Weight, health and avoiding the ‘COVID 15’
Instead of grazing while at home during the pandemic, plan healthy, balanced meals. (Stock Photo)

If you’ve gained weight during COVID-19, you’re not alone. While it’s too soon for formal study results, doctors report that patients are packing on pounds. Like the famous “Freshman 15” that new college students fall prey to, COVID-related weight is easy to gain, but not so easy to lose.

However, maintaining a healthy weight is more important than ever. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obese people are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. They’re also at greater risk of developing chronic health conditions — hypertension, diabetes — that make it harder to combat coronavirus and are dangerous in their own right.

We all know excess weight takes a toll on our health. But at such a challenging time, what can we do about it?

Reasons behind weight gain

In times of anxiety, our bodies release stress hormones, including cortisol, which can make us crave surgery, salty and high-fat foods — i.e. “comfort foods.”

In addition, we naturally snack more when we’re home, and everyone’s been at home for months. Sales of cookies, chips and other junk foods have soared during COVID-19. Stores have even reported flour shortages due to a nationwide “baking pandemic.”

Compounding the problem: with fitness centers shutdown and organized sports postponed, some folks aren’t working out the way they used to.

Seven ways to combat ‘COVID 15’

If you did let things get out of control, don’t beat yourself up — plan to do better, using these seven strategies:

• Reconnect with your doctor. Whether by a telehealth call or in-person visit, get up-to-date on your doctor visits. Getting on the scale — or getting a reminder regarding your health issues — may be the motivation you need.

• Incorporate more activity into your day. There are many activities — walking, biking, gardening, online classes — that we can do safely. Gyms are reopening with new safety protocols, if you’re willing to take that chance.

• Plan your meals. Instead of grazing or playing it by ear, plan healthy, balanced meals. Focus on whole foods, not processed ones. Think of dessert as an occasional treat, not a daily entitlement.

• Recommit to cooking. Now is a great time to experiment with your grill or Instant Pot. If you don’t enjoy cooking, try cooking multiple meals at once for the week.

• Shop mindfully. Steer clear of temptations you’ll eat in one sitting. To occasionally fulfill a craving, buy a single pack of chips or go out for a cone.

• Get enough sleep. Instead of escaping into late-night TV, aim for at least seven hours of sleep. There’s a well-documented relationship between sleep-deprivation and obesity.

• Find your happy place. Spend time with friends and loved ones in a safe way. Practice yoga, meditation, your religion — whatever moves you. Enjoy your pets, work and hobbies. Staying busy doing things you love is so much better for you than mindless eating!

• Teri Dreher is a board-certified patient advocate. A critical care nurse for more than 30 years, she recently founded Seniors Alone Guardianship & Advocacy Services (SeniorsAlone.org), a not-for-profit organization that serves the area’s senior orphans. She also is the founder of NShore Patient Advocates, www.northshorern.com.