THE COVID 15: How Eating Through Quarantine Has Added to Our Waist Lines

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Ever hear of the “freshman 15?”  The freshman 15 happens when you go off to college and eat so much junk food and starch that you come home at the end of that year with 15 extra pounds, and you can’t fit into your jeans!  Now that we are in quarantine, the only thing that makes us happy is to talk about food.  We are preoccupied with what we are having for lunch.  We fixate about which food might give us solace for dinner.  We like to support our local restaurants and obsess about which ones we can support.  Food is the motivating factor in our day. 

Emotional and stress eating have become commonplace in the quarantine of COVID-19.  Before the lockdown, many of us worked in offices where snacks were limited.  Now we are constantly in the kitchen, thinking about our next meal.  When we are feeling so anxious, emotional and stress eating is a coping skill to self-soothe. I have had more than a dozen recipe chain letters (which I ignored; sorry). If you go on Facebook or Instagram, it is evident that we are not alone in seeking solace in food.  People constantly display their culinary handiwork on social media.  My life seems to constantly revolve around cooking my next meal.

Don’t beat yourself up about over-eating.  Don’t let the food police in your head rule your days. In these troubled times, it is important to take care of ourselves emotionally and physically, especially if you are alone.  If you chastise yourself, it will only make you binge and restrict which is a yoyo cycle that is not healthy. 

Here are a few ways to keep the extra pounds down:

  • Walk, walk, and walk again. The fresh air will make you feel better and you will get those endorphins rocking.
  • Reconnect with your therapist virtually or if you have a nutritionist, please check in with he or she to get yourself on track.
  • Write down your thoughts and keep a journal which will be a useful tool when we look back at this crisis.  Add some new recipes to your journal!
  • Go easy on the booze and vino. We seem to lose our ability to control binge eating when we drink.  I take this one back.  I definitely need my vino in lockdown!
  • Take up a hobby like painting, ceramics, or gardening.
  • Practice Yoga virtually or solo.
  • Drink lots of water and keep iced tea in a pitcher in the refrigerator.
  • Stock up on healthful snacks, fruits, and vegetables like celery, carrots, and jicama.
  • Plan out your grocery shopping for the week.
  • Stick to a routine of three meals a day.

Since I have written four cookbooks on healthful eating, I present to you a recipe for a healthful and comforting soup which will give you pleasure while preparing it in the kitchen, and even more pleasure when you scarf it down.



Serves: 6 to 8

            When cooking this soup, do not cover the pot which will insure the green color of the spinach, broccoli, and zucchini.  Be creative with the soup and add baby bok choy, string beans, asparagus, or other seasonal vegetables.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large-sized onion, diced

3 leeks, white parts only, thinly sliced

3 stalks celery, thinly sliced

2 carrots, sliced into ½-inch rounds

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 ½ pounds), cut into 1-inch pieces

2 cloves garlic, minced

6 cups chicken broth

1 large zucchini, quartered and sliced

8 ounces baby broccoli, chopped

1 28-ounce can diced-fire-roasted-tomatoes

salt and pepper, to taste

16 ounces baby fresh spinach leaves

Garnish: freshly grated Parmesan cheese, fresh lemon zest, and chopped Italian parsley

  1. In a large pot, sauté the onions, leeks, celery, and carrots, in olive oil over medium-high heat until tender and starting to lightly brown, about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often.  Remove the vegetables from the pan and set aside.
  2. Add the chicken pieces and stir fry over high heat until just cooked, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Return the onion-mixture to the pan, add the garlic, and sauté until fragrant for about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the chicken broth, zucchini, broccoli, and canned tomatoes. Bring the soup to a boil.  Season to taste with the salt and pepper and allow the vegetables to cook for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until tender.
  5. Add the spinach and stir until wilted.
  6. Serve the soup hot garnished with grated Parmesan cheese, lemon zest, and chopped parsley.


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