Life during a global pandemic has disrupted all aspects of our lives, creating the perfect storm for weight gain. As a result it has been jokingly referred to as the “Quarantine 15,” similarly to the “freshman 15,” or the weight gain that some students experience when they start their freshman year of college.
Dieticians, Jillian Reece, RD, LDN, CSOWM, Kelsey Kalenderian, RDN, LDN, and Lauren Fialkoff, MS, RDN, LDN, at the Weight and Wellness Center at Tufts Medical Center have answered the most common questions they’ve been getting on ways to stay healthy and active while staying safe at home.
Is obesity a risk factor for COVID-19?
Some of the most severe complications of COVID-19—namely, acute respiratory failure or acute respiratory distress syndrome — can be driven by conditions already present in a person with obesity, such as chronic, low-grade inflammation and shallow breathing (resulting in lower oxygen levels). Additionally, pre-existing conditions such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and coronary artery disease can further impair a person’s immune response, thus making it more difficult to defend against and recover from COVID-19.
Is weight gain during the pandemic attributed to stress or other factors?
Weight gain during the pandemic is common and understandable given this stressful time. When gyms and parks closed it suspended exercise routines, and many parents and caregivers are feeling heightened levels of stress now having to work at home while teaching and caring for their children. People are obviously spending more time at home, thus increasing their access to food in their kitchens, and shopping habits have shifted to include more non-perishable foods that are often ultra-processed and high in calories, fat and added sugar.
In addition, alcohol consumption has increased tremendously with the “stay at home orders.” This can lead to excessive calorie intake not only from the alcohol but also from other foods that may be consumed when inhibitions are down.
The combination of any of these factors can easily promote weight gain.
When should I be worried about my weight gain?
Weight gain is common and appropriate throughout our lifecycle, for example, during periods of growth and pregnancy. If you are concerned about your weight, it may help to speak with a medical professional such as your primary care physician or a registered dietitian who can review your medical history and take into account your health related goals. Together you can assess whether a change in weight is impacting your health.
How can I lose weight while staying safe?
Since your lifestyle has more than likely changed during the COVID-19 pandemic it may be worth exploring or revisiting certain habits or behaviors that will help you stay healthy. Try starting a daily workout routine and begin eating more nutrient dense foods. If you’re already passionate about diet and exercise, now is a good time to deepen your relationship with healthy foods and movement.
Here is a list of tips to try:
- Create a daily routine.
• Set a daily wake-up time and bed time.
• Plan your meals ahead, if possible.
• Have a structured eating pattern; focusing breakfast, lunch and dinner and snack if appropriate.
• Dress up for work or as if you are going out every morning—if you are always in sweatpants or other loose-fitting clothes, it’s easier to ignore weight gain.
- Focus on nutrient dense foods.
• Be sure to include whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean meats.
• Try to buy whole foods such as apples, eggs or beans instead of heavily processed foods such as potato chips or granola bars whenever possible.
• Get creative in the kitchen – you may have time to try new, healthy recipes.
- Think about how much you are eating.
• Manage your portions but using smaller plates or buying single serve items.
• Make ½ of your plate non starchy veggies, ¼ plate whole grain, carbohydrates or starches, and ¼ plate lean protein.
- Schedule regular exercise.
• Try an online workout class or a free app.
• Gardening/housework still counts.
• Walking outside while staying physically distanced from others is a great way to get vitamin D.
- Get enough sleep.
- Take steps to manage your stress.
• Meditation, yoga, and a mindfulness practice can help.
• Be aware of mindless eating which can be due to stress, anxiety and depression can result in weight gain.
How does stress and weight gain affect peoples’ mental health?
The COVID-19 global pandemic not only takes a toll on us physically, but also emotionally. Fear, worry, and stress are normal responses especially give this unprecedented time with a lot of unknowns and uncertainties.
It is important that we take care of mental health as much as our physical health. Try to stay connected with friends and loved ones, schedule time for self-care, and seek professional help if needed.
If you are interested in losing weight and improving your physical and mental health, we are excited to announce that The Weight and Wellness Center is offering telehealth appointments for all patients interested in our medical and surgical weight loss programs. This is a wonderful opportunity to meet your providers virtually from the comfort of your own home using live video on your computer or smart phone.
To make a telehealth appointment at the Weight and Wellness Center please call or email using the contacts below:
617-636-0158 (press 2 for the new patient line), OR if you are interested in weight loss surgery, please email Angel, Bariatric Coordinator: Alewis2@tuftsmedicalcenter.org