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Ester Marsh column: Weight gain during COVID-19

Are you one of those who gained excess weight during these past three to four months? I’ve heard of people gaining anywhere from a few pounds to more than 20.

A poll by the American Heart Association found that 15% of Americans gained 1-3 pounds, 34% say they gained 4-6 pounds, 26% 7-9 pounds, 21% 10-20 pounds and 4% reports 21 pounds or more.

Wow, that is a lot of people who say they gained weight during the COVID-19 pandemic. It makes sense with 72% reporting a lack of exercise while 70% said they have been stress eating. Of course having the YMCA and other places of exercise closed has not helped.

Since I have been teaching outdoor classes (and still go virtual too) my “Esterettes” mentioned they didn’t realize that when they exercised at home many of them didn’t push themselves like they do in an actual class. And some said they loved watching me exercise while drinking their coffee — ha!

Being at home, the temptation is great to eat high-calorie foods. It could be stress eating or just pure out of boredom. And due to the social isolation, people reported a lot less steps per day. So, is it too late to change your habits? Never!

First of all, for our health we need to move and eat healthy foods but stay within our caloric usage. Gaining weight puts a great strain on our body, especially our joints. So how many calories should you eat? Typically an average female needs 2,000 calories to maintain weight and 1,500 calories per day to lose one pound per week. An average male needs 2,500 calories to maintain and 2,000 calories to lose one pound per week. To lose one pound you need to burn 3,500 calories. It’s very doable to cut 500 calories per day so 3,500 calories in a week therefore losing one pound. Losing it slower typically keeps the weight off versus losing it quick with a very strict diet you can’t wait to stop (and regain the weight you lost so fast).

And of course, move! I know it’s hard with so many places still closed but try to shoot for 10,000 steps per day. Most phones and many watches will keep up with your steps per day — 10,000 steps sound like a lot, and for many people too high of a goal to start with. Check a “normal” day and see how many steps you have. It might be only 3,000 steps, shoot for 4,000 steps. Each week increase your steps till you get at least 10,000 steps per day. Just know that is it’s never too late to start — or start again.

In my experience people are more successful when they plan and record their food intake and their exercise routine. Be mindful about the foods and drinks you put in your body and plan your exercise routines. When going to the store park further away. At home try to be deliberate to get up regularly, limit your TV time and screen time, period. The more screen time the less you move.

But most of all do not give up. I know you can do it! Be mindful, patient and determined.

Ester Hoeben Marsh is Health & Fitness Director of the JF Hurley Family YMCA.

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