In the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic, there is currently a popular “Avoid the Quarantine 15” tagline making the rounds. This has apparently become the catch phrase warning to all of us quarantined individuals to be careful of possibly gaining 15 pounds. There are tools to calculate what you are predicted to gain during quarantine as well as news and social media outlets capitalizing on this notion to adopt what I would call “a more diet-centric focus into our already over-diet-focused and fat-phobic world.”
I worry that this Quarantine 15 focus in its current usage is toxic and can backfire. It creates more fear, contributes to weight stigma, and is based on false assumptions.
As an Eating Disorder (ED) therapist, I do have to acknowledge that I have a strong bias on this topic. Given that a good portion of my work as a therapist is focused on treating individuals with EDs, I tend to be fairly sensitive to (and easily impassioned about) information out in the world that feels triggering, distorted and inappropriately focused.
I recognize that many of those who are posting or reporting on this catchy phrase don’t necessarily mean to be hurtful or triggering. We live in a diet culture and weight-obsessed world, and so the push to focus on certain products or intense workouts is not unexpected. However, we also know that this sort of focus can actually be harmful to those who are struggling with an ED, disordered eating, orthorexia, body image disturbances or other ED-related issues. These are serious illnesses that can affect one’s every waking hour, significantly disrupt their life and have serious long term effects. How we approach and talk about such things matters, and those who know, treat, or have recovered from an ED may be ideally situated to