The Quarantine 15: Who Else Is Fighting It and How Can We Fix It?

COVID-19’s unexpected effect on expanding waistlines.

Why is my belt so tight? I can’t buckle my skinny jeans. I call out “Honey, I think my pants shrunk in the dryer,” as I loosen my belt a notch to accommodate my new #dadbod.

I don’t think I am alone. My patients are complaining of weight gain too. As a result of the stay-at-home instructions, many of us altered our activity levels, diets, and routines. The result — The Quarantine 15.

Obesity may be an unexpected outcome of this infectious disease pandemic.

Why are we gaining weight?

Various theories attempt to explain the mysterious Quarantine 15. Some blame stress. Stress increases our body’s cortisol production. Cortisol is the “stress hormone” known to increase the appetite.

When under stress, we alter our food intake. Some people undereat. The medical term for undereating stressed-out individuals is “weirdos.” “Normal” people tend to grab a bag of Doritos and dip them in hot fudge covered ice-cream.

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Ice-cream and other sugary carbohydrates trigger a dopamine surge. Dopamine hormone dopamine is produced in the pleasure center of the brain, an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. Dopamine is our mind’s reward system.

When times are tough, rewards and treats provide relief. Some believe we naturally gravitate towards carb-laden foods when stressed out to get a quick energy boost. The sugar rush makes us feel better, temporarily. But what follows is the crash and crave phase. The crash makes us feel hungry again as our brains seek out more dopamine.

Dopamine and cortisol.

Is the Quarantine 15 a result of a complex combination of physiological hormonal changes? Perhaps. But I suspect we are just bored.

Boredom leaves us feeling tired and sluggish. We tell ourselves we were “forced” to stop working out when gym and fitness centers closed during the lockdown. But many did not substitute an evening jog, daily walk, or even get up off the couch.

Not only did we decrease our physical activity, but alcohol sales also skyrocketed up 27% during the pandemic. People are doing less and drinking more, and increased alcohol consumption means more calories

What goes better with a craft beer than some fresh local takeout! Since restaurants were closed to dine-in, many of us began ordering take-out. Food delivery services increased sales during the lockdown. Many of us ordered food to “to support the local restaurants.”

Photo by eggbankon Unsplash

No quick fixes

I would be a hypocrite to write a listicle of five magic steps to guarantee everyone sheds the extra baggage. Instead, I experience share from my own ups and downs. These weight management hacks help me get back up each time I fall.

Thank you to ILLUMINATION for publishing this article on Medium.

Blog Author: Dr. Jeff Livingston 

Main Blog Photo By: i yunmai on Unsplash

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