How to Manage Quarantine Weight Gain

It’s been more than a year since the COVID-19 pandemic changed almost everything about our day-to-day lives. As you’ve worked to establish a new normal, you may have found that your healthy eating habits and pre-pandemic exercise routines have fallen by the wayside. 

On the internet, there’s even a cute term for pandemic weight gain: The “Quarantine 15,” which plays off of the idea of the “Freshman 15,” a term for the weight gain some new college students experience. However, if you feel like your clothes aren’t fitting like they used to, this term may not seem very cute to you.

But, it’s important to remember: Everyone is going through a traumatic time right now. 

If you’ve gained a little weight during quarantine, it’s important that you not consider yourself weak.   

Just fulfilling your responsibilities at work and at home is a huge accomplishment during a pandemic. 

As the weather gets nicer and you start spending more time outdoors, you may be at a place where you’re ready to spend some time focusing on your nutrition and exercise again.

Here are a few dos and don’ts as you get started.

Don’t Go to Extremes to Lose the Quarantine 15

You may see influencers pushing juice cleanses or restrictive diets on social media. Avoid these extreme measures as you to try to get back on track. By restricting yourself, you’ll be more likely to binge later.

Do Try to Eat Three Food Groups at Every Meal

The Plate Method is a great way to ensure you’re getting a balance of nutrients at every meal, and it also takes the focus off of calorie-counting. Plan to have about half your plate full of non-starchy vegetables, a quarter of your plate a healthy starch, and the other quarter a lean protein at each meal.

Do Get Out and Move

You don’t have to take up rock climbing or marathon running in quarantine to reap the benefits of exercise. Start scheduling walks before or after work, or as a break from virtual learning with the kids. Ask your doctor about whether there might be a good virtual exercise program you can follow. (There are many great free or low-cost programs out there right now.) Just try to move for 20 minutes as many days as you can. 

Don’t Give Up!

Everything feels pretty overwhelming right now, but it’s important not to give up on your health. Make a few small changes now, and you’ll see some positive changes in the weeks ahead. Of course, if you want some help along the way, meeting (virtually!) with a registered dietitian is a great way to get a nutrition plan tailored to your specific needs.

Remember: We're all doing the best we can navigating through the pandemic. Be kind to yourself as you take steps to get back into a healthier routine.

Learn more about nutrition services at South Shore Health.