How COVID-19 Became the Corona 15

Have you been struck by the Corona 15?  You know, those extra pounds that somehow worked their way into your body recently.  If you’re like the typical baby boomer, older adult, or anyone who’s been home sitting a lot more lately, you know exactly what I mean!

According to some recent polls, about 1/3 to 1/2 of respondents report gaining weight due to COVID 19 restrictions.  And terms like “quarantine 15” and “#quarantineweight gain” have shown up with more than half a million Facebook users. 

According to Urban Dictionary, the Corona 15 is “Weight gain as a result of being forced to shelter at home during a pandemic, specifically due to Coronavirus, or COVID-19, but can be applied to other pandemics. Total gain does not have to be limited to 15 pounds.”

Yikes, really? Will we be talking about the Corona 25 by summer’s end?  Ugh!

So let’s take a look at what’s going on and what it might take to get rid of that extra weight.

How We Got Here:

Although our bodies do not operate like machines, mathematically speaking it takes an increase of 3,500 calories to gain 1 lb.  In reality, a myriad of factors affect that equation, including the food’s nutritional quality; your history of weight gain, loss, and regain; how much you move, etc.  But let’s go with that number; it works for this example.

15 lb x 3,500 calories means you’ve ingested an extra 52,500 calories.  Don’t fall off your chair yet!  For ease of calculating, let’s say you’ve been sheltering at home for 100 days.  That means you have a surplus of 525 calories per day.  Now that begins to make sense.

Fast foods

Let’s start with fast foods. These restaurants have been our most reliable lifeline for “dining out.”  And unless you choose very wisely, it’s difficult to find a fast food meal (entree, drink, fries) for less than 500 calories.

Alcohol

Alcohol sales have grown noticeably during the past three months.  The empty calories from beers add up quickly: 100 – 150 per serving.  A couple of drinks and you’re halfway to that extra 500 calories.  In addition, alcohol can interfere with a good night’s sleep, and less sleep leads to an increased level of hunger hormones.

Ultraprocessed foods

We’ve been indulging on candy, noodles, bread…you know, those comforting processed carbohydrate foods.  At least one study found that energy expenditure after eating processed foods was almost 50% less than from less-processed foods.  Seems it may just take more energy to digest and metabolize whole foods compared to processed ones.

What We Can Do to Get Out of Here:

1)  Start moving more

Our bodies were built to move, and they love everything from fidgeting to strolling to lifting weights.  So make it a point to get up every hour, even to stretch or walk around for a few minutes.  And do some squats, push-ups, lunges.  Flex those muscles with dumbbells (start with 1 – 2 lb. weights if you haven’t done any strength training lately).  The “afterburn” from a nice long walk, coupled with increased muscle mass from resistance work, gifts you a bonus of burning extra calories long after you’ve finished the movement.

2)  Use the 80% rule

Stop eating before you’re full!  In Okinawa, residents practice “hara hachi bu.”  The idea is to stop eating when your stomach is 80% full.  We often eat all that’s on our plates, past the point of “getting enough.”  Unfortunately, it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to catch up to your stomach, so to help with less food intake, try these easy tips: use a smaller plate, start your meal with a large glass of water or salad (watch the dressing, calories add up quickly there!), and eat slowly, focused on your food.

3)  Eat real food

I know you love those potato chips and ice cream, but make them to occasional treat, not the norm.  Get back to lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds.  These are the foods that provide you with life.  And all the chewing will slow you down, while your body has to work harder to process them.

And for other ways to be successful at healthy eating and getting back in shape, give me a call.

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