Research has shown that stress changes a person’s overall food intake, resulting in either over- or undereating. It seems that chronic life stress is associated with people’s greater preference for nutrient- and energy-dense foods, such as those high in fat and sugar. It comes as no surprise that more people craved for chocolate, potato chips, and pizza during the Covid-19 quarantine.
When people are frightened or worried, they are more likely to seek carbs, fats, and sugars for a quick boost of energy. The comfort foods act as the natural tranquilizer that calms the body during peril. Yet, the short-term solution can grow into a bigger problem In the long term. Comfort eating traps a person into a hard-to-break cycle that will only add to their stress levels and will result in serious health problems, including obesity, diabetes, and heart diseases, and even emotional issues.
What is quarantine 15?
The quarantine 15 is a trending meme online, joking about how people gain 15 pounds from being stuck in their homes surrounded by snacks and away from gyms. Doctors have, however, recently warned that the quarantine 15 memes that became popular on social media are not a joke and should not be taken lightly.
In a poll conducted by the human health platform WebMD, it was found that half of female and a quarter of male respondents admit they’ve gained weight ever since the country imposed the lockdown. Doctors said via New York news WKBW that such a kind of weight gain is especially dangerous for people already obese or at a higher risk of severe conditions of Covid-19.
The talk of quarantine 15 is also harmful to people recovering from an eating disorder. Amy Estes, who has a history of disordered eating, shared that what may seem like a harmless joke on social media is painful for her. As someone who has spent time in and out of programs and therapy to learn how to accept the natural changes that can happen in her body when she is feeling stressed, she finds the pandemic challenging. When a person is alone, it is easy to hide unhealthy habits, such as starving or binging, she said.
Share of people that eat less healthy due to Covid-19 outbreak
Database company Statista surveyed about 5,525 people in various European countries between March 25 to April 2. The results show that about 27% of respondents from the UK stated that they eat less healthy than before the coronavirus outbreak. In France, 15% of the respondents said they eat less healthy because of the pandemic, slightly bigger in number compared to the 14% respondents in Italy, 10% in Germany, and 10% in Spain who said they consume less healthy foods.
Exercise physiologist explaining about diet culture
Exercise physiologist Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN, who authored the book Body Kindness, told MyFitnessPal that she is not attacking the idea of the quarantine 15. Those who find the idea funny are probably least likely to suffer from the consequences of such a term. However, she reminds the public that it also feeds into the idea that the size and shape of our bodies are the most valuable assets even at a time when some people are dying because of the pandemic. The idea tries to evoke people’s fear response, which is already heightened due to the pandemic.
Scritchfield explained the problems surrounding diet culture, which puts bodies on a hierarchy. For instance, thinner bodies are more valuable than bigger bodies. Diet culture also instills the idea that it is bad to be of a larger weight or to gain weight. This is “manipulative and wrong,” she added.
She advised people who are triggered by the quarantine 15 jokes to be curious about if they are living with food rules. Due to pandemic-enhancing anxiety, they may feel the urge to control themselves around food. Yet, the real problem is the rules they have around food. Scritchfield said that once the lockdown is over and they noticed their body changed, they should still be kind to themselves. It is also important to take care of one's mental health amid the pandemic.
Steps to avoid quarantine 15
Licensed therapist and Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina Bryan E. Robinson Ph.D. shares that there are steps to avoid quarantine 15. The first one is to eat nutritious food. A well-nourished body also has a stronger stress-resistant shield. Your body will thank you for replacing Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, diet cokes, and Red Bulls with bottled water, fruit juices, and protein smoothies.
The second step is to portion meals. Although it is easy to snack from bags, eat out of containers, or drink from cartons when you are at home, you tend to eat more if you do not measure your food. Such a habit will be contributed to unwanted weight gain. Studies likewise show that using smaller plates leads to less eating.
The American Psychological Association (APA) published that for many adults, stress affects their behavior toward others. In its 2015 survey, almost half (47%) of adults who have a partner or spouse report losing patience with or yelling at them in the past month when they were feeling stressed. About 46% said they lost their patience or yelled at their children, and 25% said they snapped at or was short with coworkers at work. Also, they skipped activities or planes. Thirty-four percent said they skipped exercise or physical activity, 23% canceled social plans with family or friends, 24% didn’t take care of responsibilities at work or school, and 29% ignored or didn’t take care of responsibilities at home when stressed.
To avoid stress or emotional eating, consider mindful eating. Avoid eating while driving, watching TV, or on the run. Treat mealtime as one activity with value. Eat slowly, sit down, and chew a few more times before swallowing. The process helps you enjoy and relax and this aids in digestion. It likewise gives your stomach the time to tell your brain when it is already full and you will be less likely to overeat.
Lastly, if you are among those who find quarantine 15 memes funny, it is best to be considerate of those who find it offensive. Have a laugh, but do not harm other people by sharing the posts.