“The Quarantine 15 Is the New Freshman 15”: Is the Comparison Actually Valid?

Patience — with yourself and with the scale — is key to staying sane during these unprecedented times. Here’s how to stay healthy without obsessing.

DGLimages / Shutterstock
DGLimages / Shutterstock

As we continue to social distance during the coronavirus outbreak, many of us are moving less and eating more — resulting in weight gain that some are calling the “COVID 19” or the “quarantine 15” (a.k.a. the new version of the “freshman 15″). While we could all use a laugh — and some relief from the challenges of our times — the truth is, this comparison or “joke” isn’t funny to everyone. Some may feel triggered or pressured to maintain a certain size during the pandemic — and that can do more harm than good.

Sure, what we put into our bodies matters, but it’s not so much about weight as it is about health. During times of anxiety and uncertainty, stress eating may involve reaching for our favorite “comfort foods” full of sugar. However, science tells us that avoiding sugar can actually help us reduce chronic inflammation, according to a study from the C.D.C. and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Meanwhile, inflammation contributes to the conditions that put us at greater risk for viral infections. Bottom line: Focusing exclusively on the scale makes it too easy to forget all the ways that our food choices affect us.

Beyond helping us keep inflammation in check, mindful eating serves another purpose during this time. When so much of what’s happening is outside of our control, it’s deeply empowering to focus on the aspects of our immunity and resilience that are within our control — such as giving our body nutrient-dense food and prioritizing movement. These habits are crucial to staying healthy during the coronavirus outbreak, Marina Chaparro, R.D.N., M.P.H., a registered dietitian, tells Thrive.

That’s where Microsteps come in; these small, actionable steps can have big benefits for your well-being. And yes, you can do them even while social distancing.

Swap in a healthy treat to replace your go-to sugary comfort food. 

If you find yourself reaching for unhealthy comfort foods, find a delicious snack that still feels like an indulgence — without the sugar. Try a bowl of berries instead of a cinnamon bun, or a fruit smoothie instead of ice cream.

Schedule 30 minutes on your calendar to make and eat a healthy lunch every day. 

One of the big benefits of working from home is that it’s easier to cook yourself a well-balanced lunch when you have access to the healthy food in your kitchen. 

Today, turn one of your regularly scheduled meetings into a virtual walking meeting. 

You and the other meetings attendees can go on walks in your respective neighborhoods (as long as you can maintain safe social distancing), and speak on the phone as you walk. 

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