Hundreds of headlines blare daily warnings about the dreaded “Covid 19” pounds packed on during these long pandemic months. Americans are locked out of their local gyms and yoga studios, locked down in their homes, and locked away from friends and family members for support. What isn’t locked down are the refrigerator and pantry, and comfort food eating is on the rise. What impact is this having on your health, and what can you do about it?
First, the good news: “Much like the myth of the ‘Freshman 15,’ which has been disproven through numerous studies, the ‘Covid 19’ phenomenon is more myth than reality,” declares Jennifer Lombardi, a certified eating disorder psychotherapist at Kaiser Permanente’s Eating Disorder Intensive Outpatient Program in Sacramento. That doesn’t mean there is not a problem though.
“Since the shelter-in-place orders took effect across the country, what we have seen is a significant spike in both disordered eating and diagnosable eating disorders. As a clinician in this field for more than 17 years, I have never seen [this] level of critical acuity, and I hear the same sentiments from my colleagues across the country,” Lombardi shares, referring to the scope and severity of the problem.
“With the pandemic, we have the perfect storm: isolation, change in structure and routine, and boredom,” she observes. “For those who have already been struggling with depression and anxiety, these factors can be the tipping point.” For some individuals, she notes, bingeing and mindless eating follow.
What can you do? “For individuals struggling with their relationship with food, one of the first recommendations is to take a step back and observe what has shifted and when. What does a typical day look like with a person’s eating?”
Since typical days for people in the midst of the pandemic include much more time cooking and eating at home, it’s worth looking at how your wellness design enhancements to your living space can support your weight management efforts.
Newport Beach-based chef and appliance trainer Bridget Bueche suggests rethinking your countertop appliances for an easy way to make healthy meal preparation easier. Take a look at what’s sitting on yours. Is it geared toward high caloric foods like fondue pots, deep fryers or ice cream makers? Is it cluttered with items you only use seasonally instead of daily? Those are best moved out of your kitchen’s work zones.
Bueche is bullish on the Vermicular which, she says, can replace multiple small appliances. “This a win for a clear countertops focusing on healthy, high-quality cooking. It works by induction, along with the iron pot that can cook on any stovetop or oven separate from the cooking unit. The Vermicular can replace a rice cooker, slow cooker, yogurt maker and a double boiler or steamer,” she explains.
The chef is also a fan of stand mixers and their attachments, like food grinders, mills, juicers and spiralizer, all of which can replace individual small-use appliances, she notes, and form the core of a flexible workstation.
Bueche also points to the benefits of countertop convection steam ovens. “It’s a serious solution for a rather painful lack of built-in equipment on a smaller budget.” And for food storage, she recommends a food sealer that offers non-toxic storage bags or containers.
You might be wishing you had the funds and space for a home gym, but neither is on the horizon. The good news is that you really don’t need either, San Diego-based certified personal trainer and author of Love Yourself Fit Lisa Nordquist says.
There are many things you can do, including “using standing desks, taking walking breaks and limiting couch time, but I highly recommend picking two to three types of movement you enjoy and sprinkling those throughout your week in 10-minute segments.” She calls this healthy exercise “snacking.”
You might be considering an exercise bike, treadmill, suspension system, free weights and resistance bands or other popular fitness gear to help battle the bulge. Whichever approach and gear you prefer, Nordquist advises having:
- Level, slip-resistant flooring;
- Mirror to monitor form;
- Adequate space to move, so that you, pets or kids will not be injured by your movements, and nothing that you cause injury (e.g., sharp edges, heavy or unstable shelf items nearby);
- Safety attachments for suspension systems;
- Noise insulation for loud music and workout sounds;
- Skin and privacy protection for outdoor workouts.
She also cautions from first-hand experience, “If you are outside or in a garage, check the area for snakes, rodent droppings and dangerous insects like scorpions, wasps and bees.”
Kaiser Permanente’s Lombardi is also encouraged by some of the self-care strategies she’s seeing people use, she reports. “We have noticed increased use of mindfulness-based apps, which is a good sign that patients are curious and willing to explore new or creative ways to engage in self-care.”
Getting out of the house can also be a healthy approach to self care, especially for those who have gardens, parks or safe walking, running, cycling and hiking routes nearby. “I’ve noticed many patients getting outdoors more than before,” she observes, as sitting inside, close to the fridge and electronics can exacerbate bad habits. “Pausing, removing yourself from the situation, and allowing time to reflect are key components to changing the relationship to food and exercise, as well as with our bodies.”
She also urges anyone struggling with an eating order or feeling isolated, overwhelmed or depressed to get help.