A recent survey revealed that about 61% of Americans have gained weight during the pandemic lockdown. It has been playfully dubbed The Quarantine Fifteen, but it hasn’t been fun for most people.
If you have gained a few extra pounds, or inches, over the lockdown, you can take some comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. And you should definitely know that it’s not your fault. Millions of people are currently staring at the mirror and wondering how much breast augmentation and liposuction procedures are.
In fact, if you created a checklist of living conditions that encourage weight gain, the lockdown lifestyle would tick all of the boxes.
Here’s why you shouldn’t beat yourself up over a recent weight gain during the lockdown.
Working Out at Home isn’t Always Feasible (or Affordable)
You may have started the pandemic with lofty goals of working out at home, or maybe even creating a mini gym. But that soon changed.
First, you probably saw how quickly home workout equipment disappeared from the inventories of sporting goods stores and websites. As the demand for kettlebells and free weights increased, so did the price. Suddenly a 30-pound dumbbell could cost you hundreds of dollars. A $175.00 bare-bones exercise cycle soon went for over $400.00. You couldn’t even find good used equipment on Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace. People figured out how in demand these items were and jacked up the prices to extortion-level numbers.
All of a sudden, buying a $2,000 Peloton bike seems like the most economical solution. But not everyone could afford that, particularly with many families dealing with one or more parent losing their jobs.
Or you simply may not have the space. People with basements, garages, and spare bedrooms are the lucky ones. They can repurpose a room in a pinch to become their gym, and their pandemic sanctuary. But if you’re living in a 400 sq. foot condo space, you were probably already struggling to get the most out of your living area. And if you have kids that need to use that area for play, forget about it.
Stress Eating is a Very Real Problem
Stress eating has actually become a regular daily meal for a lot of people.
Your routines have been shattered. If your days are less regimented when you’re working from home, it’s very difficult not to snack. If you were working on-site previously, you might have had a banana or a granola bar to satiate the 2:30 hunger pangs, or you might have just powered through them. But now, your fridge is only a few steps away. You’re sharing a co-working space with temptation. And before you know it, last night’s leftover lasagne becomes your snack.
You also find it much easier to justify a snack because you feel like you’ve earned it. And, you probably have. The problem is that you’re adding a few hundred extra sneaky calories every day. If you’re not burning them off, they’re going to turn into extra weight before you’re even aware that your eating patterns have changed.
You’re Probably Sleeping Less and Sleeping Poorly
It has been dubbed coronasomnia and it’s a big problem for all age groups. Mom, dad, and the kids have all had their sleep routines ravaged due to stress and new challenges.
In terms of weight gain, a lack of sleep can have obvious effects. You’re too tired to work out and too grumpy to even think about it. At the same time, you’re less inclined to make healthy food choices. Unhealthy food is almost always easier.
When you’re an adult, you quickly realize that there are few things more rewarding than saying “The heck with it, let’s just order a pizza” when it’s 5 pm and you don’t want to cook. Fast food in that way, is incredibly rewarding. But when you’re tired, you will actually crave more calorie-dense and fatty foods because the reward center in your brain will perceive that food as more rewarding. Even if you have a quick and healthy meal prepared in advance, your mind will make you want to order burgers anyways, because they will seem so much more appealing.
What You Can Do About it
In Laurence Gonzales’ incredible book, Deep Survival, he teaches you that if you want to survive an emergency situation (i.e. avalanche, plane crash, SCUBA accident), one of the first things you need to do is realize, and acknowledge, you are not in your right mind, and your judgement is impaired. Only then can you truly assess the situation.
We can definitely apply this logic to the dire situation we’re all living in right now. First of all, realize that you’re stressed and tired most of the time now. You may be making decisions that you wouldn’t normally make that are causing you to eat an extra slice of pizza, or watch another episode of Peaky Blinders before bed. Once you’re aware of that, it can be easier to make better decisions. Perhaps more importantly, you will be less hard on yourself when you make the bad ones. Beating yourself up will only add more stress and subtract sleep, and things can really spiral from there.
At the same time, acknowledging the situation you’re living in can also help you be kinder to yourself. You didn’t create this situation. But you’re dealing with it as best you can, and you’re actually doing an amazing job.
If you’ve gained some weight during the lockdown, it’s not a great feeling. But know that over 60% of all people have. You’re in the firm majority. You don’t have to forgive yourself, there’s nothing to forgive.
If you’re not ready to start jogging or working out today, that’s fine. Maybe you will tomorrow. But allow yourself to take care of yourself. And don’t hold yourself up to the expectations of the life you’re no longer living.