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We’ve all heard of the “freshman 15,” the dreaded weight gain that often occurs during our first year of college, where new life stressors and freedoms may lead us to put on extra pounds. Now it’s believed that the new, overwhelming life circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic could also lead to weight gain.
You may be wondering if this “quarantine 15," which has inspired an endless stream of related tweets and memes, is fact or fiction? Two recent polls that surveyed WebMD readers suggest that the “quarantine 15" is very real. Of the 1,012 WebMD US readers that participated through self-reporting, 47 percent of the women reported that they had experienced related weight gain. In comparison, 22 percent of the men polled said that they had gained weight. A second poll surveying 910 international WebMD readers suggests that pandemic-related weight gain is affecting people all over the globe.
However, it’s unnecessary to feel shame for putting on a few pounds during the pandemic. There’s also no need to be hyper-focused on your weight, or counting calories, especially when you probably have more pressing concerns in your life. The coronavirus pandemic marks a time when ensuring personal safety and financial security are of particular concern. So, it’s probably best not to stress out over the last five pounds you may have gained.
Stressing over weight gain can be counterproductive
There’s an evident connection between stress and weight gain. The emotion of stress releases the hormone cortisol into your bloodstream. After your body stops feeling this triggered “flight or fight" response from stress, your sugar cravings are cued so that your body can replenish expended energy.
That’s why stressing over the scale might actually be counterproductive to your weight loss goals. So, you may as well go ahead and delete MyFitnessPal now. No, don’t – we’re only kidding.
But, it is more productive to consider how you can develop healthier habits, rather than obsess over the number on the scale.
Choose exercise that you actually enjoy
A healthy change can include integrating more physical activity into your lifestyle. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), exercise can help people improve their well-being and aid in weight loss efforts.
Understandably, certain exercise activities such as CrossFit or jogging may seem daunting or unexciting to you right now. Narrowing down your interests will be useful, as many sport psychologists recommend finding an exercise that you will actually enjoy.
“You’re more likely to remain active when you are doing so under your own volition, as opposed to something or someone else influencing or dictating that decision," explained Brandon S. Harris, a professor of Sport and Exercise Psychology.
So, keep searching for that perfect fit! You’ll be more likely to stick to it and see lasting results.
Have fun with meal planning and cooking
While it’s not necessary to stress out about weight loss, engaging in meal planning and cooking can still be a fun, healthy habit.
Planning meals and cooking your own food not only allows you to expand your food options, it also prevents you from falling into old habits or ordering takeout too often. Also, meal prepping enables you to control your portions easily and make thoughtful, nutritious choices. Take some time to tune into a favorite playlist or podcast on Spotify while preparing a meal that you’re excited to eat – the cooking process can be especially enjoyable, and even relaxing.
While the “quarantine 15" phenomenon does appear to be real, don’t let it get you too down. Instead, take this opportunity to develop some healthy habits, improve your cooking skills and be more kind to yourself – emotionally and physically.
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