I have lost a lot of things during the pandemic — my sanity, drive, optimism, will — but perhaps the most noticeable of them is my weight. I weighed 62 kilograms before, but I am now down to 55 kilos. I know what you are thinking, but please, if you read a little longer, you will know that this is not your typical weight loss success story.
I was one of those people who used exercise as a tool to cope with the uncertainties we are facing. I did it so that I would be able to have a semblance of control over my life; I figured I should optimize my physical health to make up for the fact that my mental health had deteriorated. I may not know how the future would turn out, but at least I knew that I would be doing a high intensity interval training every Monday and Friday, upper body training on Tuesday and Thursday, and lower body training day on Wednesday and Saturday.
People obviously saw the changes I was going through, because they began pointing out that I lost weight. They seemed happy for me—the funny fat person in the family, the chubbiest sibling, the P-I-G finally losing some weight. No one even asked me if the weight loss was intentional, or if I was losing it healthily. What mattered was that I got smaller.
When people asked me the secret behind my weight loss, I would jokingly tell them, “The pandemic.” Well, there was more to the joke than met the eye. Do you know the adage “abs are made in the kitchen”? The pandemic ravaged half of the contents of our kitchen, so what was once a five-times-a-day meal became three. Our kitchen shrunk and our choices became limited. The space is now only for survival, so there is no room for sculpting those enticing six-pack abs.
The pandemic also blew away all the saccharine treats, the flavorful and addicting fast food, the umami junk food, and the fizzy sodas. Unfortunately, our household took a serious blow in finances when the pandemic hit. We had to change our diets and cut our portion sizes. We couldn’t afford to eat certain foods anymore, so we had to find cheaper alternatives. So naturally, my weight went down when I started eating smaller portions and less junk food. People may ask, “isn’t it a good thing that you started to eat better in terms of the quality of food?” From an optimistic perspective, yes. But I would like to at least have a choice when it came to the food I would consume.
Nonetheless, we are still lucky that we get to eat food at least three times a day, because for some, eating thrice a day has become a treat, not the norm. Studies show a marked increase in the number of children who are malnourished during the pandemic, as their families struggle to put food on the table. So many people lost their jobs when a chilling number of businesses closed down because of COVID-19. And the government’s inadequacy to support and aid its constituents during this crisis only worsened the poverty in our country.
I wonder, how many people unintentionally lost weight during this pandemic? How many people do not eat pork anymore because the cost of a kilo of pork can buy a lot more varied food items, with change to spare? How many people have opted for a plant-based diet in order to save money?
My weight loss experience is not just an aesthetic and health concern, it is also indicative of my social and political reality. It is a shared experience among those of us who bore the brunt of the crisis, which was exacerbated by the ineffective and meandering governance of our leaders. Some weight losses entail a more tragic story behind them. To some, it is not a goal, but the side effect of a battle being fought outside and inside.
* * *
Diana Mandac, 21, is from Cavite. She is an incoming fourth year college student at the University of the Philippines Baguio.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.