Have You Heard Of COVID-15?

By Minji

  • Word is that many of us are struggling with sheltering-related weight gain, also known as the “COVID-15" 
  • In case that's you (it's definitely me!), the important thing is to come up with a sustainable plan asap 
  • The longer you wait, higher the chances your brain will become convinced that this is your new “set point weight,” making it extremely difficult to bring your weight back down!

As soon as LA announced their first slew of reopenings after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the first things I did was to book my annual physical checkup.

I was long overdue and on top of that, I guess health is top of mind these days for most.  I didn’t have any adverse physical symptoms nor was I worried about any particular health issue, so I assumed this would just be a precautionary measure.

Unfortunately for me, I was met with two less than desirable surprises.  The first was that my results came back to indicate that I was prediabetic!  I have a history of diabetes in my family so this would have worried me quite a bit…had I not haphazardly ate an entire sugar donut dipped in caramel and chocolate sauce 30 minutes before my blood was drawn.  It was a huge relief to think that the test result could be tainted due to my careless behavior, for once.

Related to this and more importantly, I found that I had gained an extra six pounds.  I know six pounds might not sound like much, but for a tiny person like me, this was quite the shock.

In contrast to my reaction, the nurse just laughed, shrugged it off and mentioned that many people coming in lately had been struggling with the so-called “COVID-15."  The pandemic was contributing to all of us gaining weight!

Of course this made sense.  At the beginning of the shutdowns, I was super vigilant about keeping up a healthy lifestyle.  I made it a point to keep up with my yoga online and was averaging an hour of walking per day.  However, as the days went by with no end in sight, I became increasingly bored and lazy.  Food was the ultimate escape with no where to go, no one to meet.

I’m no novice when it comes to the art of dieting.  And based on personal experience and science-based research, one of the things I think is most important in instances where you’ve had extreme weight gain during a short period of time, is to not let it sit and combat it asap. 

Have you heard of the concept of “set point weight”? Maybe you’ve heard experts discuss how your brain wants to maintain what it thinks is the “correct” weight for you. 

Whenever your weight changes too much, your brain will intervene to push it back to what it thinks is the right weight for you. That’s why for most of us, unless there are big changes in our diet and lifestyle, our weight doesn’t fluctuate too much. 

This also means once you put on weight and don’t make adjustments to curb it back, with time, your brain will become convinced that this is your new “set point weight,” making it extremely difficult to bring your weight back down.  My point is, in case any of you out there are struggling with COVID-related weight gain and you don’t like it, we need to take action now!

It’s unclear the exact amount of time that needs to pass before your brain adjusts to a new set point, but experts generally seem to agree at least six months need to pass.  This was a huge relief as it hasn’t been six months since I packed on my “COVID-6” but I realize my window is closing quickly.  Hopefully my brain still thinks my set weight point is my pre-pandemic weight and will help me return to a healthier balance.

Drastic diets have never worked for me personally and below are the more sustainable lifestyle changes I have re-committed to:

  1. Reduce my dinner portions – during the height of COVID-19, I must admit I was eating until my stomach almost hurt…I vow to stop as soon as I feel full.
  2. Cut out those sugar donuts – this has been a negative for my under eye skin as well. I commit to cutting out as much simple sugar from my diet as I can. I’ll go back to reaching for fruit or a piece of dark chocolate when I need something sweet.
  3. Eat a salad for lunch at least five times a week.
  4. Cut off my eating window by 6pm latest – it’s recommended for weight loss, good digestion and clear skin too that you stop eating at least four hours prior to bedtime.

I’m at a point in my life where cutting out entire groups of food or counting calories sounds utterly unappetizing.  In addition, I’ve generally gained around five pounds with the passing of each decade since my 20s, which feels like a natural progression for me that I don’t mind – in particular, I think having a bit more weight on your bones helps your skin and complexion look a bit more lively and bouncy as the years pass. 

However, I’m already carrying the extra five pounds my 40s has brought me…and for my skin and overall health, I’m hoping I can lose the extra six-pound challenge that the pandemic has brought upon!