Why pandemic weight gain is no reason to panic

By Lee Jay

Fresher's year at university was the last time the pounds seriously stacked up. They crept on one by one as the months whizzed by. No complaints from me though - I was having a ball.

Now, in the grip of COVID-19, we can forget about the fresher's 15 for a new weighty issue is in town - 'the quarantine 15'. Squinting at the numbers and balancing gingerly on the scale, we're all thinking the same -"they must be broken?"

Torn from our beloved gym, bored to tears as the hours crawl by and the fridge a mere arm stretch away, unwelcome fat can pile on in the blink of an eye.

Should we be worried? Is it time to toss the jeans out the window?

Fear not my friends, hope is not lost. Although we may be moving less and snacking more, maintaining a healthy lockdown routine is as simple as being mindful and present.

"Adhering loosely to some kind of routine is what matters right now - even basic activities such as taking a shower, getting dressed in outdoor clothes and making yourself presentable will help you feel more energized and productive - that's half the battle," says Tricia Nelson, acclaimed author, transformational speaker and emotional eating expert.

"Making your bed, doing the dishes, taking out the trash, flossing and brushing your teeth at night all may sound like simple self-care tasks, but in reality, this structure improves our positivity, mood, and is the foundation for other self-care habits, such as exercise and preparing healthy meals."

Who cares about a few extra pounds?

Tricia, who has worked with hundreds of people overcoming eating disorders and addictions, also suggests sticking to spiritual practice, anything from meditation and prayer, to journaling, for a sense of emotional grounding and enhancement of wellbeing.

For many of us, a bit more wobble is no reason to fret, but when unhealthy eating patterns spiral, a loss of control can lead to overwhelming feelings. "It’s easy to beat ourselves up for gaining weight and seeing our bodies a little more 'mushy' at present," expresses Nelson. "Remember though, self-criticism and berating yourself for lack of motivation (in that moment) is counter-productive and will make it all the more tricky to get on track. Self-care is about being kind to ourselves - think positive affirmations and self-talk."

This reminder is enough for most to get back on track and seize the day. However, for the millions globally suffering (past of present) with an eating disorder, or struggle related to food, will find themselves in a completely different mindset."Eating disorders often stem from a sense of anxiety and fear, and the uncertainty and disruption to our daily lives, caused by this pandemic, can easily be channeled into unhealthy habits," explains Nelson.

"I have seen many cases of emotional eating and out-of-control binge eating rise as a coping mechanism to deal with the added stress of feeling trapped, lonely or even from financial insecurity."

"Self-criticism and berating yourself for lack of motivation in that moment is counter-productive".

Despite the pandemic, online help and a support are invaluable lifelines for anyone battling an eating disorder. "Facebook groups, such as the Secret Sauce to End Emotional Eating, are often an excellent source to find healing words, as well as podcasts, digital summits featuring experts addressing this issue, alongside other resources like NEDA, the National Eating Disorders Association and EDReferral.com, are a good place to start," outlines Nelson.

What's the real struggle here?

At the core of 'the quarantine 15' is our endless quest for consistency and comfort when uncertainty hovers and NO ONE has the answers. So, sure, sometimes buttercream topped cake is the answer, or at least a pleasant moment of distraction.

Medical News Today has pinpointed how other factors - temptations, stress, a lack of regular eating times and failing to be mindful of what we eat, are us causing us to overeat.

More often than not, a habit of munching sugary snacks derives from a desire to source a fix of serotonin, with unhealthy food now replacing many of live's other little joys.

Keep in mind, it's not about food and weight. 98% of all diets fail due to deeper emotions which drive food cravings and the compulsion to over consume," says Nelson. "So addressing and healing the root causes of emotional eating will make for a far easier weight loss journey and the ability to stick to a healthy eating plan."

In other words, as we find ourselves in an emotionally unstable moment, our eating habits follow suit. But soon enough, as we wave bye bye to the lockdown and some form of normality will resumes, so too should our previous eating patterns.

The takeway? Just as the fresher's weight shed itself like a second skin, so too will drop the pandemic pounds. No need to panic.

Follow Tricia Nelson on Instagram: @tricianelsonlove

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