Why weight gain during the pandemic isn’t always your fault

Photo by Darien Funk

There are plenty of valid reasons as to why our new pandemic lifestyles can and have led to weight gain. I’ve plumped up like a balloon since the state of emergency was announced.

For one, stress levels are high. We’re living in a period of constant unknowns. To throw all of our regular daily stressors on top of that, you’ve got a perfect recipe for binge eating.

Food delivery only seems more attractive now. We’ve been advised to limit our exposure to the general public so what better way to bring in hot, ‘fresh’ food to the household than Uber Eats? 

The problem is, the vast majority of foods being offered on these applications are heavily processed, full of unhealthy fats, lacking in vitamins and nutrients, extremely carcinogenic and never leave you feeling satiated for long.

Just about any meal from McDonald’s wipes out your entire recommended caloric intake for the day. The last thing I want to do is delve into the tedious practice of counting calories but it’s hard not to consider when you’re ordering in twice a day.

Of course ordering one crummy meal every once in a while is completely acceptable, but it quickly becomes a problem when your casual binges become daily habits. 

Yet, it’s understandable why more and more people find themselves falling into such habits. These foods are comforting. They flood our brains with dopamine, letting us know that what we’re feeding our bodies is worthy of a reward. Unfortunately, this rush of feel-good chemicals is brief and temporary.

Over the past few months, I’ve ingested more croissants than the entire country of France. My daily walk to the convenience store is my exercise and it’s not a rarity to find me driving that half kilometer. 

And frankly, I’m ashamed of this. Why does my preferred coping mechanism have to contribute to my uncharacteristic man breasts? For the first time in my life I’ve noticed stretch marks descending from what used to be my abdominals. 

So you’re not alone whatsoever. I used to be a PETA-loving vegan. Now I’m eating grocery store sushi and fighting my dog for the last fry in the Wendy’s bag. 

If cigarettes, marijuana or alcohol aren’t your particular vice, what else is there to fall back on other than food and cocaine? (Don’t do cocaine.) Yes, we’re in control of how we behave and the foods we put in our body but sometimes it’s hard not to inhale an entire bag of grandma’s Bridge Mix just because it’s in the house.

It’s difficult to find motivation for anything when you can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. We need something to work towards, a reason to push ourselves out of bed at eight in the morning for that run we’d promised ourselves the night before.

The reality is, the most important motivation you can have is that of self-betterment. By ingesting healthy foods, getting enough sleep and giving our bodies the exercise they were built to expect, we’re finally giving our minds a fighting chance.

Not only will you physically feel better, your brain will thank you for it. The problem with all these processed fast foods is they do just about nothing to nourish our bodies. Amino acids mean nothing when you’re deficient in B-12 and Omega-3s.

As well, they deteriorate the health of our gut—a major source of serotonin. Processed gluten and red meats promote inflammation throughout our digestive tract—whether we’re celiac or not—and artificial sweeteners eat away at the healthy bacteria in our large intestines. 

So for those of you guzzling four Diet Cokes a day thinking the lack of calories is helping your waistline, consider for a minute the harm it’s doing to your main source of feel-good chemicals.

It’s important to find a balance. There’s a common practice used among nutritionists and brain-health specialists called the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of the time you eat healthy, vitamin-rich foods that fill your body with nutrients. Twenty percent of the time you eat what you want—within moderation.

There’s no need to throw the blame all on yourself. We’ve been given the perfect circumstance to gain 30 pounds over five months. I’m impressed by the people who haven’t. 

But at the same time, it’s important to make an effort, even if that means going for a couple walks to break up the monotony of your day. Getting your body back to a healthy equilibrium takes time, especially if it’s been fed gas-station baked goods for months.

Start adopting new, healthy habits with patience and understanding in mind. It’s a slow burn, but it’s one that will be well worth it in the long run. Eat a damn croissant every once in a while—just maybe not eight.

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