Life under lockdown comes with a whole new set of challenges and disrupts the daily routine of millions worldwide.
It affects many people’s mental and physical health and is a major cause of weight gain, contributing to what’s been dubbed the “Quarantine 15.”
If you’re concerned about your weight during the pandemic, you’re not alone. Even in quarantine, you can take several steps to keep your weight within your target range.
This article explains some of the causes of quarantine weight gain — and offers simple strategies to combat it.
Many factors may contribute to quarantine weight gain.
For starters, the health concerns, financial problems, and uncertainty spurred by the pandemic may contribute to increased stress levels.
In turn, stress may cause weight gain.
In fact, one study associated chronic stress and high levels of the stress hormone cortisol with increased food cravings and weight gain (
Mental health factors
A more sedentary lifestyle
Changes in your daily routine may also contribute to weight gain.
Additionally, many gyms, parks, and sports facilities have been closed due to COVID-19, making it much harder to maintain a regular workout routine.
Because fitting physical activity into your day is more difficult, it can be very easy to slip into a sedentary lifestyle.
Quarantine weight gain may be caused by factors like stress, loneliness, depression, anxiety, decreased physical activity, and disruptions in your daily routine.
Here are a few easy strategies to stay within your target weight range during quarantine. Some of these techniques may even promote weight loss — both during and after lockdown.
When it comes to weight loss, what you drink is often just as important as what you eat.
Soda, sweet tea, and sports drinks are typically loaded with added sugar and lack important nutrients like vitamins and minerals. These drinks not only raise your calorie intake but also your risk of weight gain (
Contrarily, drinking more water can help you feel full, thereby decreasing your daily calorie intake.
For example, a study in 24 older adults with excess weight and obesity showed that drinking 16.9 ounces (500 mL) of water before breakfast reduced the number of calories eaten at that meal by 13% (
Squeeze in some physical activity
While hitting the gym may not yet be an option, plenty of other ways exist to add physical activity to your routine.
Try taking a walk around your neighborhood, doing some bodyweight exercises like pushups, or finding a home workout routine online.
High intensity interval training (HIIT), yoga, aerobics, and Pilates are a few exercises that you can do almost anywhere with minimal or no equipment.
Stock up on healthy foods
Eating healthy is much easier when you have a fridge full of nutritious produce like fresh fruits and veggies.
Conversely, keeping junk foods like chips, cookies, and cakes on hand may increase your risk of overeating.
Next time you go grocery shopping, load your cart with nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. If you’re in a supermarket, try to shop around the store’s perimeter, which is typically where most of the fresh and healthy foods are located.
Cook at home
Cooking is a great way to improve your diet quality while experimenting with new foods and flavors.
Plus, preparing healthy meals at home puts you in control of what you’re putting on your plate, making it easy to incorporate more high quality foods.
A large study in 11,396 people associated eating home-cooked meals more often with better overall diet quality (
What’s more, those who ate more than 5 home-cooked meals per week were 28% less likely to have excess weight and 24% less likely to have excess body fat, compared with those who ate home-cooked meals fewer than 3 times per week (
While it’s fine to order from your favorite restaurants on occasion, try finding a few new recipes to prepare at home each week.
Stick to a routine
When you’re not leaving the house often, it can be easy to cast aside your daily routine.
Yet, establishing a schedule and sticking to it is a great way to build healthy habits while creating a sense of normalcy.
Try setting times to wake up and go to sleep, getting dressed even if you’re working from home, and taking regular breaks throughout the day.
You can also try planning out your meals for the week and setting aside time for meal prep. Interestingly, studies link meal planning to improved diet quality, increased food variety, and an average body weight (
Drinking plenty of water, exercising regularly, stocking up on healthy foods, cooking at home, and sticking to a routine are all useful strategies for weight loss during and after quarantine.
As you adapt to social distancing, it’s likewise important to adjust the ways that you manage and maintain your health.
While modifying your daily routine may be more difficult due to new challenges brought on by the pandemic, taking a few small steps can set you on the track toward better long-term health.
If you have more free time, quarantine may lend you the opportunity to learn more about nutrition and healthy eating — but jumping into a fad diet or restrictive eating plan isn’t recommended.
Instead, making gradual changes to your diet and lifestyle is much more effective for promoting long-term health and sustainable weight loss (
Keep in mind that there’s no need to cut out your favorite foods altogether, even if you’re trying to lose weight. While it’s best not to load up on unhealthy snacks and treats, you can still enjoy these foods in moderation as part of a nutritious, well-rounded diet.
Making gradual changes to your diet and lifestyle can promote long-term health and sustainable weight loss.
You’re not alone if you’re experiencing weight gain during quarantine. It could be caused by increased stress, loneliness, or anxiety, as well as decreased physical activity or disruptions to your daily routine.
Several basic, quarantine-friendly steps can help you stay within your target weight range or even lose weight. These include establishing a daily routine, drinking more water, and fitting in exercise.
Remember to go easy on yourself and make gradual changes to your diet or lifestyle.