I have some shocking news – it appears I have acquired The Covid 19. No, this isn’t my coy way of declaring I’ve caught the dreaded virus. My current sad state of affairs was not revealed to me by a scraping of tonsils and positive test result for coronavirus, but rather via my newly bought set of scales which told me that, since I last weighed myself at my mam’s house pre-lockdown, I have now gained an eye-watering 19lbs, otherwise known as The Covid 19.
The Covid 19, The Corona Stone, The Quarantine 15, Covid Curves… there’s a whole new nomenclature for the freshly formed wobble many of us have acquired since the global pandemic began. A study recently revealed that one in three Irish people report gaining weight during lockdown with those aged between 25 and 44 most likely to have been affected. Researchers revealed that this age group were more likely to cook more, eat more, drink more and exercise less.
Well yes, yes, yes and yes. As a 39-year-old who’s just a few slices of banana bread away from seeing her BMI teeter into the obese category, I feel like I could be the poster girl for this group of lockdown weight-gainers.
In a world that champions a svelte shape as the most desirable body type, I know I should be hanging my head in shame at my additional jiggily bits, but it’s so hard to regret the path that led me here. There was the endless, sticky baking with the kids, the crusty loaves hot from the oven, the midweek pancake breakfasts and the mandatory banana bread. I discovered practically everything – from boxes of fine wine to 1kg bars of Dairy Milk – could be ordered in. Having long felt our need for high-chairs precluded us from fancy restaurants, the advent of dine-at-home boxes were too good to pass up. I whooped with delight as Michelin starred chefs hand-delivered tantalising boxes of delights to my door and I wallowed in the wonderfully accessible, calorific deliciousness of it all. In the boredom there were biscuits. The tough days were signed off with a large G&T.
Loungewear was my lockdown look and my daily uniform of stretchy trousers and loose tops were my enablers. It was only when I managed to squeeze myself into a pair of jeans – that promptly split at the crotch when I tried to bend down – that a gnawing sense of doom started to creep in.
You know that endless week between Christmas and New Year’s where acceptable eating habits go out the window and mince-pies for breakfast are suddenly de rigueur? That was me, for five months.
Now I’m facing winter and the only things that fit me in my wardrobe are jazzy, elasticated summer trousers that wouldn’t look out of place in a Florida retirement home.
It would be one thing if I was happy and content with my new, more Rubenesque form but, aside from the practicalities of not fitting into any of my trousers, there are other factors holding me back from just embracing my covid curves as my new normal.
First there’s the nasal voice of Dr Michael Mosley (the fan-of-fasting telly doctor who seems to appear on TV every time I settle down with a cup of coffee and a biscuit) that echoes around my brain, telling me that people over-weight are more likely to fare badly if they contract coronavirus. Then there are the unavoidable facts that a BMI of 29.9 comes with a hefty side helping of unhealthy associations – I’m now more at risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
“During COVID many of us were short of time, stressed out, worried and focusing on getting through each day,” says dietitian Orla Walsh, who recommends making a list of non-food rewards, energisers and comforters. “Perhaps knowing what your non-food alternatives are is the first step in changing behaviours,” she adds.
But still, I’m struggling to work up the motivation to do anything about it. I had huge, gluttonous fun gaining the weight and I know for a fact that trying to lose it won’t be half as much craic. I know this because I’ve done it all before. For the past 20 years I’ve lost (and gained) the same two stone multiple times. I’ve counted points and eaten strange prohibitive combinations. I’ve done Dukan, where Protein Days were filled with a dreary parade of salmon and eggs and I’ve tearfully counted out grapes so as not to exceed my calorie limit on the 5:2. I’ve dabbled with Low GI and, for some five, mirthless months in my early 20s, I ditched sugar and dairy.
Each time I lost weight. But ultimately – like some 90pc of dieters – it all went back on. At a time when I feel I’m already battling pandemic-induced stress, I’m not sure I have the bandwidth to deal with the effort of tackling my tummy too. “It’s just food, not feelings” is the mantra often trotted out, but I’m afraid I don’t buy that – food is so much more than just fuel. It’s a treat, a shared pleasure, a time-out, a moment of joy. At a time when things are already a bit tough, do I really want to make my life harder by depriving myself of biscuits and wine? Of course I don’t want to. But I’m going to try, because at the end of the day, my health that matters more to me than sticky toffee pudding. My six-year-old built a cushion fort behind the sofa the other day and asked me to come in before assessing my bulk and declaring that actually, I might not fit. This, along with my husband asking if I was wearing maternity trousers, have been the kick-up-the-a**e moments I needed to get my sizeable ass in gear. I’ve signed up for a fitness programme that lasts 90 days – ust in time for Christmas and mince pie season. Wish me luck and please keep me away from the biscuits.