Have you heard of the Quarantine 15? As if we need anything more to worry about during the COVID-19 pandemic, people are stressing about weight gain now too. Quarantine 15 is the catchphrase for weight gain during shelter in place restrictions, and has even become a widespread meme on social media. There are many reasons your weight may be increasing during this time. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons.
Lack of movement: With businesses, health centers, and social distancing guidelines in effect there are many obstacles to getting in physical activity. Many people’s daily steps have been greatly reduced due to staying home. With these changes to our calorie output we are set us up for potential weight gain. The more we sit, the less energy we need, and the likelihood of weight gain increases if we don’t change our eating habits.
Boredom: The monotony of being at home with nowhere to go can easily make anyone bored. Many people are struggling with grabbing a snack or a handful of something just because they have nothing else to do. Boredom can turn into mindless eating, leading to the intake of extra calories we just don’t need. This boredom can surface in other ways too, such as cooking or baking to fill up time or for an activity to do with the kids. Yes, it’s good for us all to be cooking more at home but if you’re making cookies, cakes, and other high-calorie treats, the temptations and easy access could lead to an excess of calories making weight gain more likely.
Stress: No matter what your situation, whether you’re juggling e-learning, working from home, dealing with someone who is ill during a pandemic or anything in between, this situation is stressful for everyone in different ways. This stress can increase cortisol levels leading to weight gain and increased appetite. This disruption of cortisol secretion may not only promote weight gain, but also affect where you put on weight. Some studies have shown that stress and elevated cortisol tend to cause fat accumulation in the abdominal area. Additionally, when we get stressed, we are more likely to turn to food for comfort since eating can stimulate “feel good hormones.” Although this relief is often short-lived. On the bright side, research has shown that exercise is by far the best way to reduce cortisol levels that has risen in response to stress.
Poor sleep: Stress, lack of routine, and anxiety is leading to many people tossing and turning when they turn out the lights. This can stack the deck against you for weight management. When we sleep poorly, we are more likely to make poor food choices and can set the stage for weight gain. Physiologically, lack of sleep can impact our weight too. Ghrelin and leptin are two hormones that control our hunger and fullness cues. When we are functioning with a sleep deficit our ghrelin levels increase leading to feeling hungrier and our leptin levels decrease making our fullness gage, in a sense, broken.
Sympathy eating: Feeling sorry for ourselves or our kids because of missing out on planned activities, missing their friends, or other sacrifices we have had to make because of the pandemic has led to parents giving into their requests more or individuals allowing themselves to ‘treat’ themselves more. We have coined this ‘sympathy eating.” As parents it is hard to not feel sorry for our kids because of the things they are missing out on, from birthday parties to prom and graduation, and with the current restrictions of COVID in place, there is little we can offer them besides food. We can’t visit the park, go bowling, or host a sleepover but we can buy a fun surprise at the grocery store, surprise them with homemade waffles for breakfast, or drive thru the local ice cream shop. Individually, we may miss visiting our favorite restaurant, having get-togethers with family, or be upset about having to cancel vacation plans. Some individuals take this disappointment and feel like they deserve a little indulgence. And while we do need to find ways to take care of ourselves during this time and the disappointments we are facing are real…we do need to find ways other than indulging in food or giving into cravings.
While now may not be the time to add extra stress to our plates, it is still not a bad idea to be aware of little things that may be impacting your waistline right now. That way you can prioritize changes to your daily routine to keep your health in check and avoid the Quarantine 15 weight gain. Small changes like getting up and moving more, prioritizing sleep, finding new hobbies to participate in, and trying to keep tabs on your food intake are all things you can do to help you maintain your weight without pushing yourself too hard. Small changes right now can help you not feel as overwhelmed in this overwhelming time, but also don’t forget...SMALL CHANGES MAKE BIG DIFFERENCES!!!
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