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Quarantine 15: What is it? Why is it happening? What can we do about it?

“Quarantine 15” is the new “Freshman 15” — which referred to students starting in college who end up with unwanted, extra pounds. Similarly, Quarantine 15 alludes to coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic with an extra 15 pounds. While Quarantine 15 is the brunt of jokes on social media and conversations with friends and family, weight gain is no laughing matter.

Weight is a sensitive topic. There are many factors that influence weight management beyond the physical, including psychological and environmental components. Therefore, joking about Quarantine 15 can have a serious psychological impact on those people struggling with their weight and body image. 

Why is it happening?

Weight gain during the pandemic can happen due to many reasons, including changes in routine and using food to cope with emotions like stress.

Pandemic-related changes have affected many areas of our lives. Our day-to-day routines have changed, including our usual eating and exercising schedules. These changes combined with the uncertainty of the times can bring increased stress and anxiety. Being at home, in closer proximity to food and unlimited access to the kitchen, can result in a recipe for emotional eating. Interestingly, stress can affect people’s appetite differently; some people may feel more hunger while others feel decreased hunger.

When dealing with so many changes, some people find comfort in eating. After all, there is research to support that highly palatable foods (foods high in sugar and fat) can activate the brain’s reward system, which may lead to overeating. Comfort eating may temporarily help us feel good while not dealing with the underlying emotional cause such as stress. It’s not that you can’t ever eat a food for comfort reasons, or bake your favorite dessert. But it is important to pay attention to any emotional eating and new daily habits that have developed during quarantine that may add to additional weight gain.  

What can we do about it?

Here are solutions to help prevent or address the Quarantine 15:

Whether it’s the quarantine 15 or getting an annual physical that you’ve been putting off because of the pandemic, Baptist Health Primary Care [2] is ready to care for you. Measures are in place to keep you safe during your visit and same- and next-day virtual appointments are available too. Now, more than ever, it’s important to establish a relationship with a primary care physician who will get to know you and your health.  Visit BaptistHealth.net/PrimaryCare [3] to schedule an appointment today.

About the Author
Lucette Talamas is a registered dietitian with community health at Baptist Health South Florida. She holds a bachelor’s degree in food science and human nutrition from University of Florida and a master of science in nutrition and wellness from Benedictine University. With additional experience as a clinical dietitian, Ms. Talamas enjoys providing practical nutrition information to promote healthy lifestyles that can help prevent and manage chronic diseases. Her expert tips and advice have appeared in print and broadcast media, including The Miami Herald, South Florida PBS, CBS Miami, Telemundo and Univision. Active in professional nutrition organizations, Ms. Talamas received the 2018 Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year Award from the Florida Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.