Pandemic Weight Gain & How to Handle it

The pandemic has been challenging for people all over the world in a variety of ways. COVID-19 has affected us all, and some have experienced more intense and devastating changes than others.

A number of people have lost family members and friends because of the virus and other people have been struggling financially due to being furloughed or let go from their jobs. Most people are sheltered at home unless they have jobs that require them to work outside of the home to care for or provide services to others. Many families have to school their children at home since attending school in a traditional classroom is a safety risk. The pandemic also means that many people who live by themselves have been cut off from society since they are unable to go to work and school like they normally would.

If you've survived the COVID-19 pandemic, this is indeed a huge accomplishment. More people than ever have been experiencing depression, anxiety, and even thoughts of suicide due to extreme social isolation, death of loved ones, and loss of livelihood.

In the midst of this unprecedented time, many people are concerned about gaining weight. Pandemic weight gain has affected people of all ages since people are eating for emotional reasons and staying at home for extended periods of time. The weight gain has caused many people to feel bad about not being productive during the pandemic. However, this has been a trying time for most of us, and it's important to know how to balance the emotions we may feel when it comes to unwanted weight gain.

As we head toward another season of enduring the pandemic, here are some suggestions for reducing the frustration that may come with sheltering in place and balancing the emotions associated with the negative effects of COVID-19.

Quarantine Weight Gain

According to dietician and eating disorder specialist Anna Sweeney, MS, RD, LDN, CEDRD-S, gaining weight in light of the mental and emotional struggles we've endured in the past year is not the worst-case scenario. The wellness and diet industry has made people feel guilty about gaining weight to support its profits, which are around $71 billion. Sweeney shares that around 10 months into quarantine, diet and nutrition companies started pandering to customers, which indicates that the industry looked at the pandemic as a way to make money. Instead of feeling guilty about putting on extra pounds, it's important to concentrate on ways to stay healthy.

Eat Regularly

It's important not to diet during this stressful time. Diets could lead to an eating disorder since many people are dealing with additional challenges such as homeschooling children and figuring out how to make ends meet.

Instead of binge eating or trying to restrict your diet, come up with a realistic eating plan that includes healthy choices like fruits and veggies as well as foods you enjoy. Try to include whole grains and fresh, wholesome meals, but don't deprive yourself.

Make Small Changes

Some people have started new exercise programs during this time to balance out their new eating habits. However, if the thought of feeling the pressure to exercise seems daunting right now, don't worry. Make more manageable changes during this time that will still improve your health. If you've been baking lots of cookies and cakes, try to reserve one weekend a month to indulge. You can also make sure you include at least one vegetable or fruit in every meal to get more vitamins and minerals.

Have Fun Exercising

Physical movement is important which is why you should engage in activities you enjoy. If boot camp is too intense for you, try a dance workout or make time to walk around your neighborhood after dinner. If you don't feel comfortable attending in-person workout classes right now, try a virtual class that allows you to connect with other classmates online. You can also set aside time to exercise with friends who live nearby so you can maintain a social connection.

Plan Ahead

Now that fall and winter are approaching, remember the areas you struggled in last year and make a plan to keep your health intact. Cooking ahead of time and meal planning could help you reduce the sodium and sugar in your diet. You may also want to book an appointment with your therapist or dietician so you'll have a solid plan for staying healthy without becoming overwhelmed.

Don't Be So Hard On Yourself

It's important to be patient with yourself. We've had to make some huge adjustments due to the circumstances and try to navigate work, family, and school during this "new normal" which is anything but normal. Acknowledge that you're doing the best you can and give yourself credit for coping with things as well as you are. Making small changes like keeping a gratitude journal or even asking not to be weighed during your doctor's appointment can help you show yourself some compassion.

Switch Up Your Wardrobe

Even if you're not going to as many social events as you were before the pandemic, you can ease your feelings about pandemic weight gain by updating your wardrobe. You can donate the clothing you no longer wear or keep a few pieces aside to remind you of your health goals.

Don't try to force yourself to fit into clothes that are too small and make yourself feel worse about weight gain. Find pieces that fit your style and flatter your figure so you'll feel comfortable about getting ready in the morning.

These are just a few tips that will help you feel your best in the midst of such a difficult time. Learning to be compassionate and patient with yourself and your loved ones as you find ways to make the best decisions for you can make it a little easier to survive this global health crisis.

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