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Have You Gained Weight During Quarantine?

By: Kate Dowling, MSPAS, PA-C

Over the past year, many have had their routine disrupted by self quarantine. This unprecedented time has created stress that has affected our work life, home life, and mental and physical health. 

With the accumulation of stress during the COVID-19 pandemic, many have resorted to coping with food and becoming more physically inactive. In one survey, 22% of their participants reported gaining between 5-10 pounds during self-quarantine, with one of the most common reported reasons being, “eating in response to stress.” When considering the extraordinary stressors related to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is understandable that many have gained weight. These stressors range from managing cancelled or postponed events, to parenting while working from home, to the loss of a job or even the loss of a loved one. In addition, some have had the stress of being an essential worker during this pandemic, often facing longer work hours and having to adapt quickly to changing circumstances.

Others may have faced extreme stressors at work that lead to financial losses or even the loss of their business. No matter the specific stressor, many have had some major disruption in their daily routine, leaving them vulnerable to unhealthy coping mechanisms and bad habits. Along with “eating in response to stress; participants reported quarantine had led them to having inadequate sleep, snacks after dinner, reduced physical activity, and lack of dietary restraint.’ In addition to behavioral changes during quarantine, extreme psychosocial stressors can cause an increase in cortisol which disrupts glucose metabolism and appetite hormones thus promoting insulin resistance, fat storage, and weight gain. Therefore, weight gain is likely during quarantine due to stress alone, even without the added factors of emotional eating and decreased physical activity and engagement due to closures of gyms, schools, businesses, and sports.

With all of these stressors, how do you break the cycle and lose those quarantine pounds?

  1. Acknowledge The Problem

An important first step is to acknowledge the weight gain rather than ignoring the problem or waiting to get back on track until things feel “easier” or “normal” again. Understanding and addressing your new challenges and present barriers will make it possible to create an action plan and get started on your health journey. Berating yourself for gaining weight during quarantine is also not helpful. It is more effective to acknowledge that weight gain is a common response to extreme stress, rather than it being due to a lack of willpower, motivation, or ability.

  1. Call Your Primary Care Provider

Scheduling an appointment for a health screening is an important first step in your weight loss journey. Together, with your primary care provider, you can develop individual health goals to help you reduce your risk of obesity related disorders. This may involve a physical examination, blood pressure check, and obtaining lab work for evaluation of prediabetes, diabetes, high cholesterol, thyroid disorder, and vitamin deficiencies to help tailor your plan.

  1. Make A Plan

A health plan should include three main elements: a routine, a meal plan, and physical activity. Begin with the routine, trying to wake up at the same time each day and getting restful sleep. Plan time for light to moderate physical activity daily. With gym and fitness facilities closed, this could include a 20-30 minute at-home workout or an outdoor walk. Once establishing your routine, plan out three balanced meals, keeping carbohydrates to earlier in the day, and avoiding snacks, especially after dinner, whenever possible. Eliminating sugary beverages and replacing them with water flavored with fresh fruit, cucumber, lemon or mint is also an important step in improving your health and losing weight.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, psychosocial stressors, decreased physical activity, and emotional eating have all made us vulnerable to worsening mental and physical health. Now, more than ever, it is important to check in with your primary care provider to see how you are doing. To learn more specifics and to develop your own individualized health plan to help lose the quarantine weight, schedule an appointment with your primary care provider today.

Kate Dowling, MSPAS, PA-C

Kate is a Family Medicine Physician Assistant with a passion for helping her patients take control of their nutrition to prevent, improve, and possibly reverse obesity related disease. She obtained a bachelor’s in science from Penn State in Psychology/Neuroscience and a master’s in science as a Physician Assistant from Thomas Jefferson University. She is also working toward her specialist certification in obesity and weight management. Kate helps patients who are motivated to make a health change, especially those who have developed obesity related disorders, such as prediabetes, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension. Even if you do not have these diagnoses, Kate can help you tailor your nutrition to help lower your risk of obesity related disorders in the future. I look forward to seeing you soon!


Suburban Medical Associates of Conshohocken

500 Fayette Street, Suite 101

Conshohocken, PA 19428 (610) 825-3464


Family Practice

700 Dekalb Street Bridgeport, PA 19405 (610) 277-6200



1. Zeigler et. al. (2020). Self Quarantine and weight gain related risk factors during the COVID·19 Pandemic.

Obesity Research & Clinical Practice.

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2. Mattioli. A. v.Pinti, M., Farinetti, A, & Nasi, M. (2020). Obesity risk during collective quarantine for the COVID· 19 epidemic. Obesity Medicine.

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