Why “Quarantine 15” Memes Can Be Harmful

When the joke stops being funny

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“Quarantine Barbie” is one of many memes making the rounds on social media during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One thing we can say about the last couple of months — 2020 memes are on point. There’s a reason for that. When life is scary, unpredictable, and downright unbearable, humor is an effective way to cope.

We’ve all seen memes like the one pictured here. We’ve laughed and maybe even shared on social media or through texts with our closest friends. I’m guilty, especially when in the early days of shutdown.

When it comes to joking around about weight gain during quarantine, we need to think twice. Here’s why.

Makes a Bad Situation Worse

None of us know how to deal with the sudden loss of everything we once took for granted. We will all deal with it in different ways.

For some, the loss of the gym and child care for our children means we can no longer exercise the way we used to.

Others find solace in baking and gathering the family around a plate of freshly-baked cookies. We nurture our loved-ones with food. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Two parents working (or not working) while managing kids at home and worrying about our loved ones’ health and financial status can mean more snacking and less healthy meals.

So what? The last thing we need to do is feel shamed about it on social media. As my husband frequently says, we’re in survival mode. And that means we need to do whatever it takes to get through this together.

If cooking seems like an overwhelming task, order pizza. Adding fear around eating can lead to depression, loss of sleep, and other mental health issues.

Promotes Fat Shaming

What if you look like the “after” in this picture. Do all those likes on Facebook mean people are laughing at the way you look now?

These jokes contribute to stigma regarding people’s appearance. And the punchline spells out overweight people are subject to ridicule and laughter. That’s not okay.

By now, we all know underlying conditions are the largest contributor to COVID-related deaths, and many people are distraught about their current health status.

Right now is not time to shove fear in anyone’s face. From an article in Harvard’s Women’s Health Watch,

“Experts who study behavior change agree that long-lasting change is most likely when it’s self-motivated and rooted in positive thinking. On the other hand, the least effective strategies were those that aroused fear or regret in the person attempting to make a change.”

Some people come from disordered eating backgrounds, and the thought of gaining weight can push them right back into an unhealthy relationship with food. Add fear of food to all the other anxieties we have at the moment, and the outcome can be disastrous.

Drives People to Seek Unhealthy Solutions

Don’t be surprised to see more and more advertisements regarding “quick weight loss” solutions.

So-called magic pills sold by some less reputable MLM companies (note the emphasis on some — not all) look to prey on your insecurity through products promoting better sleep, reduced anxiety, and calmer moods. All for a hefty price tag.

No doubt, there are pharmaceutical and herbal remedies for all your ails, but anything promising you’ll lose 20 pounds in 20 days deserves your skepticism.

Lasting weight loss comes from long-term sustainable solutions.

There are plenty of free or low-cost ways to reduce anxiety. Try a meditation app like “Calm” or “Headspace.”

Numerous studies and meta-analyses show that exercise is also associated with reduced anxiety in clinical settings. Movement can be as simple as daily walks.

To sleep better at night, try getting morning sunlight, and turn off your electronics 1–2 hours before bedtime. Take a hot bath or listen to calming music.

Before forking over your hard-earned money on products promising the easy way, keep in mind that if getting that “summer bod” really came from pills, we’d have all jumped on that bandwagon years ago.


Sharing memes is a fun way to connect and laugh together, no matter what’s going on in our lives. Just be careful about what you’re sharing.

We need humor more than ever. We don’t need it at the expense of people we care about deeply.

Written by

Writing to help the world become a healthier, happier place. Let’s chat: suzieglassmancoach@gmail.com.

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