“I gained weight during the pandemic, more than I wanted to admit. With the reopening imminent, I’m nervous about seeing people again in person. I’m not even sure I’m interesting anymore anyway, and the weight gain has taken a toll on my self-esteem even more. – Call me Lauren
I’ll pass the mike directly to someone more qualified to answer your question, Lauren. Body Confidence Advocate Aisha Fairclough has a simple message for a complex issue: “I think we’re all going through the same thing,” she says. “Our bodies have changed during the pandemic. We didn’t have a lot of movement. It’s okay, we survived! Have compassion for yourself.
I first met Aisha Fairclough while working on a story about her for the Star a few years ago. I interviewed Fairclough, who is a television producer specializing in diversity casting, and her life partner Jill Andrew, then an academic, writer and speaker and now MPP for my own riding of Toronto-St. Paul. Together, they formed Body Confidence Canada to promote body positivity and fight discrimination based on size and appearance.
In the years that followed, Fairclough became a filmmaker (with a short documentary, “The Body Politics,” a portrayal of Andrew’s trip to politics, which premiered at Hot Docs and opens a film at the In and Out) and is also a producer of an upcoming queer-themed Bell Media talk show, the name of which will be announced this week. “Negative body speech and bold phobic messages did not magically disappear during the pandemic,” says Fairclough. “Sometimes you feel good about your body, and sometimes you don’t. Social media images of lawyers holding restless body parts are great, but there is no magic pill for self-esteem.
She recommends that we reframe the narrative for ourselves. “Oh my God, I gained weight. But I survived! We so easily forget how bad it was, how many lives were lost. You are still breathing, have a party!
Besides, I guarantee you are not alone. Estimates of how many of us gained weight during the pandemic vary: an April 2021 study from Dalhousie University in Halifax said 58% of Canadian survey respondents reported weight changes “Unwanted” due to the pandemic. The New York Times cited a study that showed participants gained half a pound every 10 days under shelter-in-place orders; extrapolating that could mean 20 pounds for many people. And the American Psychological Association showed that 42% of those surveyed had unwanted weight gain, averaging 29 pounds per person.
But not going out because of it is just more self-punishment, Fairclough says. “We are social creatures; do not deprive yourself of the benefits of returning to the world. But take your time. It’s hard.”
The conversation about the diet is heavy and can trigger triggers in people. “It’s good to want to lose weight,” Fairclough says. But remember who is listening to your negative self-talk. “We are not immune to diet culture, I am not immune to diet culture. My body changed during the pandemic. That’s okay, we were all consoling each other the only way we could! There’s nothing wrong with moving or wanting to change, she says. “But we cannot bond by collectively humiliating each other. We need to remember that change and weight loss don’t necessarily mean better.
We have to relearn how to talk to each other, on so many levels. “We have to be kind and patient,” says Fairclough. “We also have to defend ourselves and each other. If you go back to the office and someone starts talking about needing to eat a salad or being guilty of eating a cookie, ”Fairclough says, shut that if you mind. “People need to learn different ways to advocate for their needs and their mental health. She also suggests that this is a good time to think about who we want to reintegrate into our lives. “You don’t need to be around people who trigger negativity in you. Instead, choose people who uplift you.
Fairclough, who started her advocacy work with a fashion blog called Fat and the City, is now a member of the Program’s Advisory Board at the Ryerson School of Fashion, says, “Fashion is not just about clothes, it’s also about clothes. body, storytelling, culture, a form of resistance. On a practical level, she recommends daring to start small, putting on shorts one day, and trying on a sleeveless dress the next day. “Nobody looks for what you perceive to be your flaws, they notice your confidence,” she says.
Look, I’m as unsure as anyone of all kinds of changes in my body, both with age and the changes specific to a pandemic. But because of people like Fairclough, I’m much more concerned now about promoting change after being part of the fashion industry complex’s message that created the unrealistic and exclusionary ideals that plague us in the first place. I was editor-in-chief of a fashion magazine, fashion editor and journalist in a newspaper, so I have a guilt:. Not to mention the 90s heyday of chic heroine, where skinny, listless, very young white girls were, fleetingly, the standard bearers of fashion.
But enough digression; suffice to say that I am very interested in the opportunity I have today to amplify the voices of thought leaders by helping us to reframe the very idea of fashion as a means for all bodies and diverse identities to begin to express themselves. Gratitude for this keeps my own inner critic in check and allows me to accept with a minimum of grace that I’m no longer the designer sample size I was at 30. I am much happier, if that helps.
Send your urgent fashion and beauty questions to Leanne at [email protected]
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