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Lacy Atalick is an audience editor at The Globe and Mail
I’m not the same size I was before the pandemic hit.
Early last spring, when we all began to hunker down, my motivation to keep fit was strong. My friends started a fitness challenge and kept each other going daily. But by the fall, our efforts retreated, as we seemed to permanently slide into our sweats and baggy tees.
Baking replaced going to the gym, and it was easy to talk myself out of that stupid little daily walk. I got complacent in my sweats, not needing to get dressed to go anywhere, anyway. (By then, as Suzanne Kapner reported in the Wall Street Journal, Google searches for “elastic waist” had spiked.)
I didn’t notice much of a change until recently. While combing through the clothes in my closet, which hadn’t been touched in a year, it dawned on me that my button down shirts, blazers and skirts were now relics from a distant life. My jewellery, heels and makeup had also essentially become obsolete. Hilary George-Parkin eloquently explores this realization in her Vox piece “To All the Clothes I’ve Loved Before.” She writes: “I understand that, for some people, it’s freeing not to worry about what to wear or whether this thing goes with that. For a sea of others, including me, it’s been destabilizing: Looking at my closet, many of the pieces I once carefully selected now feel like they belong to another life.”
Now, as restrictions ease and squeezing back into those skinny jeans would mean defying physics, it’s prompting a serious body-image rethink for me.
Should I care that my pre-pandemic pants are too small? Logistically, yes. The retail restrictions mean buying new clothes from a bricks and mortar store has been impossible until recently in Ontario, where I live. Once stores did eventually open, the line-ups were so long that I would have had to wait for hours to get my hands on a new pair of jeans. But what about mentally and emotionally?
In a world that preys upon our insecurities (the global wellness industry, which includes weight loss and fitness, is pegged at nearly US$5-trillion), can we do the radical thing and accept ourselves as we are? Once we re-emerge, can we do it without imposing unrealistic expectations on ourselves? I (and the rest of the roughly 30 per cent of the population who put on weight during the pandemic) am grappling with these questions.
Amanda Scriver dives head first into the notion of self-acceptance coming out of this period of isolation in The Walrus. “As the pandemic and various public health restrictions stretched into months, I wondered what, if anything, this era might change about our society’s onerous beauty standards – and my own. I realized that, after so many years of using clothes and makeup as a shield, I had no idea what it would look like to look good just for me,” she explains.
Since accepting I no longer fit into my pre-pandemic threads, I’m working on looking good and feeling good, just for me. I deliberately quiet thoughts of self-criticism with statements of self-acceptance. I’m trying to turn off the never-ending guilt track running through my brain. I’m tired of feeling bad about indulging, not exercising enough and, let’s be real, I’m probably never going to drink enough water every day.
As Courtney Rubin writes in The New York Times: “The guilt about what we’ve eaten – or the exercise we haven’t done – piles on faster than you can say ‘Quarantine 15.’”
It’s time for me to stop feeling guilty, and I hope if you’ve been struggling with this, for you too. But even as I pledge to focus on what I like about my body, and dwell less on what I don’t, the reality is that the media isn’t always an ally on this front. So I welcome signs of change, like Victoria’s Secret’s latest move. After four decades of setting impossible body image standards, the lingerie giant is dropping its famous Angels models for a group of prominent female athletes and activists “who share a common passion to drive positive change,” according to the company.
The “VS Collective” includes Megan Rapinoe, U.S. women’s soccer captain, actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas, LGBTQ activist and model Valentina Sampaio, among others.
“Models” like this help me realize fitting into my old clothes shouldn’t be my only goal.
What else we’re thinking about:
The silly, amateur Great Canadian Baking Show has captured my heart. The cast aren’t Michelin-level chefs but very relatable Canadians. I recently indulged in the first season and got swept up in the real-life characters and their stories. James is the obvious klutz in the kitchen, but provides comic relief in an otherwise tense competition. Did they cast him for the laughs? Because his visual presentation was usually disastrous. Albertans Linda and Terri are the baking mom and grandma (unrelated) whose stories won me over, only to be left blubbering at the TV when they (spoiler alert) got booted off the show. It’s super wholesome content, starring Dan Levy, Julia Chan, Rochelle Adonis and Bruno Feldeisen as hosts and judges. And while I’m not swearing off eating baked goods any time soon, it feels good to indulge in them in a different way once in a while.
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