#Quarantine15 can be funny, but not worth stressing about
Sonoma County fitness and nutrition experts have seen the memes and internet jokes.
There are the pictures of fresh-baked bread with the hashtag #Quarantine15, alluding to the 15-pound weight gain that some are experiencing while stress eating during the coronavirus pandemic. Or the rack of unused gym weights labeled #COVID19, poking fun at the sedentary lifestyles and expanding waistlines that others report as Sonoma County heads into week 11 of shelter-in-place restrictions, which have forced many to work from home while barring them from the gym.
Those experts have some advice for folks feeling nervous about the number they see on the scale: Let it go.
“Fitness routines are being thrown off, work schedules are thrown off, dietary patterns can dramatically change in times like these,” said Nicole Merryman, a registered dietitian in Rohnert Park. “There can definitely be a shift in people’s weight as well with people being at home more, with more stress, more time on their hands - they might feel like food is a really good coping mechanism.”
But the memes and the internet jokes? Don’t let them get you further stressed, she said.
“It would be helpful not to be so hard on themselves because of what is going on,” she said. “It’s good that people are being mindful but it’s also a situation where this isn’t going to last forever. And it can potentially feed into people’s body image issues as well.”
Just as it might not be helpful to obsess over celebrities complaining about sheltering in place in their 25-room mansions, it might also not be helpful to like or chuckle over social media memes poking fun at added pounds.
“It’s a very emotional time for the world. I think people are worried about this and they see it on Instagram or whatever and it becomes kind of joke at other people’s (expense) who do have an issue with weight,” said Kelli Ruderman, a registered dietitian and certified intuitive eating counselor in Santa Rosa. “I feel like there are a lot more important things to focus on than this #Quarantine15, people. People are stressed and yes, emotional eating does occur, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. People are taking care of their mental health.”
But it’s not easy, not with companies like PepsiCo, which reported a jump in its April sales of products like Doritos and Lays chips, announcing last week that it has launched a direct-to-consumer website. That means snack lovers can now get any amount of Cheetos, Fritos and Grandma’s Chocolate Chip Cookies delivered discreetly to your door.
And consumers, heeding health officials’ warnings about limiting trips to grocery stores, are trending toward stocking up on foods with a longer shelf life. Translation: Fewer fruits and veggies and more processed foods.
A Credit Suisse report found that snack sales - candy, cookies, chips, crackers, nuts and yogurt - were up 39 percent over the same week in March 2019. Alcohol? Sales were up 55 percent, with the largest spike in ready-to-drink cocktails. Frozen pizza sales were up 117 percent year over year.
For many, food choices can be both emotional and practical. A global pandemic is unprecedented, so experts agree it is only natural our daily habits, eating and otherwise, might be shaken up.
“I think the main worry is people are just at home and there is boredom and they are worried and not listening to their bodies,” Ruderman said.
A change in work life can dramatically change how and why people eat, too. Those out of work? They might be dealing with financial anxiety. Those working from home? They face a change in patterns that can also change the way they eat.
“I have heard that people that would pack their lunch for the day now just have access all day long, so it might shift the way people eat from more meal-based to more grazing and it’s not necessarily a bad thing,” Ruderman said. “If it’s done mindlessly and you have a bowl of snacks and are not listening to your body and not engaged, then yes. But that could happen at the office too.”
Being mindful about why we are turning to food, and when, is important, as is cutting yourself a break, said Rachel Marcus, health and wellness director for the Sonoma County YMCA.
“People’s habits change, eating habits and sleeping habits,” she said. “For me, in the coaching work that I do and the role I play at the Y, I really like to focus people back on what feeling at peace looks like for them, what supports their wellbeing. If we have to sometimes turn to food to help us feel better in this crazy time it’s not the end of the world. We are getting through this the way that we know how to.”