News & Politics

Now Is REALLY Not the Time to Shame People Over Covid Weight Gains

Those who have experienced weight fluctuations in the past year are already dreading the post-pandemic body questions.

Photograph by Camrocker via iStock.

This week, the glazed greats at Krispy Kreme came out with a new deal: Show your vaccination card and get a free doughnut. In a press release, the company wrote that vaccinated folks would “receive a free iconic Original Glazed® doughnut – anytime, any day, even every day – through the remainder of 2021.” Doughnut-lovers rejoiced and people who have already received their Fauci Ouchies started walking/driving/running.

Some folks, though, got caught up specifically on the idea that the doughnut shop—which, you know, is literally in the business of selling doughnuts—suggested one might take up the offer every day. Leana Wen, a doctor who teaches at George Washington’s school of public health and writes about health for the Washington Post, was one such critic.

Phew, that is quite the ratio. Basically, Wen pointed out that if someone did eat the doughnuts daily, she estimated they would gain 15 pounds by the end of the year. “Why not give vaccinated people a box of donuts to give to an organization of their choice instead?” she wrote. Ultimately, she applauded the company for incentivizing folks to get vaccinated but concluded that “as a public health expert, I can’t endorse a diet of daily donuts.”

People were pretty pissed.

Understandably so—there’s been a lot of chatter about weight recently, with many folks discovering that their BMI indexes qualify them to receive vaccines, uncomfortably validating a problematic system that is racist and fatphobic in both its history and application. That also means that more people feel like they are under pressure to publicly explain their weight, layering the stigma of being fat on a decision that’s genuinely a net positive for the world.

In the same moment, spring is here and warmer weather often brings those weight-loss concerns (think: the silly concept of a “beach body”). Plus, as the country looks to open back up in the future and potentially get to some level of normalcy, those who have experienced weight fluctuations in the past year living in what could only be described as hell are already dreading the post-pandemic body questions. If you were lucky, you got to stay home and protect yourself from a deadly virus. Period. Regardless of the number on the scale. But, not everyone agrees.

Last week, New York Times personal health columnist Jane Brody wrote a piece titled “The Pandemic as a Wake-Up Call for Personal Health” and it was, welllllllllllll, what you might expect. She chided Americans for “their misguided reliance on medicine to patch up their self-inflicted wounds” and mentioned that “several people I know packed on quite a few pounds of health-robbing body fat this past year, and not because they lacked the ability to purchase and consume a more nutritious plant-based diet or to exercise regularly within or outside their homes.”

Look, I get it. In the past few decades that Brody has been writing about health, this country created a billion-dollar industry off of diet pills and weight loss, social media has contributed to increasing body insecurity, and food companies have continued to profit using chemically made-up ingredients. The kind of judgmental condescension that she champions simply fits in the narrative that the majority of health experts have pushed long before we stopped moving so much to curb Covid-19.

I am no health expert. I’m a woman of color who’s been on the receiving end of body-sculpting ads this whole damn year, who’s tired of “experts” talking about my flesh as if they know anything about me or my health, and I’m not the only person who’s fed up with people telling me what to do with my body other than survive as best I can. And if I see folks accepting more than one free doughnut as a vaccine reward, I will congratulate them for living through a global fucking pandemic.

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Web Producer/Writer

Rosa joined Washingtonian in 2016 after graduating from Mount Holyoke College. She covers arts and culture for the magazine. She’s written about anti-racism efforts at Woolly Mammoth Theatre, dinosaurs in the revamped fossil hall at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, and the horrors of taking a digital detox. When she can, she performs with her family’s Puerto Rican folkloric music ensemble based in Jersey City. She lives in Adams Morgan.