The Morning Call (Sunday)

With Planning, an Opportunit­y to Get in Shape

Some have used the quarantine as a time to change their food routines.

- LAURA MURRAY FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

By Abby Ellin

joke in an unfunny time: endless lamentatio­n over the “quarantine 15” or the “Covid 19,” referring to the number of pounds we’ve gained during lockdown.

The difference between losers, gainers and maintainer­s during the pandemic, experts say, is largely dependent on your mind-set: how you approach a new set of circumstan­ces and cope with change. One challenge was the abrupt change in day-to-day schedules. Gyms, recreation centers and parks closed, curbing exercise routines. Stress levels skyrockete­d for many. Studies show a link between high stress levels and overeating.

“When the environmen­t and your routine changes, you can use it as an opportunit­y to say ‘I’ll drink at home,’ or ‘I deserve to treat myself well in those really tough times,’” said Gary D. Foster, chief scientific officer of WW (formerly Weight Watchers). “This is where mind-set is so important. It’s how you view things, how you position the situation, your sense of self-worth, and how you treat yourself.

“After that initial period, there was a subset of people who said, ‘This is an opportunit­y to take care of myself,’” he said. “That different way of thinking about the process is really powerful.”

Susan Abrams Torney, 62, a dental office manager in Delray Beach, Fla., had an epiphany early on in the pandemic when she realized that she could use the time off from work to make a positive change in her life.

“It took the ‘I don’t have time to exercise’ excuse out of the equation,” said Ms. Torney, who has lost 30 pounds since the beginning of last year.

It also helped that she was no longer able to go out for meals, so she prepared healthy meals for herself, like chicken, fish and salads. “Quarantine gave me time to be creative with the meals I was eating,” she said.

But other people gained weight because they stopped planning their meals and would just grab whatever was available. “Before shelter in place, they would prep their meals and sort of had a plan,” said Dr. Rami Bailony, the co-founder and chief executive of Enara Health, a digital membership weight loss clinic. “Once Covid hit, they thought they could cook something up that was healthy. But once you’re thinking about eating in the moment you tend to go with what’s expedient.”

When the pandemic started, Mindy Bachrach, 58, a home health occupation­al therapist in Henderson, Nev., soothed herself with sugary and high fat

Many people prepare more meals at home these days. foods. As an essential worker, she was working pretty much all of her waking hours. “I have a weird job; I eat in my car all the time,” she said. “If I don’t prepare very carefully, I end up getting fast food, which I don’t even like.”

After two weeks, her pants were tighter. “I decided I had to do something,” she said. “If I didn’t, things were going to get out of control.”

She went on the Whole 30 plan, which eliminates processed foods, sugar and sugar substitute­s, alcohol, grains, dairy and most legumes. She also stopped weighing herself.

“I wanted the focus to be on how foods made me feel and not weight loss itself,” Ms. Bachrach said. Thirty days later, she stepped on the scale and was down 20 pounds.

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