Why you shouldn’t stress about the 'quarantine 15'

Last updated: 05-01-2020

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Why you shouldn’t stress about the 'quarantine 15'

With quarantine baking and comfort eating on the rise, and with gyms and fitness studios still mostly closed due to the coronavirus crisis, it’s no wonder that worries about the so-called "quarantine 15" (think: "freshman 15") are surfacing.

Weight concerns are deeply rooted in our culture, but the truth is, you have a lot to worry about right now, from staying healthy and homeschooling your kids to finances and shopping for groceries. Worrying about gaining a few pounds during a pandemic only adds to your stress. Here’s why you should stress less about quarantine weight gain.

Even if you have a solid grocery game plan in place, pictures of empty shelves and reports of hard-to-come-by delivery spots tell a story: You might not be able to get all the fresh, frozen and canned produce or other ingredients you usually buy to create well-balanced meals. This is an unprecedented time and it calls for a lot of compassion and grace. Be proud of yourself that you’re doing the best you can.

Don’t sweat it if you’re not doing hard core HIIT workouts in your living room. The reality is that exercise isn’t that helpful when it comes to losing weight. Studies suggest that when you participate in a sweat session, you unknowingly compensate for the extra work by either eating a little more (because you’re hungrier) or moving a little less (because your body worked hard enough) throughout the day. Plus, even if you go out for a 30-minute run, the average woman burns about 260 calories — not that much more than the typical protein bar that you might snack on afterward. Exercise has far-reaching health benefits, but don’t expect exercise alone to nudge the scale much.

If you listen, your body will tell you when it’s hungry, when it’s thirsty, when your mind needs some entertainment, when your nerves need calming and when you need sleep. The trouble is that we often ignore these signals. If you open up the lines of communication, you might discover that as your activity levels slow down, so does your appetite, or you might find that an emotional need is driving your hunger, in which case, you might be better served by turning to a non-food alternative.

In one study, monitoring food intake was linked with an increase in stress levels and cutting calories was linked with an increase in the stress hormone, cortisol. While this may not be true for everyone, it’s good evidence that worrying about your weight can make you more miserable during an already difficult time.

News of the coronavirus reminds us daily that those who are most vulnerable include people with chronic conditions, like diabetes and heart disease, that are related to diet and lifestyle factors. So while you shouldn’t worry about your weight, it’s still a good idea to live as healthfully as possible. Here are some ways you can do that.

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