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How to Deal with COVID-19 Weight Gain

Many of us have heard of the "Freshman 15," but what about the "Quarantine 19"—a term used to refer to the weight gain that many of us have experienced during the pandemic?

Indeed, according to a a poll of more than 1,000 WebMD readers, 54% of respondents said they've gained weight during the pandemic. Though a majority of them said that they've been cooking at home more often and ordering out less, they noted that they've also been snacking more and exercising less. And as many of us know, when the number of calories we ingest exceeds the number of calories we burn in a day, weight gain ensues.

And so, today's post is for those of you who have been feeling disheartened about any physical changes you've been experiencing and are interested in achieving balance again.

But first, a disclaimer...

The point of this post is NOT to say that weight gain is bad, and I'd like to say that from the bottom of my heart that I couldn't care less about what you look like as you read this. If you feel good in your skin right now, disregard this post. This one is for people who aren't feeling like their best selves right now and who are looking for some strategies and techniques that can help them out.

It's also important to remember that health is about so much more than our appearance. Even if you haven't gained any weight, per se, perhaps you've been moving a lot less or eating a lot more junk food. Physical stuff aside, our bodies require good nutrients and movement to thrive, so implementing healthier habits is important for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with your appearance.

Okay, now that that's over with! Let's talk about how you can get back on track if you've fallen off the wagon during this pandemic.

  1. Be gracious with yourself.

Here's something I've been saying to a lot of my clients:

Imagine a beautiful green plant. And imagine that this plant needs certain qualities in its ecosystem to thrive: a particular temperature, a specific amount of rainfall, a certain amount of sun, etc.

Now imagine plucking this plant up from its lovely ecosystem and placing it into one that's completely different: there's not as much sun, it's cold, and it only rains a couple times a month. This plant has two options: die or adapt.

If it chooses the latter, it's going to look like a totally different plant. It might not look as lusciously green as it used to, it might start growing some random leaves out of its stem, or other strange mutations might occur (clearly I am not a botanist).

The point is this: you are the plant and you've been adapting for more than one year. You've gone from living in a world where you could see your friends, go to the gym, stroll through Chapter's for an hour, have little chats with co-workers between phone calls to not being able to rely on any of those things. Just like the plant that was plopped from one ecosystem to another, you're going to experience changes physically, emotionally, and mentally.

If your body isn't looking how it "normally does," if your energy levels aren't as high as they usually are, or if you're just feeling a little bit "off," remember it's because you've been forced to continually adapt to a new ecosystem every. single. day. And if you think about it, that's really friggen' incredible. So take a moment to thank your body, mind, and spirit for all of the things it has actually gotten through this past year.

2. Make a commitment to yourself.

Now that you've hopefully gained some perspective, it's time to actually make a commitment to yourself, which starts by taking a moment to be honest about what you're actually willing and unwilling to do right now.

So often I hear people tell me that they want to "lose weight" or "tone up" or whatever it is, yet when I ask them how motivated they are to change, they'll say only 20% of them actually cares to make this change. That is TOTALLY OKAY, but if this is the case, be realistic about the fact that your health might not a priority right now.

As you read this, ask yourself this question: "How willing am I to put in the hard work to make some changes to my physical and mental health right now?" If your desire for change is less than 50%, it might be more helpful to practice acceptance. Accept that right now you aren't happy with how you look but that you also have other priorities that will affect your ability to focus on this. If your desire for change is more than 50%, keep reading!