Welcome to Black Women in Quarantine aka #BWIQ, where Black women from around the world share life from quarantine and how it’s changed for them.
March 2020 delivered something indescribable to us all: a global pandemic. Not necessarily the first of its kind, but definitely the first many of us have ever experienced. Since we were forced inside in order to curb the effects of the virus, many folks took to social media to express that now was the time to start projects we’ve pushed behind us, expand on those side business ideas, to work on our summer bodies, and more.
Hustle culture increased tenfold. Tweets saying that if you weren’t using this time “productively”, then you were wasting the extra time quarantine afforded you started to pop up. Instagram posts from lifestyle influencers sharing how they’re using their time effectively inundated our feeds. I fell into their trap of unsustainable productivity and worked towards getting the proper equipment necessary in order to be my “best self” over the next couple of months.
I went out and bought the yoga mat and the resistance bands. I tried to buy free weights but they were sold out everywhere I looked (they are still sold out to this day). I even downloaded all the yoga videos and Chloe Ting challenges I could try. I planned to film a video on how I stayed productive during quarantine for my YouTube channel, and how folks could do it too. I wanted to be able to say that I used my time wisely and to hopefully help others do the same.
But this faux productivity was very difficult to maintain. I would continuously be on and off with the exercises, and there were many days that I opted to rewatch Glee on Netflix instead of going to the outdoor track on campus with my roommate or partner. I struggled to keep up with these exercises consistently, it was always in bursts, and I think that was more harmful to me than beneficial. Not to mention, the lack of quick results discouraged me. I stepped on the scale, and as the number went higher and higher with each passing week, my mood would get worse. I was trying to be better but I felt like a failure.
I didn’t realize how significant my weight gain was until I wasn’t able to fit in one of my favorite pairs of pants anymore. Although I had been gaining weight in increments since I started college, it hit substantially in 2020. I went from around 130 lbs to nearly 160 in a couple of months which was a lot for me. The weight was visible in my face, my chest, and I got more stretch marks around my arms and hips. I would look at myself in the mirror and sigh. I had never been here before, I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I wholeheartedly believe that weight gain isn’t bad, but the way it showed up for me wasn’t pleasing.
So I continued on. I tried to increase my water intake, eat out less, and be more active when I wasn’t in class or my internships. Something the influencers posting all the productivity rhetoric didn’t seem to realize was that isolation from the outside world, your friends and family, can severely impact your mental wellness. I became easily burned out after a day of work. It was a lot to open my laptop and hop from Zoom calls to online assignments on repeat. When the day was done, all I wanted to do was unwind. The last thing on my mind was trying to run a half-mile on the track.
Despite my trying to plan my day around work and wellness, nothing stuck for me in the end. I couldn’t force myself to do things that wouldn’t make me feel good, even though they looked good on the outside to others. As I came to the realization that this new-quarantine-me was not going to work, I began to allow myself to do the things that brought me joy. I started to allow myself to eat the cake I wanted, watch the shows I wanted to watch, order the tacos I wanted from Uber Eats without guilt, and just be me. Why? Because we’re in a freaking pandemic!
Everyone says that we have more time, but that isn’t really the case. Our time has simply been allotted to other things that do not require us to be outside. Many of my peers have not spent this time in leisure, they’ve been working just like me in order to take care of themselves. And while some may say getting active is as easy as doing 10 minutes of exercise, I’d rather spend those 10 minutes in bed resting instead. And I’m not sorry for it.
I don’t have a good relationship with exercising anymore. I don’t hate it, but I see it as a chore and not something I want to enjoy at the moment. I already have a lot of chores and responsibilities, so I’d rather not add another one to my plate. I hope one day though that our relationship will get better, today is not that day.
Some may say that I’m being lazy, but I say that I’m prioritizing my happiness. I am prioritizing my mental wellbeing by not doing things that do not bring me joy. I’m a student, I’m an intern, I don’t particularly like doing those things all the time but I have little choice in the matter. But I do have the choice to do or not do other things, and I will choose my happiness every time.
My body and I have come to an understanding that it is here to stay for the time being, and I am going to accept it. When I come across another article of clothing that no longer fits me, I don’t fixate on the fact I can’t fit in it anymore, but I think to myself “well it’s time to go shopping” and that immediately brightens my mood. Turning a negative into a positive is how I’ve worked around this new experience of being a different size.
And I’ve set smaller, more easily attainable goals for myself. Instead of throwing myself into a Chloe Ting challenge, I’ve challenged myself to go out and take a 15-20 minute walk at least 3 times a week. Staying cooped up inside is not good, especially during these times, so not only does it give me a mini-break from the atmosphere the pandemic has created, but I also sneak in something active that I don’t despise. A win-win if I do say so myself.
We need to realize that society’s relationship with weight and productivity is dangerous. And right now, people are coping with the pandemic in different ways, and rightfully so. No one is built to stay the same forever, nor are they built to work without rest. Our bodies change, our bodies grow weary, we deserve breaks.
We must allow ourselves to welcome these changes when they come, to welcome rest when our bodies ask for it, or we’ll be even more unhealthy than what society thinks is unhealthy. Do what is best for you, whether that is running at 6 AM, or watching Netflix until 6 AM. As long as you’re happy, you’re healthy, and you feel personally fulfilled, that is all that matters. Not only during this pandemic but beyond.
Hafeezat Bishi is a 20-year-old, Nigerian American multimedia content creator with a focus on current events and social justice. She’s currently a senior at Temple University majoring in Communication and Social Influence. When not in class, she’s creating content for her website, social media, or her YouTube channel.