The summer months are normally filled with beach trips, bikini photo shoots and endless hours of laying by the pool. The coronavirus pandemic, however, has caused many to stay up late indulging in snacks, binging Netflix shows and move their bodies way less than before.
Developing one or two of these habits may not cause someone to gain a few pounds, but a combination of them can result in unhealthiness to ones body.
In this unprecedented time, nearly every student’s body has had to deal with unexpected stressors such as the abrupt switch to remote learning, unexpected unemployment and the fear of getting sick and trying to keep loved ones out of harm’s way.
Mia Funcheon, a recent Montclair State University dietetics graduate, has noticed her energy levels change during the pandemic.
“I often feel more tired than usual and less energetic,” Funcheon said. “It can be hard, but recognizing that I’m feeling this way helps me to figure out ways to get out of these funks.”
Funcheon also expressed how she feels that gaining weight due to the circumstances and lack of resources should be more recognized.
“Gaining weight during this pandemic is so normal and it should be more normalized than it is,” Funcheon said.
For a brief period of time during the pandemic, grocery stores weren’t able to restock food fast enough. Many relied on takeout, delivery or shelf-stable pantry meals.
Gyms were also ordered to close which threw off many people’s daily routines of working out.
Sabrina Rice, a senior fashion studies major, had her fitness routine altered as a result of the pandemic.
“I used to be pretty active during the day and went to the gym a few times a week, but I never really got into at-home workouts, ” Rice said. “Being back at school it’s been easier to get back to a more normal routine taking walks on campus and waking up for class.”
In a thin-focused society, the thought of gaining a few pounds especially before the summer could send someone into a downward spiral.
Fiorella DiCarlo, a registered dietitian from New York, had some encouraging words regarding the pandemic and weight gain.
“This is a very stressful unprecedented time,” DiCarlo said. “It makes sense that there might be some emotional eating going on.”
DiCarlo has years of experience, counseling individuals regarding weight as an eating disorder dietitian.
DiCarlo recommends that individuals who have noticed weight gain during this time should not stop eating the foods that they were eating before, but instead add nourishing foods to their meals like a side of fruit or vegetables.
“When someone comes out of their base weight, I don’t believe that there is one food culprit,” DiCarlo said. “It’s when people start eating out of their hunger cues consistently and emotionally.”
DiCarlo is confident that all of the external stressors have caused many to move away from their normal weights and will eventually return to their natural body weight once things return to normal.
“Try to move away from it [weight gain] organically by understanding what emotions you are putting and using through food,” DiCarlo said.
DiCarlo also suggested that individuals use self-care to align themselves with what their normal behaviors were before the pandemic. DiCarlo advised that individuals nourish themselves, go out in the sun and engage in a physical activity that brings them joy.
Hannah Shaber, a senior sociology major, tried out some of these changes and added them to her “new normal.”
“I haven’t so much implemented new things into my routine, but rather changed the amount of time I spend doing things to help keep my mental health in check and care for myself.” Shaber said. “I make a point of spending time each day crafting or baking. I also spend a small chunk of time cleaning up, doing dishes or doing laundry.”
The coronavirus pandemic has completely altered the way in which people live. Many were forced into uncertain situations causing weight gain and disrupting routines. However, it is important to realize that once things return to normal, external stressors will disappear and previously gained weight will likely go away as well.
It is also important for people to give themselves grace and patience when maneuvering through this new normal.
“We are all figuring it out as we go along. There is no formula that we were given during this. We all got a little unraveled in our own different ways.” DiCarlo said.