Now that we are six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, you might be noticing that your pre-pandemic wardrobe is getting a bit snug — or no longer fits. If that's the case, you may be suffering from the Quarantine 15.
The obesity epidemic that already exists very likely will only get worse as the pandemic continues. Being overweight or obese also puts one at risk for the more serious complications of SARS-CoV-2, so this tendency to gain weight can have serious health implications.
Quarantine life, which tends to involve staying at home, with few opportunities to go out and exercise, has created the perfect storm for people who struggle with their weight. Even those who normally don’t have weight problems may well have noticed a slow upward creep on the scale.
It's not only the measures being taken to protect people from the virus that encourage weight gain. Many people have lost their jobs and are facing economic hardship as a result of the virus. Economic downturns tend to lead to more consumption of highly processed, high calorie foods because they are cheap; however, these foods often leave a person unsatisfied and wanting to eat more.
Being physically distant from others doesn’t help either. People confined to home may experience feelings of loneliness, boredom and isolation, and respond to such feelings by mindlessly eating highly caloric and nutritionally empty foods. They're called comfort foods for a reason.
If you’ve gained a few pounds, don’t beat yourself up over it, but take this down time to head back in the right direction.
Finally, weight gain is easy to come by with more people working from home or simply going out as little as possible. Many gyms and outdoor areas are closed. As a result, people are burning far fewer calories than they did before the pandemic hit.
- Plan your meals for a week at the time. It’s not easy to run to the store for a forgotten ingredient at the drop of a hat in the midst of a pandemic. It will also make it more likely you'll eat better.
- Stock up on healthy food items like canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, dried beans and peas, and whole grain pasta, bread and crackers so you can quickly throw a meal together.
- If you are home more than usual right now, it’s a perfect time to try new recipes or learn new cooking skills that promote healthy eating.
- Be careful when doing online grocery shopping. While it may be easy to add Oreos to the cart, it may not be so easy to avoid eating a whole row once you get them home.
- Control your food portions by eating off of a salad plate rather than a dinner plate.
- Avoid liquid calories, those from sodas, juice and energy drinks. Drink water or calorie-free beverages.
- If you are working from home, avoid eating while you are working. Take regular lunch breaks, just like you did at school or the office.
- Keep a food journal. Nothing helps you monitor your eating like logging everything you put in your mouth — or you can use an app.
- If you can’t get to your gym, schedule regular exercise sessions whether it's an online yoga or stretching class, a walk around your neighborhood or a hike in a local park, if that is possible.
- Be mindful of how long you spend sitting. Get up often. Move, stretch and go walk around outside.
- Avoid wearing loose clothing all the time. It can give you a false sense of security about your weight.
- Find a way to manage feelings of stress, loneliness and isolation other than munching. Step outside and spend some time in nature. Look for apps that help you practice mindfulness or meditation. If you are a person of faith, you may want to spend time in prayer or watch online church services.
Quarantine life, which tends to involve staying at home, with few opportunities to go out and exercise, has created the perfect storm for people who struggle with their weight.