If you're concerned about your weight during the pandemic, you are not alone. Living during the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the daily routines of millions worldwide and presented a new set of challenges for people's mental and physical wellbeing. Staying indoors means most people are less active and many are eating more ultra-processed foods. This, paired with the anxiety that accompanies a pandemic, creates the ideal situation for weight gain.
Data suggests that quarantine has created the perfect environment for people to eat more foods that contribute to weight gain. In the last 30 days, more than half a million Facebook users have engaged with terms around quarantine weight gain, including quarantine 15 and #quarantineweight gain. In addition, a recent WebMD poll of more than 1,000 U.S.-based readers indicated that nearly half of the women and almost one-quarter of the men said they'd gained weight "due to COVID restrictions." Furthermore, 70% or participants cited "stress eating" as the cause of their weight gain.
Thankfully, there are several steps you can take to keep your weight under control—even in quarantine," said Dr. Michael Smith, Chief Medical Officer at Ascend Medical.
Why Many Are Gaining Weight During Quarantine
Many factors may contribute to weight gain during quarantine. Not only are people spending most of their time at home, which disrupts normal workout routines, they've also postponed medical check ups and physicals due to COVID-19 concerns. In addition, stress has escalated across the board.
Here are three factors that increase the likelihood of weight gain during quarantine:
Working from home, health concerns, financial problems, and uncertainty have all caused stress levels to have skyrocketed.
Many people turn to food as a way to cope with stress, which can cause weight gain. In fact, one study associated chronic stress and high levels of the stress hormone cortisol with increased food cravings and weight gain .
There are also metabolic changes associated with stress. "As a result of fight-or-flight syndrome, your body will refuse to give up calories when you're stressed," said Dr. Michael Smith, Chief Medical Officer at Ascend Medical. "This is because it thinks it might need energy for running away or combat at some point in the near future."
Quarantine has also contributed to widespread depression, anxiety, and loneliness. According to 24 studies that documented the effects of quarantine, people in quarantine have a higher risk of developing symptoms of low mood, stress, anxiety and depression. People may feel isolated from friends and family, anxious about the pandemic due to constant media exposure, or even stressed by the general uncertainty of the situation.
Widespread closures of gyms and parks may also upset people's daily routines and contribute to weight gain. Not only do these closures make it difficult to maintain a regular exercise routine, fitting physical activity into the day may seem more difficult as people juggle the requirements of working from home.
In addition, the risk of overeating may increase due to boredom or stress. And, with restaurant closures, many people may also find it difficult to prepare healthy meals and snacks on their own.
Can Weight Gain or Obesity Put You at Greater Risk to COVID-19?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), severe obesity increases the risk of a dangerous breathing problem called acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which is a serious complication of COVID-19. In addition, people with severe obesity are more likely to have other chronic health conditions that could increase the severity of COVID-19 if they become infected.
Studies have also shown that traditional flu vaccines do not work as well in people with obesity because their immune response is altered by weight and inflammatory changes.
How You Can Achieve Weight Loss During COVID-19 Quarantine
"To achieve weight loss during quarantine, it is important to build routines around the four pillars of weight loss: diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management," said Dr. John Michael Smith, Chief Medical Officer at Ascend Medical.
Because you are home more than usual, learning more about cooking and healthy foods can lay a solid foundation for keeping your weight under control. When putting together a meal, include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. It is also important to control your portions. Consider using a smaller plate or drinking a large glass of water before you eat to curb your appetite.
Even though gyms and parks may be closed, other forms of activities, such as online workout classes, can help you keep off the "Quarantine 15."
Studies have shown that just 30 minutes of movement 5 days a week can drastically improve your physical wellbeing, so even taking a short walk around the neighborhood can be extremely beneficial to your health.
Getting the right amount of sleep is also important. There is a lot of evidence that people who don't get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight or obese. In addition, getting seven to eight or more hours of sleep each night can help your body reset, which can help you feel less stressed.
Managing stress is a critical part of keeping off those COVID curves. While some people may find alcohol or comfort foods help them alleviate stress, it is better to seek alternative methods as both of these options are not helpful for weight loss. Whether it's meditation, yoga, or a long walk in the park, prioritizing your mental health can help you reduce weight gain.
Whatever your weight goals may be, now is a good time to assess your lifestyle and focus on all the things that keep you healthy. For some, that might also mean visiting a family doctor, but that takes time. At Ascend Medical, we're re-imagining modern healthcare to create a primary care system that revolves around you. We offer membership-based healthcare services, mobile diagnostics, and 24/7, on-demand virtual visits to address all of your health concerns - exactly when and where it's convenient for you. Book your same day appointment today!