The “COVID 15” Should Be Avoided

There have been a lot of jokes about gaining the COVID 15 — like the famous Freshman 15. While staying inside, most of us aren’t getting the amount of exercise and are eating more snacks than we’re used to in our regular lives. Even if it’s just walking to your car and then around the store, our every-day lives have more movement than what most of us are doing now. We’re baking more, having food left by friends and gaining weight. While the internet likes to joke about it, we want to avoid weight gain during these times.

People have been resigning themselves to the idea of gaining. And many of us have found ourselves on a slippery slope of thinking, “It’s just during the quarantine.”

When this all started, I thought, ‘Oh, maybe I’d better get some junk food because we’ll be bored and freaked out and it’s good to have comfort food,’” says Rae Brager, 40, a pediatrician and mom of two in Toronto. “That ballooned, and now it’s around and available. None of my pants fit.”

People’s habits have changed quite a bit since we’re spending more time at home,” says Dr. Donald Hensrud, medical director of Mayo Clinic’s Healthy Living Program.

People around the world are in the same boat. A survey of 1,000 people in America showed that half the women polled, and a quarter of the men, said that they have gained weight because of COVID lockdowns. An international poll with 900 people had half of the men and a third of the women reporting weight gain. As COVID-19 is worse for people who are overweight or obese, this worries doctors.

Part of the problem is alcohol, people are reporting drinking far more than they usually do. Excess drinking can have even more detrimental health ramifications. So, avoiding it is better. Getting food delivered is less tiring than cooking. That means a lot of us are eating more take out, cooking less and avoiding restaurants where we would make healthier choices.

A few pounds short term may not make a difference. It could be fluid. It might be just a little weight gain while we establish new routines. Obviously, the more weight we gain and the longer it’s maintained, the more it affects our health,” says Dr. Hensrud.

However, some people are seeing the opposite impact from COVID-19. We are being cut off from some of our sources of added calories, we’re not walking past a co-worker’s candy bowl, or picking up a Danish with our coffee. We aren’t going to the local ice cream parlor or hearing the siren’s call of the ice cream man. Restaurants are closed, but our own kitchens are open. Thinking that way can help you lose the weight you have been gaining and help you avoid gaining more.

For instance, many of us have taken up baking. It’s great to learn a new skill and — in moderation — we’re all for it. But, you might want to take this time as your opportunity to spend more time cooking longer meals. Making a salad filled with vegetables can be a hassle on busy nights. But now, you can take the time to cut up all sorts of different veggies and enjoy a crunchy salad with a tasty low-carb dressing. Don’t feel like cooking? Make an easy omelet instead of reaching for something packaged. Try out meal prepping, sort out your ingredients ahead of time, and make something easy with them later. Instead of taking your daily trip to the supermarket, walk around your block or enjoy your yard to get positive feelings without turning to food.   

It’s crucial to maintain, or reclaim, healthy habits while all this is going on. Weight gain can have long-lasting effects. “Just a modest amount of weight gain in some people, if they’re sensitive to that, can increase their blood glucose and blood pressure,” said Dr. Hensrud. “And they won’t have as well a good control over these factors, over these conditions. So, it depends on the individual, it depends on their health conditions, and it depends on long-term habits or routines... Planning is a real key here if you plan ahead rather than just grabbing something at the last moment. Try and raise your culinary skills and do a little bit more cooking. It’s an opportunity for that, too. So, if we can embrace this, embrace our new normal, look for opportunities to establish new healthy routines.”

While we might be limited in what we can do, walking around the block is an excellent form of exercise if you can socially distance yourself from other people. And, picking up a book, doing a craft or even watching something on TV can be a better way of soothing yourself than eating. Eventually, we’ll be back to our regular routines (though they might be altered) when that happens, it’s essential to be healthy enough to reclaim your life.
May 27, 2020
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