A woman was forced to quarantine overnight in a hotpot restaurant after a COVID-19 case was discovered there. She said she was treated to free food all night.
The woman, known as Ms. Wang, said she could have escaped quarantine if she had left just a minute earlier.According to Henan Province news outlet Orient Today, a woman surnamed Wang was enjoying a late dinner at a hotpot restaurant with some friends in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou on March 18.
Pre-coronavirus pandemic, I was on a roll with my health. I was working out regularly and had finally managed to lose eight of the last ten pounds I'd gained from my last baby. (The "baby" who is now ten. Ahem.) Like so many people can attest, the last ten pounds are the hardest to budge. I was feeling extra proud of myself for finally sticking with my healthy changes and turning them into habits. Then quarantine happened.
I managed to do pretty well for the first month, working out at home and maintaining my weight loss. I think it was a combination of fear-fueled manic energy and a misguided hope that all of this would be over in just a few weeks. I chuckled at all the "quarantine 15" memes and was grateful it wasn't an issue for me.
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However, when we passed the 30-day mark in quarantine with no end in sight, my resolve took a serious nosedive. I was working from home and homeschooling four antsy, scared kids. Just getting out of bed every day and doing all the things I needed to do was all I could manage. I wasn't laughing at the memes anymore.
We're now about two-and-a-half months into quarantine and I'm struggling to adjust to my "new normal." (Wow, do I hate that phrase! There is nothing normal about any of this!) I have gained back all eight pounds I lost, plus an extra few—I've become the meme. (By the way, quarantine FOMO is real, but you can stop it.)
The link between quarantine and weight gain
Obviously this doesn't make me feel awesome about myself but what can I do?
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"You start by understanding that you're not alone; quarantine is a perfect storm for weight issues and anxiety about weight," says Jennifer Wolkin, PhD, a licensed clinical neuropsychologist and assistant professor of psychology at New York University. "It all has to do with the scarcity mindset, when you feel like food isn't going to be available, you may feel compelled to over- or under-eat as a way to deal with that fear," Wolkin explains. In addition, stress is a known trigger for weight gain, and the pandemic has certainly brought about an epidemic of stress along with the coronavirus.
One factor is that exercise—a great way to manage weight and stress—has become a lot harder to do during quarantine, she says. This is certainly true for me. I still try to exercise daily but my workouts have become much shorter and half-hearted.
I'd loved my group fitness classes and without the support of my instructors and my gym friends, it feels tough to find the motivation to work out and when I do, it is way less fun. Virtual classes are an option but exercising alone in my bedroom sometimes made me more sad, remembering what I'm missing. Many days my exercise is walking loops around my neighborhood with my kids—better than nothing but not enough to maintain my fitness level.
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The challenge of sticking to healthy eating habits
The real issue though is eating habits, says Alana Kessler, a registered dietitian nutritionist in New York City and founder of Be Well. "Quarantine is a big transition for most people and the uncertainty and lack of normal schedule can make it harder to stick to your healthy eating goals," she says. Add to that extra stressors like having to care for others, homeschool children, and adjust to working from home, and it's easy to see why ramen is more appealing than salmon and veggies, she says.
Food, which has always been comforting to me, has become my go-to reward, relief, and escape. Whenever I feel overwhelmed with my kids, I hide in my closet and eat candy. Homemade desserts are a way to celebrate milestones, like birthdays and graduations, since other activities are no longer options. And it doesn't help that like so many others I've taken up baking fresh bread during quarantine… and eating it. A lot of it.
"Stress eating isn't great but it's understandable," Dr. Wolkin says. "It's a natural response and you shouldn't shame yourself or others for using food for comfort."
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The obsession with quarantine weight gain
I'll admit, I was starting to become obsessed with my own weight gain and reversing the trend. This is understandable; even before the pandemic, weight loss was already a national sport of sorts and quarantine has only increased this focus and feeling of competition, Wolkin says. Images and articles about weight loss or gain are everywhere online, making it hard to avoid them. Impressive weight loss transformations are widely shared. There's even a popular online quarantine 15 calculator that will predict how much weight you'll gain during the lockdown.
"All of this can make you feel like you're 'losing' or 'failing'," she says. "We're seeing a big increase in body toxicity and shaming which can trigger this type of obsession and other negative feelings."
Obsessing over weight also gives people a sense of control, which can be important as you've lost control over so many other aspects of normal life, Kessler says. You may also be using it as a way to avoid worrying about scarier things, like getting Covid-19 or having a loved one die. Weight talk is sometimes used as a way to bond with friends or loved ones, as you commiserate over too-tight pants. (This isn't the only unhealthy habit people are turning to in quarantine.)
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Why worrying about "quarantine 15" isn't productive
However, feeling angry and upset at myself over gaining weight and becoming preoccupied with weight loss isn't productive and can lead to harmful illnesses, including depression and eating disorders, Kessler says. Mental health is already declining in quarantine and adding this type of pressure to yourself only contributes to more misery and suffering, she says. (Mental illness during quarantine is a serious issue; here's how one man is handling his bipolar disorder and depression during the pandemic.)
It also may affect you physically. "Constantly worrying about your weight isn't healthy," Wolkin says. "Anxiety increases the levels of stress hormones in your body, which can lead to weight gain and a decreased immune system—definitely not what you need right now."
This whole situation is scary and different and temporary; you won't always be in this position and your body won't always feel this way, Wolkin says. Do you really want to waste time that you could be using to learn to paint or play with your kids or take an afternoon nap on worrying about your waistline? (Instead, focus on these things we're all looking forward to after social distancing.)
Despite what you may think, the "quarantine 15" may not be that big of a problem. In the U.S., only 37 percent of people have gained more than a pound, with the average weight gain being only .21 pounds, according to a recent survey of over two million people by Withings, a French consumer electronics company with offices around the world, including the U.S.
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It's likely due to a combination of factors, according to the survey. In the findings, the average step count only decreased slightly in quarantine (and even increased in some states) meaning that people are finding ways to exercise while staying at home.
People may also have more time to exercise as they are no longer commuting or involved in outside activities. In addition, more people are cooking at home and home-cooked meals—even those with fresh bread—are typically healthier and lower in calories than restaurant food, they noted. Lastly, they found people are getting more and higher quality sleep, which is also associated with maintaining a healthy weight.
Clearly this isn't the case for me, but these numbers can reassure you and help put your weight in perspective.
How to stop your quarantine weight obsession
Comparison is at the root of weight obsessions so you need to take steps to avoid comparing your body to others or even to your past self, Wolkin says. "Stop looking at social media," she advises. "Not only can it trigger obsessive thoughts and body dysmorphia but many of those images aren't real at all! So many people lie and manipulate their images online."
Instead, focus on what you need to feel happy and healthy in your body. "Treat yourself in a loving, compassionate way by eating mindfully," Wolkin says. "Eat at the table, with real dishes, at regular times. Feed yourself good food that you enjoy and will nourish you. You deserve that."
Exercise is also important for your physical and mental health. "Be gentle with yourself but hold yourself accountable," Wolkin says. "Find a way to move every day, preferably outdoors. Do what you can, it doesn't have to be perfect." [Here's how this avid runner's body changed during the pandemic as she learned to listen to it more.]
Avoid getting focused on certain foods or diets, Kessler says. "Don't ban yourself from having a treat sometimes, that plays into that scarcity mindset and may lead you to binge later," she explains. "Plan out your treats and really enjoy eating them."
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Did someone say BPA-free?
Accept mistakes as part of the learning process. Remember that your weight doesn't say anything about you as a person, Dr. Wolkin says. "This pandemic isn't your fault, none of us could see it coming, and you're doing the absolute best you can to deal with it," she says.
"It's perfectly fine to say to yourself 'I don't want to gain weight, it's important to me to maintain my body image and fit into my clothes'," Kessler says. "But don't ruminate on your weight or beat yourself up over it. Just get back on track with your health goals."
An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but not if it rots before you can enjoy it. Apples can stay at room temperature, but store your apples in the refrigerator crisper drawer, if you want greater longevity. Leaving an apple out at room temperature will cause it to ripen after a few days, but one of the best food storage tips is to pop it into the fridge. This will keep it crisp for weeks. (Just make sure it's never with any of these foods you should never keep in the fridge.)
If you don't like the idea of your apples just rolling around in the crisper drawer, contain them—along with all your other fruit and veggies—in BPA-free Debbie Meyer GreenBags. You'll save money too, because these bags are reusable up to 10 times each.
Flour will stay fresh and usable if it's in an airtight metal, glass, or plastic container, rather than leaving it in the paper bag packaging from the store. Flour takes a longer time to go bad compared to most foods, but the process will still move faster if it isn't protected. Whole grain flours are particularly sensitive.
You might want to consider storing whole grain flour in the refrigerator or freezer to slow down the oxidation process further. Since there's nothing worse than forgetting what's actually in your nondescript containers, choose a container that comes with a pen and labels like these extra-large, air-tight options from Chef's Path that have over 10,000 ratings (and 86 percent of them are 5 stars!).
Many people store fruit in the refrigerator—and with apples and some sensitive fruits like raspberries, that may be a good plan, but other fruit needs to ripen on the counter before going in the fridge with other foods. Fruit also should not be stored with vegetables because they can cause each other to deteriorate faster because of the different gases they emit.
Separation here is key, which is why the U-Konserve divided stainless steel container may be best for storing, say, two types of berries. Food storage tips like this will keep your produce fresher for longer.
There's nothing better than adding fresh herbs to your recipes, but oftentimes only a few sprigs or leaves are needed to complete a dish. What to do with all those leftovers that seem to wilt so quickly? Pop them into a Prepara Herb Savor Pod 2.0, which can give your herbs life for up to three weeks.
Pro tip: reviews call it a "miracle" for asparagus, too, because it helps keep stalks hydrated. Just be sure to change out the water every few days to keep them happy.
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Potatoes need to be in a dry, cool, and dark place in order to stay fresh. Potatoes do not do well in the refrigerator, though, as temperatures that are too cold (below 50 degrees) will cause the starch in the potato to convert to sugar. That conversion will make the potatoes taste overly sweet, and will discolor them too.
There's no cuter way to store your potatoes than in a farmhouse-style metal canister that holds about 9 pounds worth of your favorite tubers and has ventilation holes to keep them fresher longer.
Like potatoes, onions can be a little sensitive. They need to be stored in dry, dark, cool places, but they also need reasonable air circulation to stay fresh. On top of this, onions should not be stored near potatoes, even though both foods need to be stored in similar conditions. Onions and potatoes bring out moisture and gasses in each other, causing them both to ripen faster.
Refrigeration is a good choice to keep onions fresh—and when stored in the fridge, your eyes will tear up less when you chop them. When your recipe only calls for part of an onion, store the rest of it in a Hutzler Onion Saver so it'll stay fresh and minimize odor in the fridge. One Amazon customer calls it "my favorite stupid thing I've ever bought."
If you've purchased fresh meat from the store, few food storage tips are better than just leaving it in its original package. Keep it in its store wrapping and follow the meat storage guidelines as given, because re-wrapping and storing meat actually increases the risk of exposing it to bacteria along the way. If your meat didn't come with a tray under it, though, put a plate underneath the package to catch any excess moisture.
When it comes to storing deli meat, lean on the Prepworks Deli Prokeeper. This dishwasher-safe container keeps everything from salami to bacon fresher longer thanks to its airtight silicone seal, and you can even use a dry erase marker to track expiration dates.
When lettuce goes bad, it gets slimy, which is wasteful, not to mention gross. To avoid this, do not put your lettuce in a plastic bag. Lettuce needs to be in a perforated bag, or washed correctly and stored in a bowl in the refrigerator or in a paper bag once it's completely dry.
Even though you see supermarkets spraying their lettuces, the moisture actually ages them faster. To help leafy greens last even longer, slip a Freshpaper food-saver sheet in the bag or right into your crisper drawer. These sheets can help double the life of your produce.
Hard cheeses, like Parmigiano and aged cheddar, need special food storage tips, like not packing them in airtight storage containers. Make sure your hard cheeses are stored in the store wrapping until you use them—don't repackage—preferably in the cheese drawer of your fridge.
There, they'll last six months, according to a report by Extension Food Safety Specialists at Oregon State University. (They'll last up to eight months in the freezer but might get more crumbly.)
Once you've broken them out, re-wrap them wax paper or loose plastic (here's why you should never wrap leftovers in foil) when putting them back in the refrigerator. Bee's Wrap is a solution many home chefs rely on because these beeswax food wraps are reusable, responsibly sourced, made in the USA, and free of plastics and silicones.
Despite popular belief, uncooked pasta should not be stored in its original container if you want it to last longer. Repackage uncooked pasta in an airtight glass container to extend its life and avoid the mustiness and moisture problems that sometimes occur over time with original cardboard packaging.
This set of three tall, glass pasta containers have airtight seals to keep moisture out and are dishwasher safe except for the wooden lid. They can also be used to store dry beans, oats, nuts, and other pantry items.
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Tomatoes are another sensitive food that can be tricky to store. A few food storage tips: They should be left on a countertop, but away from light, moisture, and heat. They should not be stored in the refrigerator, or their cellular structure will start to collapse, which is what causes that mushy, mealy texture—and the flavor will be lost too.
Tomatoes will ripen at room temperature and are good for two to three days once ripe. However, the rules change once you've sliced them open: Place chopped tomatoes into a silicone Stasher bag and refrigerate them within two hours (and eat within two days).
Bread can be stored in the pantry, but it will last much longer when it's stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Fresh bread can get moldy quickly, so utilizing the cold storage areas of your house can help extend its shelf life substantially, though it may get stale faster, according to the Oregon State University report mentioned above.
In that case, simply pop it in the oven or toaster to restore crispness. Bread is fine to use in a toaster oven directly from a freezer without any risk of sogginess.
Storing bread for longer also helps you get more resistant starch in your diet, which is the "good carb" you need to eat more. And if you like to bake your own breads, an unbleached linen bread bag is a sustainable and rustic-chic way to store your fresh loaves. You can remove your store-bought loaves from their plastic and place them in these, too.