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The Quarantine 15: Is it a real thing, and how can you avoid it?

Oct 15, 2020

In troubling times, many turn to food. That’s why it’s called comfort food, after all. As the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted our routines, did you reach for potato chips, french fries, candy bars or ice cream?

You’re not alone. Many have adopted unhealthy eating habits lately. A study published in the journal “Obesity Research and Clinical Practice” in May outlined some of the reasons why:

  • More time at home.
  • Lack of sleep.
  • Less exercise.
  • Snacking after dinner.
  • Eating in response to stress.
  • Eating because we can see and smell food.

Researchers in the study above and in a much larger study in the United Kingdom did document weight gain, but it’s less than the 15 pounds that’s a common joke. The study published in May found that 22% of participants reported a weight gain of 5 to 10 pounds. In the UK, app data from 1.6 million users analyzed by researchers from King’s College showed that by July, 29% of participants had gained weight, but only about 1.6 pounds. Those who reported snacking more did gain more, at 6.5 pounds.

The pandemic has forced us all to alter routines and start new behaviors, like wearing masks and washing our hands more often, for extended periods of time. But bad eating habits in the long term can put you at risk not only for weight gain, but also serious health issues like heart disease and diabetes.

As you modify your plans for Halloween, Thanksgiving and the December holidays this year, consider how you can readjust your snacking habits and keep the Quaranatine 15 away.


Dr. O’dell Moreno Owens is the president and chief executive officer of Interact for Health and InterAct for Change. Dr. Owens is a reproductive endocrinologist. He earned an MD, an OB/GYN residency and a master’s of public health degree from Yale University School of Medicine. He also obtained a fellowship in reproductive endocrinology at Harvard Medical School. In recent years, Dr. Owens has served as the Hamilton County Coroner, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College President, and Interim Health Commissioner and Medical Director of the Cincinnati Health Department. 

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