How to Shed the Quarantine Weight Gain
Unprecedented times caused by COVID-19 may have led to unprecedented weight gain. Find out how to shed the quarantine weight gain as quickly as it came on!
In addition to the panic and change of plans COVID-19 brought to households, the pandemic has impacted those trying to manage weight. In fact, a recent study found that at least 22 percent of adults reported weight gain during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Losing weight, and even just weight management, can sometimes feel like a battle. Besides, figuring out the best option for weight loss can be confusing even before quarantine.
Unprecedented times may have led to an unprecedented weight gain for some. Rest assured, though, weight loss in quarantine is still attainable with a few intentional adjustments!
Read on to learn about shedding the quarantine-19 and other tips for weight management beyond the pandemic.
How Has the Pandemic Led to Quarantine Weight Gain?
Almost immediately, search engine analytics showed a rise in comfort food recipes trending on the internet during the pandemic. Delivery and curbside services also saw an intense surge in demand.
What's more, stores across the nation could barely keep their shelves stocked. This led to many homes having an excess of food available and a sense of emergency accompanying their overstock. Put those two together and it can be a recipe for disaster.
Changes in routine likely created the "perfect storm" for gaining a few pounds. For instance, those working from home venture more to the kitchen and away from the gym time after leaving the office.
Research also leptin, a hormone that helps control appetite and hunger, is affected by social isolation and depressed mood. Such instances are common occurrences in times of quarantine.
Other factors that can affect routine have also played a role in weight management during quarantine:
• Unstructured time
• Increased stress levels
• Sedentary behavior
• Social media stigma surrounding quarantine or COVID-19 related weight gain
• Crisis and/or news fatigue
Many medical doctors have seen a rise in weight gain over the months since COVID-19 has caused spikes around the world. Dr. John Morton, director of bariatric surgery at Yale New Haven Health System reports, "We are definitely seeing weight gain, you can put on 30 pounds really quickly—you can do it in three months."
But to make matters even worse, people have had to postpone or reschedule routine medical examinations and lab work. This directly affects the assessment of certain health conditions or labs, including blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol. Such measures help to show health trends over time and keep patients motivated in their weight loss journey.
Overall, changes in physical activity, stress, and interruptions to regular routine can complicate weight management or escalate weight gain.
Losing the Quarantine-19
It may be surprising to hear a good tactic for weight loss is eating more, or more whole foods that is. The focus for a healthy weight management plan should be quality, not quantity.
In other words, nutrient-dense foods and healthy meals should be a priority when looking to lose the "quarantine-19". Restrictive diets can actually cause the body to be in a state of stress.
One key to losing the quarantine-19 is by breaking habits that caused weight gain in the first place. While the pandemic is forcing a “new normal”, now can be the perfect time to establish new habits and maintain positive changes.
Establishing new routines takes time, but research is already showing certain habits can mitigate risk factors during COVID-19 quarantine. These include sleep hygiene, healthy eating habits, stress management, and exercise.
Self-isolation can also be the perfect opportunity to learn about becoming more self-sufficient when it comes to weight maintenance. Self-efficacy over time has been linked to greater weight loss and adherence to healthy dietary regimens.
Effective & Healthy Weight Loss Methods
First off, the target weight should be realistic, account for gradual progress, and within a reasonable timeline. Healthy weight loss is often considered one to two pounds per week, so it may not seem much at first.
Sometimes, medical intervention and adjustments to a treatment plan may be needed. If there are other factors interfering with the weight loss plan, preventing further weight gain is still the goal. The following three goals should be included as part of any healthy weight management or treatment plan:
1. Prevent further weight gain
2. Reduce body weight
3. Maintenance of the lower body weight long-term
Overall, strategies for weight loss and maintenance include diet therapy, physical activity, and behavior therapy. Considering sleep hygiene and stress management is important, too.
Diet (Nutrition) Therapy
Although each person is different, experts agree to limit or avoid ultra-processed foods and consume more whole foods. Ultra-processed foods tend to include ingredients that can interfere with weight loss.
Aim to increase more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Eat more healthy foods with immune-supportive nutrients, including those sourced from whole fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes.
Also instead of always resorting to comfort foods, try out the most popular quarantine recipes made clean. (Enjoying pancakes, mac and cheese, and other favorites has never been so delicious and nutritious!)
A weight loss meal delivery service can likewise be helpful for preparing and delivering balanced meals. BistroMD not only delivers weight loss meals to doorsteps, but offers ongoing support through access to a dietitian, community, and more!
Exercise is important for a number of reasons, including giving both mental and physical benefits. Incorporate a combo of both aerobic exercise and strength training:
• Aerobic exercise helps with calorie burn and weight loss, and includes jogging, brisk walking, and any activity that elevates heart rate. Aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise most days of the week.
• Strength training assists in long-term weight loss by increasing lean muscle mass, in turn accelerating metabolism. Include at least two to three strength training sessions per week and target all major muscle groups.
Overall, try to break up bouts of being sedentary and be more active throughout the door.
When integrating new habits into a daily routine, understand that this may require a significant change in behavior.
However, try sticking to a regular routine and try the following:
• Eat regular meals throughout the day to keep energy stable and lower the risk of eating. Also, be mindful of foods for anxiety and depression to maximize mental health benefits.
• Make exercise a priority by scheduling it into a routine each day. This may include exercises to do with your kids and squeezing in simple commercial break workouts even if watching television.
• Turn off electronics and do something physically or mentally productive. This may include reading a book, taking a walk, or preparing a healthy snack.
All-in-all, small adjustments and shifts in perspective will add up over time. They will likewise help with mindfulness when it comes to improving behaviors and habits.
Other Weight Loss Options
Additional options for managing weight include pharmacotherapy, weight loss surgery, and "combined" therapy. Combined therapy includes aspects of the therapies listed above with areas of focus on sleep hygiene and stress management.
It is also important to note that research shows that surgical interventions are most successful when healthy habits have been implemented. These may include diet modifications, regular physical activity, and behavioral self-regulation.
In other words, COVID-19 and quarantine may have interrupted life as we knew it. However, the future holds great potential for healthy weight management, so pick one area to improve today!
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Katella K. Quarantine 15? What to Do About Weight Gain During the Pandemic. Yale Medicine. 2020. Accessed at https://www.yalemedicine.org/stories/quarantine-15-weight-gain-pandemic/.
Kornish DB. Gaining Weight during Quarantine? You're not alone. Mather Hospital Northwell Health. 2020. Accessed at https://www.matherhospital.org/weight-loss-matters/gaining-weight-during-quarantine-youre-not-alone/.
Mattioli AV, Sciomer S, Cocchi C, Maffei S, Gallina S. Quarantine during COVID-19 outbreak: Changes in diet and physical activity increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2020;30(9):1409-1417. doi:10.1016/j.numecd.2020.05.020
NHLBI. Goals of Weight Management/Treatment. CORE SET III. 2020. Accessed at https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/portion/documents/CORESET3.pdf.
Pellegrini M, Ponzo V, Rosato R, et al. Changes in Weight and Nutritional Habits in Adults with Obesity during the "Lockdown" Period Caused by the COVID-19 Virus Emergency. Nutrients. 2020;12(7):2016. Published 2020 Jul 7. doi:10.3390/nu12072016.