Quarantine 15: Dealing with a “New Normal Summer Body”?

In addition to dealing with a “new normal” way of life, many of us are facing another new normal – a “new normal summer body.”

The term coined for weight gained during the pandemic is: The Quarantine 15.

A popular post on social media reads:

“Due to coronavirus, my summer body will be delayed to 2021. Thank you for understanding.”

Making light of difficult situations can have its place in helping to reduce stress.

But . . .

Let’s face it, weight gain can be hard on our self-esteem, health, and overall wellbeing.

What can you do to feel better now if you’ve put on some quarantine pounds?

On Global News Morning, I shared the following strategies to help you:

#1. Give Yourself Some Grace

This has been a time of extraordinary stress! There are two factors making this pandemic particularly stressful:

a) It’s unpredictable.

Unpredictable stressors are much more difficult to cope with than those you can anticipate. For example, knowing you’ll have an exam at the end of a semester is less stressful than knowing you could be given an exam, at any time, without notice.

b) There’s no end-date.

If you’re stressed about planning a wedding or completing a project, there is an end-date on that stress. You know on which day you can expect relief. With no clear end point, our bodies remain in a state of chronic stress.

Your brain sends messages to your body when you’re feeling stressed. It’s part of the fight-flight-freeze response to help you deal with those perceived dangers.

Part of this survival response includes an increase in the body’s level of the hormone cortisol.

Cortisol can cause you to crave comfort foods—those salty, sugary, high-fat snacks. Elevated cortisol can also cause increased fat storage. Your body responds this way so that you’ll have the energy stores to deal with the threat.

This means weight gained during the quarantine wasn’t weakness of willpower. It was strength of the survival response.

#2. Go Outside

With the warmer weather finally here, now is the perfect time to get outside. Even 20 minutes in nature reduces cortisol levels.

#3. Move Your Body

Moving your body for at least 20-30 minutes every day, is one of the single most important things you can do to feel better right now.

Do you know why you feel so good after a workout? Exercise causes your brain to increase production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that can make you feel peaceful and euphoric.

On top of that, it’s another way to decrease stress-induced cortisol levels.

In addition to boosting your mood, it can help to improve your body image, increase self-confidence, and generate a sense of accomplishment.

That’s a pretty great return on investment!

#4. Focus on What You Can Do

Now that the initial shock of the pandemic has passed, your cortisol levels and other body systems have a chance to get back to normal. Your brain has the space to focus on what you can do.

What can see yourself doing now?

    • Can you see yourself drinking more water and eating more nutritious meals?
    • Can you see yourself working towards a goal that excites you?
    • Can you see yourself reducing caffeine and alcohol?
    • Can you see yourself asking for help if you need it?
    • Can you see yourself getting outside and moving your body for 20 minutes every day?

Focus on what you can do today and take action. Progress makes you feel good.

As you face the “new normal,” appreciate your body. It got you through your entire life and, most recently, a significantly stressful time. And, always remember, you are not what you weigh. You are a person – a person who just so happens to have immense value and incredible worth!

All my best,
Denise Marek


To get the most from this post, select only ONE of the options below to do right now:

Easy: Write down one positive health change you can see yourself implementing starting today.

Medium: Watch this video to learn exactly what’s happening in your body when you’re feeling stressed. Near the end of the video, you’ll discover a list of the ways in which elevated cortisol levels impacts your health. Reflect on this short list and note any of the symptoms you’ve experienced as a result of stress.

Hard: Make a commitment to move your body for 20-30 minutes daily for the next seven days. The activity is up to you! Track your mood both before and after each session. This will help you to remember how good moving your body feels and motivate you when you need extra incentive.