Most of my life I’ve been thin, weight-wise. I never used to worry about how much I weighed, as a result I pretty much ate anything I wanted whenever I wanted and never really gained weight. As I’ve gotten older, however, my weight has gradually creeped up – not a lot, but enough to notice it. I was trying on a pair of trousers the other day and they were too tight! Since last March, just about a year ago when the COVID-19 virus hit and we were all told to work from home, if we could, and essentially keep away from each other, my weight has gone up 10 pounds! For me, that’s unheard-of!
That weight gain made me wonder if it was just me or had more of us gained weight during the Coronavirus pandemic, so I did some research on the topic. In a poll of more than 1,000 people by WebMD something like half the women and a quarter of the men said they’d gained weight “due to COVID restrictions.” More specifically, 68% said they’ve been snacking more, 74% said they were cooking at home more, 61% said they were ordering out less, a whopping 54% said they were exercising less, and 54% said they had gained weight since last March!
What, more specifically, has caused what has been called the “Pandemic Weight Gain”? Here’s what WebMD has to say on the subject: “In March, when the country went into lockdown, people who could do their jobs from home shifted quickly to work-from-home arrangements. This left people scrambling to set up a home office, and for some, the kitchen table seemed like the most convenient place.” That meant easier access to food. “When you’re working from home and homeschooling and you’re not quite ready to go back to the gym, it can be hard to maintain your sanity, let alone a workout habit. Even if you can fit exercise into your day, the fact that you’re at home more means you don’t move as much as you did before quarantine.” Becoming more sedentary is, literally, a dangerous habit that can actually shorten our lives. However, “Exercise might not feel like a priority with everything else going on, but the benefits are huge. It relieves stress, boosts your immune system, and reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression. Any physical activity that you can fit into your day (even a five-minute walk) will be helpful to keep your weight in check and brighten your mood.”
Cooking at home more was also cited as a problem. “The good news is more people are cooking from home these days. The bad news is preparing three large meals a day might be adding to your calorie intake. Before the pandemic, an on-the-go lifestyle meant fitting in a quick breakfast and lunch.” As a result, dinner used to be the biggest meal of the day. “If you’re like most people, [since the pandemic] you also might be turning to comfort foods such as sweets or alcohol to relieve stress.”
Not getting enough sleep could also be a problem. I don’t think that’s part of my weight gain – I know I’ve been napping a lot more. Nevertheless, “If you are not sleeping well or you’re staying up late, it could be affecting your waistline… Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Denying your body that recovery will leave you feeling hungrier and more tired.”
So, what can we do about the unhealthy weight gain so many of us have experienced since the onset of the self-imposed quarantine? “Even though many things are out of your control right now, you can control your eating and activity. Make one change at a time, and before you know it, you’ll have a new set of work-from-home habits that will leave you looking and feeling better.”
There are two factors that I took away from the WebMD article cited in this week’s column that are the most important to our overall health – obesity and lack of exercise. Indiana ranks as the 23rd most obese state in the union, (Mississippi ranks first), and lack of exercise. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says that more than seven out every ten adults in the United States over the age of 20 are either overweight or obese. I’ll bet that number is higher since we’ve been self-quarantining.
The other factor is lack of exercise. I’ll be the first to admit that sitting on the sofa is a lot easier than going to the gym. I found a website called NerdFitness that offers a Beginners Bodyweight Workout program for those of us who need to lose weight as a result of the last year of staying home more and getting less exercise. 20 Bodyweight Squats, 10 Dumbbell rows, 10 Pushups, a 15-second plank, 10 Walking Lunges (each leg), and 30 Jumping Jacks. Check out the website for ways to do each exercise, all of which can be done at home, by the way. No special equipment is needed. The recommendation is to do three circuits of all six exercises per workout session. Even though I started exercising regularly a few years ago, I still have gained weight during the last twelve months – now I’m concentrating on eating less and moving around even more. I hope it works… New pants are expensive.
That’s—30—for this week.