Quarantine Depression Diaries: My shifting body image


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Ryder Noah From

Everyone on social media has seen those quarantine memes about people’s bodies deteriorating because of the quarantine; and not in the I’m-eating-too-many-unhealthy-snacks-that-will-lead-to-heart-issues-down-the-road kind of way. It’s all about getting fat.

I’ve never struggled with being overweight. My metabolism has kept me lean my whole life, even if my cholesterol has been a little high during some physicals. Still, a part of me worries about when my genes will inevitably slow down and all the fast food will catch up to me. While I do worry about my internal health, I’m mostly worried about becoming fat.

Being fat and gay is a whole different world. I had never looked at my body as much as I did when I joined Tinder and Grindr—the sad reality of how superficial the gay community is tore away my rose-colored glasses of being out in college. 

Why does the person I like not like me back? Why wasn’t it a match? Is it something wrong with me? Am I not skinny enough? Do I need abs too? Do I not have enough of a butt? When my friends think it’s unrealistic of me to get a muscular boyfriend, are they saying I’m not attractive enough for someone like that? Why do so many profiles say that they don’t like feminine guys? I thought other gay guys would be more understanding.

I thought I was that superficial too, which horrified me. I may be very picky, but I care about personality just as much as I do about looks. I would never be with Zac Efron if it turned out he was an awful person, but still… 

I don’t want to be fat because that means less people would like me. Because of course, my beauty should be relative to others and not something I find in myself; it doesn’t matter how much my outside changes, I’ll still be who I am on the inside. But, I really want a boyfriend and all of these messages between the lines are saying that if I was just more physically attractive, I would be the happiest person in the world.

Spring semester I decided to start working out. After discussing it with a friend to make sure I wanted abs for me and not for a guy (because whenever I imagine myself going Super Saiyan mode in my fantasy daydreams I have them), I started with at-home workouts and then hit the Johnson Center every MWF.

By building a routine and figuring out what I like, I removed the association between running and puking in my head. Even more important, I realized that being picked last in the past for kickball doesn’t mean I can’t be athletic and give my body what it deserves. Gym class might have made me hate athleticism, but that’s in the past. I make my own choices now about what I do with my body.

I was feeling great. My self-love was growing, and I both realized and got over some internalized homophobia that had become a ghost over the years. And then quarantine hit and I haven’t worked out since. 

There are so many TikToks about becoming fat because of quarantine that it’s hard to not feel worthless for not continuing to work out. Even though comedy is how a lot of people deal with their issues, the subtext is still there: fat is bad and ugly.

Another TikTok trend is gay guys glowing up after college because classmates are toxic, but in every single one, there’s a fresh new jawline. Don’t get me wrong, more power to everyone who gets the body they want for the right reasons (I understand the level of hypocrisy with my deciding to get abs and writing this), but it would be nice to see more people who “glew up” who aren’t skinny and are still happy. 

Maybe no one would believe them because society still thinks that you can’t be happy or beautiful if you’re overweight. 

I think I’ll continue to work out when we’re back in college. I like the gym atmosphere and it did make me love myself more because I saw my body as something that deserves the world and not a worthless sack, but for the time being, I’ll try not to look at my stomach too much.