Arts & Life, Health & Wellness, Special Projects

‘Quarantine 15’: the new ‘freshman 15’

Next month will mark one year since the first lockdown was issued in California.

Masks, sold-out hand sanitizer and toilet paper and plastic sheeting at grocery stores have all been markers of the lockdown. Closer to home, however, the newest identifier of the side effects of the coronavirus pandemic has become known as the “quarantine 15.”

A play on the phrase “freshman 15” which refers to the weight gain college freshmen incur within their first year at university, the “quarantine 15” points to the pounds many are adding in the face of the raging pandemic.

Rachel Blaine, director of the undergraduate nutrition program at Long Beach State, attributes the pandemic weight gain to stress and accessibility to online food services.

“Eating a lot more food from restaurants tends to be higher in calories,” Blaine said. “So, if you combine being a little less active, and eating more than you normally would, then yeah, that does result in weight gain.”

Blaine said stress also impacts the body, which can ultimately lead to weight gain. She said if a person is constantly stressed, their sleeping patterns are affected, which can lead to a change in appetite and how the body holds onto weight, resulting in an increase in pounds.

However, Blaine said weight gain is nothing to beat yourself up about because it’s natural for bodies to fluctuate in weight.

“We’re all in this,” Blaine said. “We’re all processing it differently. Some people have gone into the pandemic and really focused on being super healthy, and maybe that’s their coping mechanism and that is wonderful for those people. But that is not how everyone is coping.”

Blaine encourages those feeling down about their weight gain to look for hashtags and social media pages promoting body positivity and intuitive eating.

Virginia Gray, a professor in the nutrition department, said some factors may serve as barriers to healthy eating. These include limited time, resources and access to healthy foods, taste preferences, stress, social factors, environmental factors, such as the cost of healthy foods, easy access to junk food and media influences.

“When you are young, you take your health for granted, leading to less conscious eating compared to other age groups,” said Nataly Kepes, a professor in the consumer affairs department.

Kepes said that everyone should try to stay physically active at all times. She said good alternatives to the gym are daily fast walking, jogging, hiking, lightweight training and yoga.

“In a time marked by stress and anxiety, look for ways to manage emotions without food,” Gray said.

She recommends getting plenty of sleep and finding ways of being active that you enjoy, such as walking while listening to your favorite podcast. She said her favorite activity is visiting the beach and watching the sunset.

“It’s amazing to me that something that has happened every day throughout history still commands us to stop and watch,” Gray said. “And in the era of COVID-19, pausing for a moment of mindfulness can go a long way.”


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