March 15, 2021

How the Pandemic Affected My Weight, Eating and Drinking Habits, Exercise, etc.

On March 11 of last year, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. It's crazy to think that it's been a whole year! SO MUCH has changed in that amount of time, even though it feels like days have been the same for weeks and months on end.

I've been very curious about how the pandemic and social distancing has affected people's health and wellness--mentally and physically. It's definitely changed my habits (good and bad) and from what I've read, it's changed a lot of others' habits as well.

I'm hoping that I can write this post without people judging me. There are several things I should have done differently, but I had no idea how long this was going to be going on, nor could I predict anything that was going to happen in the future. So I write this just because I'm curious about others' experiences, so I might as well share mine.

One of the first things that changed was my grocery shopping. Because we were told to stay home as much as possible, I went to the store far less often (at most once every two weeks). This meant that we had didn't have fresh food beyond a week or so before we started eating from the freezer and/or convenience foods from the pantry. We were eating a lot of frozen pizzas!

I stayed extremely busy and active while insulating and drywalling the garage. I wasn't doing formal exercise, but I was working REALLY hard lifting drywall and climbing up and down the ladder over and over again. Nothing sounds better after a sweaty day of work than a cold beer--and after not drinking at all for 2019 (it was a challenge I made for myself), I started drinking again in 2020. All the beer companies make hard seltzers now, and those tasted amazing when I was done in the garage for the day.

That turned into a bad habit. I knew I should quit, so the 75 Hard Challenge happened to come up at just the right time (alcohol is not allowed during the challenge). After the challenge, though, I went back to having wine or hard seltzers at the end of the day. I made a couple of attempts to quit again, but I didn't really feel the motivation to put in the effort.

(Recently, though, I did quit--today is Day 30, actually. It's made a huge difference in my energy levels, so I remind myself of that every day.) Anyway, I know that the pandemic played a role in alcohol consumption.

I'm sure that alcohol played a role in my weight gain, also. I was doing pretty well with intermittent fasting, planning to have nothing but water after dinner until I went to bed. But I'd usually cave and have wine, so it ended up being a wash. 

I haven't kept good track of my weight at all in the past couple of years, but I believe I was at 179 at the start of the pandemic and now I'm at 185. I'd lost 13 pounds during the 75 Hard Challenge, but gained it back.

For the whole year, I have been doing really well with the intermittent fasting--until nearly bedtime. It's ridiculous, really--I need to just go to bed early. But I've always had something to look forward to at night--when I was losing weight I had some sort of dessert every evening, sometimes popcorn, then for a long time I had a small glass of wine and a Dove Promise, and eventually just wine. But regardless of what it was, I always looked forward to it. I wish I could say that a cup of tea or something would do the trick, but it just doesn't have that same effect. I'm still trying, though! I've been making Sleepytime tea and reading or playing Best Fiends to relax at night.

I will say that I drank a LOT of water over the last year--I was always thirsty while pouring sweat in the garage, and then I did the 75 Hard Challenge (having to drink a gallon a day). I definitely didn't get enough water late last year because of the weather, but for the last several weeks I've been drinking a gallon every day. (My sister challenged me to do something for 100 days, and I chose drinking a gallon of water.)

Some good to come out of not going to the grocery store very often is that we used up a ton of what we had stocked in the pantry and freezer. I got creative with throwing things together, even when we got down to the bare bones of groceries. Another bonus is that we saved a ton of money. Whenever I go grocery shopping, I end up buying things that aren't on my list, so it costs a lot more. When I'm only shopping once every 2-3 weeks, it eliminates all of the extra spending.

The biggest change of all during the pandemic was my exercise. I went from zero intentional exercise to 90 minutes a day, 7 days a week, from July until just a couple of weeks ago. I did mostly walking--at first, I did 45 minutes twice a day; eventually, I did the whole 90 minutes once a day. I put hundreds of miles on my shoes and listened to dozens of audiobooks.

And now I am injured (unrelated to the exercise--I wrote about it here). However, the months of exercise lit a fire under me and it made me WANT to do it. I was really excited about getting back into running (and I still hope to be able to do that once my knee heals).

As far as current eating habits, I'm still not grocery shopping nearly as much as I did before the pandemic, but I'm going a little more frequently. I've been cooking almost every day (although we always have a couple of pizzas in the freezer, just in case. I have been cooking a heritage recipe every week which has been really fun to discover new (old) recipes.

Oh! Another bad habit? Wearing black stretchy pants every day instead of jeans! I can't be the only one, can I? ;)

After airing all my dirty laundry about my bad pandemic habits, I am SUPER curious how the pandemic has affected other people--so I'm going to post a poll. This is completely anonymous (Even I won't know who you are). It will just tally up answers and I can share the poll graphs in a few days. Remember, it's totally anonymous!


  1. Girl! This post is perfect for me right now.

    I am struggling. I have gained all the weight I ever lost, I am the biggest I have been in many years. After the first month or so I stopped all exercise and started eating all the comfort foods. I always knew races were what kept me running but this was proof of just how little I wanted to run. I know it is all excuses, I can run, I can do yoga at home but I just dont. And I also discovered those seltzers so I went from never drinking to 2 or more of those a day!

    I just dont know where to start to fix it because the world is still broken....

  2. A year ago, I was very sick. I had been diagnosed with two new autoimmune diseases (Dec 2019, March 2020), and I felt like I’d been hit with a baseball bat. Working from home was exactly what my body needed. I got to cut out the stressful commute. I was able to eat nourishing foods I had prepared without being tempted by the office donut. I was able to chug water all day, peeing every hour, without my coworkers asking why. If my muscles were sore, I could do a short yoga video during lunch. I was able to go to my dozens of appointments (doctors, tests, physical therapy), and just catch up on the work later at night. If you had asked me a year ago, I never would have known it, but now I can clearly see that working from home was really good for me.

  3. I'm curious to see the results of the poll now! Not too much changed for me, my husband and I still had to report to work in person and I'm a full blown introvert so I secretly loved having a legit excuse to stay home every weekend ;) It started to wear on me a little not seeing my close family and friends but I liked doing Zoom calls! I did gain weight though just from being at home all the time and having too much time on my hands to snack unfortunately. Still working on that!

  4. In some ways things have been fluid for me during the pandemic. For example I ate badly and gained weight. But I focused this year on getting that off and getting to the weight I was the day my office closed. I reached that goal! I answered the questions related to the worse times of the pandemic though. Before I focused on changing things. The interesting one for me was self care. I am low maintenance to start. I chose "stopped caring" because I mean I wore yoga pants for MONTHS. But. . last April I started the curly girl method to try to love my curls. I can't believe I'm almost a year out from that. I have not made much progress and still pretty much live in a pony tail and hate my hair. But it's a lot of work and more effort than I've ever put into my hair before. So in some ways I increased my self care, but that wasn't an option. lol. It's been an interesting year for sure!

  5. When it comes to motivation to keep up good habits, I've found it can help to remember how the bad habits make me feel. I know, for example, if I eat sugar I will eventually feel like crap. I don't like feeling like crap. It means I can't do the things I need or want to do. I know if I eat crunchy or chewy foods it will trigger my TMJ symptoms and I'll get headaches--so by remembering that I can avoid eating chips which used to be my Achilles' heel! I think sometimes we can get trapped into wanting a quick fix for our feelings/cravings and forgetting the long game. Do we want to be healthy or do we want to feel temporarily numb?

  6. I love the poll! Interesting questions and loved seeing the answers. Glad you continue to take care of yourself. As always, you're a fabulous example.

  7. I haven't worn "real" pants since I took my motorcycle out for a ride last march and accidentally laid it down (I wasn't hurt...I wasn't moving...ugh)! I did great at the beginning, totally went off the rails in the middle and am just now (2 weeks) dragging myself back out of pandemic depression. I am very thankful for the weather starting to creep towards spring. We are all with you tho!!!

  8. Well, here's one interesting experience I had. Usually, I compete in a weight-control sport and thus haven't been able to really build a lot of muscle in some time. So, during part of the pandemic, I did an intentional bulk (only 4-5 pounds over 3-4 months). I got a lot stronger! It was really fun. I noticed, however, that food stopped tasting good during my bulk because I was so full all the time. Following that, losing some weight has been quite nice and relatively easy. I actually noticed in particular, while bulking, that I was basically required to eat processed foods to top up my calories, and at that point I called it on gaining weight: I like enjoying my food, and I only enjoy healthy food when my body is genuinely hungry. I find there's a nasty trap for people who aren't gaining weight on purpose. We actually enjoy food LESS AND LESS the more we eat of it, so then seek out hyper-palatable foods, which encourage appetite even more, etc. When I am eating below my TDEE, I frequently enjoy food much more, even simple things like egg-white omelets, vegetable soups, and well-prepared lean cuts of meat and fish with fresh vegetables. I actually look forward to eating more on a cut than on a bulk. I thought that might be interesting to you and your readers, who seem to have been leaning more (as you say) on processed foods.

  9. I've become so unmotivated to do anything until recently. We just started going back to the office and it's been such a god send. I was getting up 5 minutes before I needed to start work and was only washing my hair like once a week and staying in pajamas all day. I stopped exercising and started getting take out delivered. The only good habit to come out of this was I pretty much quit drinking. I've always been a social drinker and since my friends and I haven't been going out I haven't been drinking. We started going back to work a couple of says a week the beginning of March and I feel so much better. I feel like I have a reason to take care of myself again and I never would have guessed I'd miss my coworkers so much.


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