catch up. I began cleaning my diet up, spending hours on videos by fitness gurus and models retelling what they ate in a day. I gave into the Chloe Ting hype, as I began doing her workouts every night. 

The first few days I was motivated by the fact that I would eventually reach my “dream body,” one similar to big name models like the Hadid sisters or Adriana Lima. It took me a while before I reminded myself that I was not 5’10, nor was my career predicated on achieving that body. However, I did find a sense of accomplishment by sticking to healthier, more realistic habits. Day by day, workouts would go by faster and feel easier. I loved eating healthier too, as my body felt nourished by eating cleaner. I realized my behavior should be predicated on how I feel rather than what I was supposed to look like for others. 

Most importantly, I felt healthier mentally. The unrealistic expectations surrounding us for what a woman’s body should look like is nothing new. So, to answer my initial question as to why Lana Del Rey’s weight gain roused so much attention, look to how we’ve lost sight of what a normal body looks like. Endless people have called out these unattainable standards, yet endless continue to feed into the expectations. We have attributed such severe importance to looking like super thin models and celebrities. In reality, there should be no standards or expectations for a body. Everyone lives different lives with different habits, and we are currently living lives completely altered by a pandemic, and our bodies are going to reflect that. There was nothing wrong with my body before I started eating “healthy” and working out, nor is there anything wrong with the “fitter” lifestyle. Lana Del Rey’s body is just as normal and beautiful after gaining weight as Adriana Lima’s. Stuck in a lockdown where a sickly virus is spreading rapidly in our nation, the only real standard our bodies have is to ensure we survive. Our bodies are our safe spaces and our temples; thus, we ought to treat them kindly.