Quarantine 15: Overcoming the Urge to Eat

Quarantine 15 is weight gained during social isolation.  Normal life disappeared when COVID-19 reared its ugly head.  Stress eating took on an entirely new meaning when the country shut down due to the pandemic. 

In my own life, the daily skirmish with calories exploded into a full frontal attack. The fact, “Quarantine 15” is a newly coined term in our language, indicates I’m not alone in my struggles.  The Battle of the Bulge does not have to defeat you during this time of stress.  The following tips have helped me avoid the weight gain thus far.

1. Do a Reality Check

The first thing I had to realize is the weight management plan I had in place pre-COVID no longer works.  My weekly weigh-ins at WW no longer existed.  I could no longer walk with my walking buddy.  The hours I spent teaching tennis which bolstered my step count were on hold. My dog walking business declined by 50%.   All of these activities are what helped me keep my weight under control pre-COVID, but were now of no use.  My battle plan for keeping the weight off needed to be re-evaluated. The reality was, in order to avoid Quarantine 15, I needed a plan.

Odds are, your old plan is no longer working for you.  When you do a reality check, you will quickly realize you need a new plan as well.

2. Re-evaluate the Grocery List

The first step in my new plan was to re-evaluate the grocery list.  The easiest way for me to avoid temptation is to not have it in the house.  If I don’t buy Pringles, I won’t eat Pringles.  Instead, I shop the exterior of the grocery store.  The peripheral edges of your neighborhood market are where the freshest foods are located.  Stock the fridge with healthy snacks.  Fresh fruits and vegetables means stress free snacking for you and your family.  Cut foods from the list that cause trouble for you, or buy them in already portioned sizes.  For instance, instead of buying the party size bag of chips, buy the box of individual bags instead.  Limit the amount of junk food purchased to one item per week.

3. Delay don’t deny

Next delay, don’t deny.  When we deny ourselves, we’re setting ourselves up for failure.  If I tell myself I can no longer eat chocolate chip cookies, all I’m going to think about are chocolate chip cookies. Instead, allow yourself a treat.  My husband and I buy a tub of cookie dough.  Each night, after supper we bake 2 cookies, one for each of us.  In 12 minutes we have a freshly baked cookie on top of a ½ cup of rich, vanilla ice cream.  We don’t deny, we delay our treat for an after dinner snack.

Your overall goal should be eating healthy. Think the 80/20 rule. 80% of your diet should be the good stuff–the fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains. The 20% leaves room for the chocolate chip cookies and ice cream.

4. Distract yourself

Master the art of distraction. Re-focusing our thoughts is a technique that helps avoid stress eating.  Do something that takes your mind off of food. My husband and I began taking evening walks together when the quarantine started.  Now that the weather is nicer, we’re taking bike rides.  I borrowed a puzzle from a friend, I turn my attention to it when I’m feeling the urge to binge.  My friend’s children are taking free online music lessons.  Her family is planting a garden together for the first time.  I don’t have space for a garden at my home, but I do have room for container gardening.  Additional distraction ideas are:

  • DIY Twister for family fun
  • Clean out closet/drawers
  • Hand write notes to loved ones
  • Find an online exercise class
  • Read a book
  • Enroll in an online class that interests you
  • Plan a Zoom party
  • Take a nap


5. Get moving

While some people eat because they are stressed, other eat out of pure boredom. Our bodies are used to moving–think about we were working, running errands, exercising, etc. As our bodies slow down, so do our metabolisms which can cause weight gain. Aim to do something physical each day to keep your metabolism revved up. There are free Facebook Live Boot camps, Zoom Zumba classes and free dance and fitness classes on YouTube. You can also ride your bike, hike, jog or walk. Staying active can keep the boredom and the weight away.

6. De-stress

Find ways to de-stress. What relaxes you? What (besides food) brings a smile to your face? This is the time to invest in yourself and dive into some self-care. A warm bath, deep breaths, prayer and utilizing essential oils (lavender and chamomile) are all good options. It is natural to feel anxious right now; combat the anxiety and stress with self-care. Focus on being in the moment, enjoying time with family and doing the best you can.

*If you are struggling and overcome with sadness, anxiety,  or depression and need help, there are virtual options available. Here is a list of resources available during the pandemic.

5. Trust God for comfort, not food

Last, but not least, trust God for comfort in this time of upheaval.  We often turn to food, alcohol, and other unhealthy behaviors in order to cope. They temporarily relieve pain or fill our voids. But as believers we must learn to turn to God. He is our comforter. He is our hope. He is our provider. That word provide not only applies to our financial needs, but also our emotional needs as well. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians shared this promise from God:

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:19 NIV)

The next time you want to open the refrigerator door, open YouVersion instead.  Find one of the apps many Bible reading plans to fill the void you’re using food to fill.  Let God’s word minister to you instead of food.  Let His peace be the guiding light in this ever changing world we live in today.  Nothing can satisfy our anxieties like the word of God.  Make a list of God’s promises to refer too when the desire to eat overwhelms you.  Memorize the scriptures that speak to you most.  Let God’s comfort replace your desire for food.

God knows what is going on in our world.  He really does.  Nothing about COVID-19 or the days ahead are unknown to Him.  He is in control.  He does have a plan.  His plan is good.  Trust Him for your comfort.

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