• Allison van Camp

7 Tips to Drop the Quarantine 15

College students around the country quiver at the mention of the dreaded “Freshman 15.” This infamous reference is to the 15 pounds of weight gain often experienced in one’s first year of college. It results from excessive intake of alcohol, the consumption of unhealthy foods in the middle of the night, and a general disregard for healthy habits normally enforced at home.

Like a student going to college for the first time, we find our lives dramatically changed in the unprecedented environment of a global pandemic. All of a sudden, we have had to find new ways to spend our time. We are baking lots of treats, spending more time at home, avoiding the gym, and like a college student, drinking more. These changes in diet and lifestyle have led to the arrival of a new weight gain phenomenon, coined “the Quarantine 15.” This is not isolated to a few instances. A recent poll done by WebMD found that nearly half of women and close to a quarter of men have gained weight “due to Covid restrictions.”

If you are one of the many victims of the Quarantine 15, the month of August is a good time to get back on track. School is resuming and the vacation period is coming to an end. Time to reset and replace newly acquired bad habits, with good ones that lead you towards your health and wellness goals. Not sure where to start? Below I have listed some tried and proven tips for getting back to your pre-Covid weight.

1. Start a food journal. A food journal, on its own, can be a very effective strategy for weight loss. By logging all that you eat and drink in a day, you can easily pinpoint the areas of your diet that need work. That second chocolate chip cookie will look somewhat less enticing, if you know that you will be required to write it down.

2. Do the math. Take the food journal one step further and calculate how many calories you eat in a day and compare it to how much you burn. Once you realize that your grueling hour long workout is completely offset by the Starbucks coffee that you pick up every morning, you may make different choices.

3. Drink less alcohol. People are drinking more these days, as evidenced by the increase in alcohol sales over the past few months. Alcohol is high in calories, easy to overdo, and often leads to poor dietary choices due to its ability to lower our inhibitions. It also reduces quality of sleep, which can cause weight gain on its own.

4. Use smaller bowls and plates. Research out of Cornell’s nutrition lab has shown that people consume fewer calories when served meals on smaller plates. One experiment showed that a shift from a 12inch plate to a 10inch plate resulted in a 22% decrease in caloric intake.

5. Boost your metabolism. One way to do that is by adding more strengthening exercises to your fitness routine and building muscle mass. Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, so the more we have, the more energy our body burns.

6. Move more. Work at a standing desk and start tracking your steps. The more you move in a day, the more calories you will burn, and the healthier your body will be. One American Cancer Society study found a link between sitting time and higher risk of death from all causes.

7. Get support. Hire a nutrition coach or join a group of friends that are also trying to lose weight. Having someone to problem solve with can be extremely helpful. If you have struggled with weight loss for some time, then you may benefit from the help of a professional that has experience coaching others in weight loss. And let your family know that you would like to lose weight, so that they can offer support and hold you accountable.


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