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Fear of weight gain rising with fear of the coronavirus

by Laura Collins Lyster-Mensh, F.E.A.S.T. Executive Director

It started with the jokes: about gaining weight while in quarantine. The term “covid15” spread early on, referring to gaining 15 pounds while shut in away from the world.

Now, it’s official. Public health officials are spreading fear of childhood “obesity” as a result of schools closing.

It’s hard to read the news without seeing the breathless idea, without good evidence, that Covid-19 outcomes are worse based on body size.

Add the rise in moral panic over inactivity and emotional eating, “free” online exercise programs for children, and points systems recommended for children to “earn” food at home.


  • Gaining weight during a pandemic is surely the least of anyone’s problems
  • Children’s eating and exercise are not improved by fear of weight gain
  • Framing social distancing as a health threat is the opposite of reality

Being active with our families, eating regular real meals, self-care, sleeping, and managing stress are positive lifestyle decisions — and often luxuries — not ways to control our body size. Promoting healthy lifestyles with the creepy (and moralistic) promise of a thin body is particularly tone-deaf during this current crisis.


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