When the COVID-19 lockdowns started, I remember getting texts from friends with memes consisting of before and after photos showing people gaining weight during the lockdown period. We chuckled at them then. Now a newly released study cites evidence that people in fact did put on weight during the shutdown–and it’s really no laughing matter.

The study involved adult participants from 37 states and the District of Columbia who were monitored between February 1 and June 1 last year. The study indicates that, once shutdown orders were implemented in their locations, the adults began gaining weight at a rate of 0.6 pound every 10 days, or roughly a pound and a half of body weight a month. Researchers attribute the weight gain to the effect of shelter-in-place and office shutdown orders that curtailed everyday activities like walking from an office desk to a conference room or walking to the subway and standing to wait for a train. Those little snippets of exercise during the day add up, and people working from home and sitting on their behinds all day don’t get them. Add in the fact that people reported eating and drinking more during the shutdown, and you’ve got the recipe for weight gain.

Gaining a pound and a half a month may not sound like much, but multiply 1.5 pounds by the number of months the various shutdowns were imposed in different states, or authorities were encouraging people to stay at home to curb spikes and hot spots, and you’ve got more than the “freshman 10” weight gain that people talked about back in college. That’s a lot of weight for people to add in a country where obesity had already become one of the largest public health challenges. And, as any adult knows, once you’ve put on that extra weight, trying to take it off isn’t easy–particularly if you’ve fallen into bad habits.

Once the pandemic period finally ends, we’ll start to get some perspective and meaningful data on whether the prolonged shutdown orders, including the current recommendations that even fully vaccinated people should stay at home if they can, were sound public policy decisions. That involves balancing the impact of those orders on the incidence of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations against a number of other factors, like depression, suicide, economic disruption and job loss, child development . . . and basic public health issues, like daily exercise, alcohol consumption, and weight gain. We should reserve judgment until all of the meaningful data comes in, but the study noted above shows that there are negative public health consequences to shutdown orders that need to be carefully balanced against the positive effects. It’s pretty clear that the analysis is not going to show a simple, one-sided story.

What To Do With That Leftover Halloween Candy?

We didn’t have many trick-or-treaters this year.  It’s cold and rainy here in New Albany, and the crappy weather caused the Beggars’ Night kids to keep their neighborhood prowling to a minimum.

As a result, it’s become obvious that we are grossly overstocked with candy.  You almost wish that a bunch of 16-year-olds who aren’t wearing Halloween costumes would come by, so we could just dump the bowl of leftover candy into their pillow sacks.  The alternative — to keep the candy around the house — just means that it will be consumed by 50-year-olds with minimal metabolisms.  If we keep all of this candy around and eat it ourselves, we’ll soon find ourselves in the Chris Christie category.

Fortunately, there is a solution.  I work in a white-collar office environment.  As anyone who works in an office knows, if you put candy out by the coffee station, it will be gone in a nanosecond.  In fact, I’m convinced that a viable solution to the nuclear waste disposal problem is to cover the radioactive debris in chocolate and put it next to the Bunn coffee brewer at our firm.  That’s where this candy will be headed tomorrow — if Kish and I can avoid the temptation until then.

The Sure-Fire Seasonal Clothing Weight-Gain Test (With Apologies To Dylan Thomas)

If you’re like me, you don’t use a scale regularly.  What’s the point?  But now we are coming upon a change in seasons.  Soon we will have to put away the ratty shorts that have been our summer clothing staple and find out whether we can still squeeze into our jeans.  And there is no more anguished sign that you’ve packed on more weight than you thought than realizing, with disappointment and disgust, that those jeans that fit so well in April are now breathtakingly tight.

Of course, the true test is not whether you’ve added a pound or two eating one too many M&M Blizzards at DQ.  No, the test is whether you accept that you’ve become more sedentary, that your metabolism has slowed to a crawl, and that your weight gain is inevitable.  The true sign of surrender is when you head off to the nearest Kohl’s to buy new jeans in the next size or two up — all the while holding onto your old jeans in the forlorn hope that someday, somehow, you will wear once more your “skinny” clothes.

Brothers and sisters, resist that temptation!  If those jeans feel snug, now is the time to take that extra walk, eat the low-fat lunch, and forgo the late-night snack.  To shamelessly borrow from Dylan Thomas’ Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night:

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Next Size

Do not go gentle into that next size,
Yield not to shock of flab and gut;
Rage, rage against expansion of the thighs.

Though trying on jeans may cause surprise,
As summer splurges show on your butt
Do not go gentle into that next size.

Breathe deep, make your flaccid body rise
The choice for you must be clear-cut
Rage, rage against expansion of the thighs.

Trust in your clothes, and not your eyes,
When tempted, you must say “but”
Do not go gentle into that next size.

Resist, I pray, the clothing stores’ cries
Older you may be, yet still you may strut
Rage, rage against expansion of the thighs.

No milkshakes for you, and neither french fries,
These from your menu you must cut
Do not go gentle into that next size.
Rage, rage against expansion of the thighs.