Why don’t my pants fit? Can I blame it on Covid-19?


A: Weight changes can occur for a number of reasons. Covid-19 has triggered a multitude of opportunities to mess with your wardrobe and nutritional health. While some are experiencing the “Quarantine -15”, a fluctuation up or down of 15 pounds in your typical body weight, others are struggling with food insecurity. Here are a few ways in which Covid-19 can affect your eating.

1) Altered routines – Eating is habitual and often rooted in routines. Think about how your diet might differ on a work day compared to an off day or based on your environment and the people around you. Covid-19 has disrupted many daily routines and in turn, eating habits. The disruption in eating habits may manifest as snacking, altered food preferences, and new dynamics around meals, an inherently social activity.

2) Stress – Covid-19 provides lots of reasons to experience stress. Stress can cause some to eat less and others to eat more, influencing your weight and nutrition. Rapid bursts of stress activate our “fight or flight” hormones that can mask hunger. Chronic stress over days, weeks, and months activates cortisol and other hormones that can stimulate the appetite and the desire for “comfort foods”, which are often high in sugar and fat.

3) Food Insecurity – The amount and type of food available has been disrupted for a variety of reasons. For some, fresh and nutritious foods are more difficult to obtain due to restricted shopping options or lost wages. Lower cost, shelf-stable, processed foods may be easier to come by and cheaper. Diets of highly processed foods can contribute to weight gain, despite nutritional deficits, or weight loss.

4) Physical Activity – Shelter-in-place orders have changed the way people exercise. It may be more difficult to get outside for exercise in areas with poor walkability, extreme climates, violence, or for those with increased risk of complications from the virus. Indoor exercise in gyms and other spaces are very limited due to the increased risks of virus transmission. For others, exercise may increase as an outlet.

So, it’s fair to blame changes in your weight on Covid. More important than changes in weight are changes in your nutrition and overall health for the long term. Think of the fit of your favorite pants, too tight or loose, as a signal for larger concerns that can have lasting impacts on your health.

On occasion, trade in the elastic pants for something with a button. “Real pants” can help you identify the weight changes early to consider the underlying causes.

It’s OK to veer from the routine from time to time. Ice cream for dinner might be just what is needed to lift spirits on an otherwise crappy day. An extra run could clear your mind. Be mindful of what becomes your routine.

Food insecurity, hunger, and social isolation are more pressing concerns than split pants at this moment. Maintaining wages, access to nutritious food, and companionship at meals will be essential in preserving health across age groups as we continue to navigate with Covid-19.

Link to article on food insecurity

Link to original FB post