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What You Can Do About Lockdown Weight Gain

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There was kind of a funny meme going around at the start of the lockdown for COVID-19. It was really only a half joke (it was also a half warning):

We laughed at the time (because we knew the potential was real), but what’s more, many of us really planned to use the time as best we could—exercise, personal development, skill building, and trying to truly enjoy the “free time” that was forced upon us.

A frustrating reality is that the time was stressful and while many “hunk” and “monk” dreams have disappeared into the rearview mirror, we may have ended up with the other two options more than we might like to admit to ourselves. Which is a bummer, particularly if you had started off on a good path at the start of 2020, only to have your plans pushed aside by COVID-19.

It’s come to be known as the “Quarantine 15.” It’s the weight gain that has resulted from spending more time with little to do and being more stressed than normal. According to WebMD, close to 50% of both women and men report gaining weight during the lockdown. While 75% of them kept it to under 10 pounds, more than 20% of respondents gained between 10 and 20. Along with the stress and boredom factor, getting less exercise was a large reported factor in people’s weight gain and almost 50% of people said they had “fallen off their diet.”

While some activities, like outdoor running and cycling are up (+13% and +19%), they don’t make up for the drop in treadmill (-43%), group classes (-35%), cross training (-31%), strength training (-27%), and indoor cycling (-25%).

Before you beat yourself up for it or get too upset, recognize that you’re not alone. This has been extremely hard on everyone. Also remember that we’ve trained ourselves as a culture to indulge in food and alcohol—both to pass the time and numb our anxiety—far more than we’ve trained ourselves to use things like exercise and meditation as tools. Eating and drinking are easy. It’s easy to get tripped up by them.

Exercise and personal development take mental energy and creative thinking, both of which are in short supply when we’re stressed and anxious. When we’re in flight or flight mode (which is pretty much what stress and anxiety are), our minds are not looking for ways to upgrade and improve. They’re looking for ways to hunker down and get through it. Whatever happened over the last four months, the situation we were in was working against all of us.

The good news is that if you’re reading this, like many people, you’re starting to emerge. We’re all seeing the effects the lockdown has taken on our lives, and are eager to find smart and simple ways to re-integrate healthy habits back into our daily lives. The better news is that you can make a big difference with small steps each day.

If you feel like your eating and drinking has been out of control for the last four months or you haven’t exercised the way you hoped you would, the Whole Life Challenge can help with that. Take a deep breath, forgive yourself, and let’s make a commitment to move on from here.

Now, rather than go full steam ahead and attempt to completely revamp your diet or exercise routine, it pays to take it slow, make changes you can wrap your head around, and build on success. It takes time and it takes simplicity. You can (and will) get things back in order. Your life will feel normal again. You will feel good again.

The Whole Life Challenge is a simple online game that helps you choose and take small daily steps in nutrition, exercise, sleep, and peace of mind to improve your health and well-being without becoming overwhelmed and while being supported by a community.

Choosing manageable changes like eliminating problem foods (bread, dessert, junk food, excess alcohol), committing to exercise just 10 minutes each day, and practicing kindness to yourself every day can out you back on the path and keep you moving in the right direction every day—all while keeping your sanity.

Join the Challenge and start taking simple daily actions that will help stabilize your life and bring you the health and happiness you’re looking for.

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Michael Stanwyck
Michael Stanwyck is the co-founder of The Whole Life Challenge, an idea that developed during his seven years as a coach and gym manager at CrossFit Los Angeles.

He graduated from UCLA with a BA in philosophy as well as a degree from the Southern California School of Culinary Arts, and feels food is one of the most important parts of a life - it can nourish, heal, and bring people together.

Michael believes health and well-being are as much a state of mind as they are a state of the body, and when it comes to fitness, food, and life in general, he thinks slow is much better than fast (most of the time). Stopping regularly to examine things is the surest way to put down roots and grow.

He knows he will never be done with his own work, and believes the best thing you can do for your well-being starts with loving and working from what you’ve got right now.