The “Quarantine 15” Weight Gain: Causes, Risks, and Solutions

Gaining weight as a result of self-isolation and stay-at-home orders has been reported in many countries around the world, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Italy. Since the search for a COVID-19 miracle drug or vaccine is ongoing, people are still spending most of their time indoors, and the more they do, the more weight they seem to gain. Social media users are referring to this lockdown phenomenon as the “quarantine 15.”

What is quarantine 15?

“15” refers to the amount of weight gained in pounds. But is this phenomenon real, or is it simply a false social media narrative? To uncover the truth, Professor Mamas of Keele University ran a poll on CardioTwitter. Out of the 270 participants, more than 50 percent reported having gained weight.

What caused the weight gain?

“First and foremost, we are exercising less, many of our gyms are closed, and we are no longer going out for fear of catching COVID, particularly the elderly and co-morbid,” said Mamas. 

“Secondly, our dietary habits have changed. Individuals are stockpiling food, and we are snacking and grazing for most of the day. We are also switching to very carbohydrate rich diets, and this will obviously have an impact on our weight gain,” continued Mamas.

Furthermore, let us not underestimate the psychological impact of prolonged social isolation. Several studies have concluded that social isolation can cause mental health problems, and that depressive symptoms are associated with weight gain and obesity.

What are the health risks of gaining too much weight?

Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of many health problems, including

  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular disease and strokes
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Certain cancer types
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Sleep apnea
  • Kidney disease
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Pregnancy issues, such as high blood sugar and high blood pressure during childbearing, and increased risk for cesarean delivery

How do you know if you gained too much weight?

Gaining a little bit of weight during the pandemic may not seem like a big deal at first, but these pounds can add up over time, especially since we will be living with the COVID-19 outbreak well into 2021.

So, how can you tell if your weight could heighten your chances of developing health problems? Knowing your body mass index (BMI) score and waist size in inches may help you understand your risk.

What is body mass index?

The BMI is one way to determine whether you are at a normal weight, are overweight, or have obesity. It measures your weight in relation to your height, and it provides a score to help place you in a category:

  • Normal weight: BMI of 18.5 to 24.9
  • Overweight: BMI of 25 to 29.9
  • Obese: BMI of 30 or higher

Calculate your body mass index here.

Why does waist size matter?

“Having too much fat around your waist may increase health risks even more than having fat in other parts of your body. Women with a waist size of more than 35 inches and men with a waist size of more than 40 inches may have higher chances of developing diseases related to obesity,” according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

What are the ways to lose weight during quarantine?

Try these tips to help yourself achieve a healthy weight while staying in and social distancing:

  1. Drink honey and lemon water in the morning

Before having your first meal of the day, it’s essential to kickstart your body processes after long hours of sleep. Start your day with a glass of honey, lemon, and water to help rejuvenate yourself and eliminate toxins in your body. This delicious mixture can also boost your metabolism.

  1. Eat what your body needs

Put the Eggo waffles back in the supermarket’s freezer. Instead, stock up on nutritious fruits and vegetables, especially seasonal ones. Seasonal fruits have cancer-fighting antioxidants and are rich in fibre that promotes healthy weight loss.

  1. Maintain an eating schedule

Try to have most of your meals before 7 or 8 o’clock in the evening. Eating food at the right time and hours before going to bed will make it easier for your digestive system to break down the meals you consume. Remember, proper digestion and good intestinal health are important for healthy weight management.

  1. Stay hydrated

Drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated. Remaining quenched will help keep you feeling full for much longer, and it will prevent you from snacking or feeling the munchies throughout the day. Plus, water is good for your skin and digestion.

  1. Reduce your intake of refined carbs and added sugars

If your goal is to lose the weight you’ve gained during quarantine, then you must understand the difference between bad and good carbohydrates. White bread, pasta, cereals, and sugar-filled treats like cookies and pastries are the kind of carbohydrates that cause weight gain. Whole wheat and foods with complex carbohydrates are what you should include in your diet.

  1. Have meals that keep you feeling full

Having a hearty breakfast can help you feel full until lunchtime. Eating an unsatisfying meal can lead to you snacking on unhealthy junk food and feeling hungry soon after breakfast. To avoid the latter, ensure your diet includes foods rich in fibre (including nuts, seeds, whole grains, and fruits), protein (such as lean meat, chicken, dairy, and seafood), and healthy fats (like olive oil, canola oil) which will help satisfy your appetite.

  1. Get moving

Living a sedentary lifestyle can have negative effects on your health, well-being, and quality of life. Self-isolation can also cause you additional stress and challenge your mental health. Physical activities and relaxation techniques are not only valuable tools that can help you feel calm, but they can also protect your physical and mental health during this time.

The World Health Organization recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity each week, or a combination of both. You can still achieve these recommendations at home, even with no workout equipment and with limited space.

The Bottom Line

“Once we go back to our everyday living and we come out of this lockdown, much of the weight that has been gained will probably be lost because of our increased activities, our better eating habits, and the reduction of stress.” However, until the world discovers a cure for COVID-19, we all need to adjust to the “new normal” and take good care of our minds and bodies.

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