The world let out a collective gasp when Italy announced that they would restrict the number of passengers, both tourists and residents alike, allowed on the country’s famous gondolas in Venice — not because of social distancing mandates! — but because of an often overlooked result of months of quarantines and stay-at-home orders: ballooning waistlines. “Rather than having everyone step on a scale before boarding, we are limiting the number of passengers,” said Venice Gondola Association President Andrea Balbi about the new rules. It’s something most of the world can sympathize with: Decreased activity levels combined with stress eating and munching away the long days and nights with salty and fatty snacks (and maybe a little extra wine!) has caused many to gain the dreaded “Quarantine 15.”
Even with bars closed and restaurant outings few and far between, Americans are gaining weight at staggering rates. With searches and hashtags for “quarantine cooking” and “quarantini drinks” soaring since COVID, it’s no surprise that people are packing on the pounds, especially when it comes to the latter. It takes an hour of intense cardio to burn off a White Russian; and 45 minutes for a classic Margarita, Daiquiri, Cosmo or Piña Colada. Even if you decide to put down the sugary cocktails, there’s still an endless supply of lockdown snacks filling cupboards and pantries around the country, and the gym restrictions and summer heat make it very difficult to get a good workout in.
Noticing the trend, Mayo Clinic, the American Heart Association and Nutrisystem recently released polls that confirmed a whopping 76% of Americans report they’ve gained up to 16 pounds while in quarantine. “That’s a significant amount of weight gain in a relatively short period of time,” says Dr. Michael Smith, WebMD’s Chief Medical Director. “We’re turning to comfort foods to feel better, but in reality it’s likely worsening our stress and anxiety levels because people just don’t feel as good when eating high-fat, high-carb foods.” And it’s not just in the U.S. — an international poll found that the top 5 countries that reported the most weight gain outside of the U.S. are: Italy (66%); Brazil (60%); Japan (51%); UK (46%); and Canada (43%).
But it’s not all bad news for Miami, where online workouts have soared and residents have reported muscle gains above all else. Be it our year-round paradise-perfect weather or the recent re-opening of beaches and public outdoor spaces, something seems to be working to cinch our proverbial waistlines. The rapid adapation of our local gyms has also played a major role. The owners of South Florida-based CFP9, Rafael Luiz Oliveira, Jean-Paul Folch and Marcos Viana, say their fitness business changed overnight due to COVID-19. “The quarantine forced us to go straight to an online format,” they say of their new CFP9@Home offerings. “We had to develop strategies and search for tools that would allow us to maintain contact with our community by not only offering online workouts, but also online classes throughout the day, led by our knowledgeable coaches. We offer weekly one-on-one sessions with each member to go over goals, difficulties or whatever they may want to discuss. On top of all of that, we offer mini clinics, challenges and other activities to help keep our members engaged and energized from the comforts of their own homes.”
As states and countries begin to lift restrictions, people are being encouraged to safely rejoin gyms that practice safe physical distancing and sanitation practices, and to venture out into parks, trails, beaches and greenspaces that have started welcoming back visitors. According to one study, at least half of U.S. adults admit they are now prioritizing post-quarantine weight loss to counteract sheltering in place gains. “Hopefully as the ‘new normal’ is settling in, people can now find the motivation to get back to a more regular schedule,” concludes Dr. Smith. “We should all try reach for more healthy foods and look for opportunities to incorporate more activity as often as possible in the coming months.”