• Nancy Mendelson

Quarantine Weight Gain? How to Cope

Several years ago, I came to the realization that, if I heard the same topic mentioned three times from three different people in the same week, it was a “thing” and merited exploration. Case in point: weight gain during the pandemic, aka the “Quarantine 15” …more or less.




Oh, it’s a “thing” alright! As we trade in our stretchy "covid pants" for back-to-work attire, virtually everyone I talk to is bemoaning, berating, bewailing the fact that their clothes have gotten tighter! The headlines concur, "Don’t Be Ashamed of Those Extra Pounds says the New York Times and “Did You Gain Weight During Quarantine? Here’s How to Lose it offers the Mount Sinai blog.


The truth of the matter: it’s not that you gained some weight, rather how you’re dealing with it. Personally, it has always been an issue for me.


Since early childhood, someone was always watching my weight, and it wasn’t me because, at 5 years old, I didn’t know any better. I ate what I was given so, if I was headed for chubbytown, it wasn’t me driving that train.


I first became aware that my weight was an issue when my mother—a model—made me and my grandmother join her in generational fashion show to raise money for charity. The outfit I was supposed to wear was too tight, so after several minutes of pulling, tugging and telling me to suck in my stomach, they gave up and put me in something totally unrelated to the theme.


It was the first time I ever felt embarrassed about my body…so much so that I hid backstage, crying my eyes out, hoping no one would find me until after the show was over. No such luck. My mother found me, and she was not happy.


As the announcer introduced us, my embarrassment morphed into defiance. “I’ll show YOU,” I thought, as I puffed myself up into some kind of Honey Boo Boo-like prancing show pony: hands on hips, snarling lips, all swagger, with a balls-to-the-wall attitude that made my hurt go away. Then out we came… me mimicking every catwalk move my mother made, like I was a sassy little supermodel.

The audience began to laugh, harder and louder with every pose I’d strike, and it started to make me feel bad. “They’re making fun of me,” I thought. I remember feeling like I was being suffocated by shame. Years later, my shrink would tell me they were probably laughing because I was adorable, but you couldn’t have convinced me of that back then, because my mother put me on a diet… and the rest is a history fraught with me working hard to not define myself by the pound.


Fast forward to today, and although the Quarantine 15 (I actually gained 8 pounds, but who’s counting) has pushed—or popped— some old buttons, I feel so grateful that we are coming out the other end of a crisis… and if in order to get through it we soothed and comforted ourselves with food, then BFD!


Throughout the pandemic, I faced my own mortality more than once and realized that when I check into my final resting place, it won’t be about whether I gained or lost weight...but rather, was I kind? Did I leave the world a better place? Did I help people? Gee, I hope so!