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Will The Quarantine 15 Become The Quarantine 30 by Christmas? What to Do About It Right Now!

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
Measure your health now during COVID-19.

Back when COVID-19 first put us into quarantine mode, a little levity was initially made about it by borrowing from the “Freshman 15” adage regarding weight gain during the first year of college. However, now that we are six months-plus of primarily staying indoors, there’s little to laugh about. Here’s some repeated Yale Medicine advice on strategies for shedding pounds as we enter into a new semester of COVID-19.


Weight Gain During COVID-19

According to past studies, the “Freshman 15” adage is somewhat of an exaggeration. Yes, many incoming Freshman do gain some weight, but most gain very little while others actually lose weight. In fact, an article published in the Journal of American College Health titled “The Freshman 15: Is it Real?” reported that from their data, they found that:

• 30% gained 1-5 pounds

• 17% gained 6-14 pounds

• 5% gained greater than 15 pounds

• 15% lost weight

• 33% experienced no change in weight

More telling, however, was the fact that the rate of weight increase was as much as 5.5 times greater than that of the general population, indicating that influencing factors behind the increased weight gain can be addressed and remedied through interventions to prevent weight gain.

A Pesco-Mediterranean Diet With Intermittent Fasting Might Be The Ideal Heart Healthy Weight Loss Diet

According to a Yale Medicine news article last July, “…COVID-19 has created a perfect storm for people who struggle with weight—Gym and park closures have upended exercise routines, and the stress has escalated for parents who suddenly had to work at home while teaching their children. People have had to postpone medical checkups and physicals, where getting updates like blood pressure and cholesterol numbers can be motivation to think about weight….”

And then, there’s also even more added stress today with rising COVID-19 related job loss and unemployment; an upcoming election that many fear will make matters worse the following four years; and fears of whether or not it’s really a good idea to be vaccinated once a vaccine is provided. Stress, as many health experts point out, leads to increased inflammation in the body, which in turn leads to increased weight gain. And the majority of us are not 18-year-old Freshman anymore, so the threat of a “Quarantine 30” is not so far-fetched.

Why Now It Is More Important Than Ever To Lose Weight This Year

Here’s a CTV News video about the “Quarantine 15”

So, where does leave us then when the pandemic is now projected to last us well into the following year before we can expect some semblance of life returning to normal; or, what some prognosticators refer to as “the new normal”?

Rather than give in to what appears to be a spiraling loss of control in our lives, now is the time to become more proactive about your health.

• Read articles about weight management.

• Follow the advice of weight loss experts.

• Discover what does and doesn’t work for you.

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• Get creative with your workout routines outside of the gym.

• Above all, employ common sense.

Yale Medicine’s Recommended Strategies for Shedding Pounds

That said, here is a modified summary of past advice weight loss intervention from Yale Medicine that offers the most sensible strategies for shedding pounds and taking back control of your life and health:

Create a daily routine—set a daily wake-up time and bed time.

Plan your meals ahead—no more scrounging around the fridge like a raccoon in a trash can looking for “something to eat.”

Dress up for work every morning—if you wear sweatpants or other loose-fitting clothes every day, it’s easier to ignore weight gain.

Renew your interest in food and cooking—if you are home more than usual, you might have time to learn more about cooking healthy foods and how to cook a week’s worth of meals in one session.

Try a Mediterranean-style diet—include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean meats (seafood is a better meat choice).

Think about how you are eating—Control your portions. Try using a salad plate instead of a dinner plate. You can also drink a big glass of water before you eat, then wait about 15 minutes to see if you're still hungry. Be mindful of every bite.

Eat proteins first, because they will make you feel fuller—too many carbohydrates can cause swings in blood sugar and leave you feeling like you have less control over your hunger.

Shop carefully—avoid junk food as much as possible.

Schedule regular exercise—if social distancing keeps you from your usual gym session or exercise classes, try other forms of activity, such as hiking or an online workout class.

Get a good night’s sleep—seven or more hours a night, depending on what your body requires.

Decide how to manage stress—people of faith who get support from others in their religious community face a particular struggle right now, as congregating in large groups raises risk of infection. But you can set a regular time for prayer at home and take long walks. Meditation, yoga, and a mindfulness practice can help.

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Timothy Boyer has a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Arizona. For 20+ years he has been employed as a freelance health and science writer. Today, with an eye on the latest news, Timothy continues writing about science with a focus on what you need to know for healthier living. For continual updates about health, you can also follow Timothy on Twitter at TimBoyerWrites.

Image Source: Courtesy of Siora Photography on Unsplash

Reference: "Quarantine 15? What to Do About Weight Gain During the Pandemic" Yale Medicine July 2020.

The Freshman 15: Is it Real?” Mihalopoulos NL, Auinger P, Klein JD.; Journal of American College Health. 2008; 56(5):531-533. doi:10.3200/JACH.56.5.531-534.