Over a year into the epidemic, I finally mustered the confidence to go shopping for new clothes. I’m sure most of us have had some experience with the “COVID 19,” and I was no exception. With Quebec’s curfew in force for several months, no amount of regular exercise could compensate for the stress, long hours, and sometimes lack access to nutritious meals. I couldn’t dispute that I had gained a few pounds and that most of my trousers were now too small for me. It was past time for me to treat myself to an update.
I went to my neighborhood secondhand store and discovered that my pant size had changed. As I browsed the racks of last year’s “out of season” trousers, I noticed that the identical waist/hip size on brand-name pants was labeled as extra-large rather than big. Nothing fit as I tried on an item after item until I tried on the pants in the “plus-size” department.
For the first time in my life, despite just being 10 pounds above the top limit of a healthy body mass index for my height, I was compelled to shop in a different section. I was suddenly labeled as a “plus-size” woman, and I couldn’t buy in many of the trendy, popular boutiques because they didn’t sell my size.
I was stunned, enraged, and instantly self-conscious. I’ve spoken to scores of adolescent girls and boys with eating problems during my pediatric-centered rotations over the last five years. They’ve sobbed in front of me, saying they were too heavy, their thighs were too large, and they “weren’t doing a good enough job losing weight.”
Despite the fact that their ribs protruded, their blood pressures were unstable, and menstruation/pubertal development had stopped, many of these teenagers suffered from suicidal thoughts because they were unable to achieve their “standards” for thinness. Adolescent eating disorders were already prevalent, and their prevalence has risen considerably throughout the epidemic. Unfortunately, unless hospitalization is necessary, the wait periods for care are excruciatingly long.
While this is not true for everyone, many teenagers were able to tell me about an event that triggered their eating disorders, which may range from not being able to fit into an outfit to a statement made by a physical education instructor such as “you are too large to perform chin-ups.”