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The COVID Pandemic, Food Shaming, and Mindfulness

If you were on social media from March until June it was nearly everyday that you saw jokes about beach bodies after quarantine, weight gain, mindless eating, etc.

Some even refer to quarantine weight gain as “gaining the COVID-19” like it is a right of passage, expectation, and movement that we all are aware of and bitter about. Jessica Zucker and Sara Gaynes Levy wrote an excellent article on how fat shaming is harmful, discussing why we should potentially consider avoiding that conversation.

In the midst of relaxed quarantine procedures, re-opening the economy, and the Black Lives Matter discussion on change, the light has been pulled away from what we were eating at home. That is why I am discussing it now. Discussing the battle in the trenches leads to a different conversation than post-war reflections. When you are in the throws of it, it is just something everyone relates to and no one see’s a problem with it. It’s either not a big deal or too big of a deal to tackle. But taking the time to reflect on it afterwards affords you the opportunity to take a less-involved look at it.

If you have chanced upon any of my previous work you have likely heard me say, “friends don’t let friends fat talk” and this is a prime example of where it can become an issue. I gave a talk two years ago titled, “The Closet Monster” that seems to be just as applicable to our current conversation. The purpose of that presentation was to help people recognize that those conversations we have had with ourselves regarding our weight, our body shape, or our size can influence our feelings of self-worth. The subconscious conversations and expectations lend themselves to creating our self-beliefs. Seeing that other people use self-deprecating humor allows the opportunity to find friendship in discomfort. But you don’t need to help the world demonize, belittle and create disgust towards the human body. Our love-hate relationship with the body goes from fascination in childhood of “look what I can do”, to adulthood memories of, “remember when I was thin?” and “I wish I was as thin as the first time I thought I was fat” and so on. This can be a pretty heavy, and deep conversation. While it is important to reflect, understand where we have been and have a desire for where we are going remember that “where there is no vision, people perish”. (Proverbs 29:18) The desire is wonderful, the hope is essential, and the drive is praiseworthy. But how do we know when we get there, if we don’t know where there is.

How do you know when you will be comfortable with your body? How will you know when your body is no longer the enemy? How will you know when you respect yourself and have gratitude for all your body does for you? When does the scale tip from self-hate, to self-acceptance, to self-love?

Taking time to check in with yourself, to listen to yourself, to respect yourself helps to send a signal to yourself that you are worth it. There are exercises, both physical and mental, that can be put into place to help us through our current normal. To provide a physical reminder of the importance of checking in with yourself I have put together the blind meal activity. During this trying time, we can choose to focus on the difficulties, the barriers, the uncertainty, or on other topics. We can listen to the external pressures, or you can take the time to self-reflect and move forward in faith.

Sometime in the next while, try out this method of checking in with yourself.

This is called the blind meal.

As you could have guessed you will be eating blindfolded so here are a couple of things to take into account before starting, how messy do you want it to be? Do I want to do this with kids or adults? What foods would be the easiest? Finger foods only or are utensils acceptable?

Recognize that you will need to take turns so that everyone can participate and you will want to make sure to have the food prepared that you want to use.

Provide a pen and pad of paper that each person participating can write on and let everyone see where the plates, utensils, pen and paper are.

During this next step you will eat the food and record your thoughts. This is where the fun begins, place the blindfolds on those participating.

You can choose to write it down during or write about it afterward. Make sure that you take your time while eating and do not discuss it during the meal.

In your reflection, make sure to use descriptive words — crunchy, smooth, creamy, tangy, bitter, fluffy, heavy, off-putting, memorable, pungent, earthy, etc.

Consider having relaxing music on, or silence, to eliminate distractions.

Remember, do not eat too fast.

A big part of this is taking time to taste the food, explore it, and be present while eating.

You may want to consider using a timer that provides the amount of time you must spend eating if you think it would be helpful.

Try one food at a time.

Finally, take the blind fold off and look at the food you were eating. Review your comments with those you are doing this with.

You may have to trade off so that everyone has the chance to participate, but make sure to have different foods so that the individuals eating do not know what they will be consuming.

The blind meal can be an example of mindful eating, but it also gives you time to explore your connection to food and your body. During the pandemic, many were mindlessly consuming foods. To draw the connection to our speech and self-dialogue, sometimes we mindlessly take in content on the internet too. This call for mindfulness can help you take an inventory of the foods you’re eating and the content you consuming.


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