Hellman: Changing bodies and beauty standards during COVID-19

Columnist Megan Hellman believes we should love women’s bodies for what they are, despite the size. 

Megan Hellman

Weight gain or loss during a pandemic is understandable; since almost every aspect of routine life has changed, it makes sense for our bodies to change too. However, understanding weight fluctuations is extremely different from accepting weight fluctuations.

Americans have idolized specific body types and sizes for years, creating unrealistic and dangerous standards. Bodies have been reduced to appearance and measurements, when they are truly so much more than a size. Beauty standards have no connection to healthy bodies, and COVID-19 may help to expose the stigma behind nonidolized body types.

One of the first things my roommate said to me after returning to Ames after months at home was a comment on the weight she had gained and how horrible it was. Weight and appearance are not an afterthought for many females, even during a global pandemic. We learn that “skinny” and “beautiful” are synonyms that correspond to a number on the scale. We learn that weight gain is worse than being unhealthy and every pound gained cuts away at our self-worth.

Too many women reduce themselves to the shape of their bodies. It’s OK if you have gained weight over the past few months and it’s OK if you have lost weight. Maybe being stuck at home all day gives you high accessibility to food and snacks, or maybe recent job insecurity has left your pantry more bare than normal. Regardless of the possibilities, you may be gaining or losing weight right now, and that is OK. Bodies should be celebrated and loved for being your forever home, not constantly under scrutiny and harsh criticism.

The process of learning to alter your mindset instead of your body takes a lot of work and time. Accepting your body is not the same as giving up on becoming healthier or more fit, it is simply loving all of yourself no matter what you look like.

Instead of yearning for a different body shape or size, take the time to appreciate what you have and what your body is capable of. It is also important to understand humans created beauty standards and we have the ability to change them to be more inclusive and realistic for all people. Find balance in your exercise and diet that enhance your body positivity mindset.

This pandemic has changed life in almost every aspect, yet we continue to hold women to the same degrading and dangerous beauty standards from centuries ago. Understanding and accepting the changes that may occur to your body is a rewarding form of growth everyone deserves to feel.