Lose the Quarantine 15 — or More

Getting thinner means feeling better.

I found myself gaining weight during this pandemic. In fact, I gained well over the much discussed quarantine 15. The more weight I gained, the worse I felt, both physically and mentally. I’m sure I’m not alone.

In my mid-30s, I complained to my doctor about gaining weight and asked for thyroid testing. I have several family members whose thyroids underperformed causing weight gain. And I was gaining weight despite dieting and exercise.

My doctor (a woman) ran tests and told me everything was fine and I just needed to eat less and exercise more. I wondered how much more I could do. I already walked almost five miles most days and kept a food log, which was a lot of work. I only ate around 1200 calories a day.

Finally, I went to a well-woman checkup with my OB-GYN. I was in tears, convinced I would be dead within 6 months. I felt that bad. He tried to calm me down (yes, a HE), and said, “Let’s run a few tests.”

The results? My thyroid was underperforming — almost not working at all. He started me on a thyroid hormone and told me to go back to my doctor to follow up. By that time, I had already gained 50 pounds. When I went back to my general doctor, she told me that I would NEVER be able to lose that weight.

Never? Really? How depressing. So why am I exercising so much, and keeping a food log? Why am I starving myself on less than 1200 calories? What was the point?

I quit trying, and over the next two decades put on an additional 15 pounds. When the pandemic came along, the quarantine 15 (okay, 15+) became the straw that broke the camel’s back. I had to do something!

I didn’t want to follow a fad diet. I already knew those didn’t work. I went to my doctor — a different one from the one who told me I would never lose the weight. I told him I was tired of feeling so bad and hurting so much. He did bloodwork and pronounced me healthy.

I decided to do several things that he recommended.

  1. Exercise daily.
  2. Track my food and base my diet on nutrition.
  3. Weigh daily.
  4. Find an accountability partner.

None of these things require you to go to the doctor first, but I would highly encourage you to make your doctor a partner in your weight loss journey. Get a clean bill-of-health before starting.

Build an exercise habit.

Now that I’m 60-years-old, exercise is difficult for me. My knees hurt. My hips hurt. I’m carting around 80 pounds that I need to lose. But there is one exercise that I have always enjoyed. And it costs nothing to do.

I began walking around my neighborhood. I had done it before, so I knew I could do it again. I also knew I could stick with it, because I enjoyed being outside. Money (or lack of) would not keep me from doing it.

A daily goal and schedule is important, or you won’t follow through. Once you have one, you will feel odd when you don’t do it. Your daily goal can increase as your fitness improves. If you need to, you can keep a calendar and put a star on each day you hit your goal.

I started out walking around my block once. Soon it increase to twice. After a while I was able to do a mile and a half in 30 minutes, and I’m still increasing my distance and speed over time.

Besides speeding up weight loss, I also hurt less. And I am breathing better, and sleeping better at night. Find an exercise you enjoy and keep doing it.

Keep a food log.

Writing down everything you eat can be eye-opening. You will soon see what foods you eat too much. For example, I found that I ate way too many sugary sweets: Coke, cake, cookies, chocolate. You get the picture. Those were empty calories that I could eliminate and should definitely reduce.

At first, just listing what you eat is enough. After a while, though, you should start tracking the calories. This, too, will reveal so much. There should be a balance to get good nutrition, and your brain needs a minimum of 135 grams of carbs to maintain its health, too.

One thing I soon discovered while logging my food is how boring my choices are, and how often we ate the same meals. It motivated me to get more creative in the kitchen. Prepackaged foods we purchased seemed quick, but contained more calories and fat that I could control by making them myself.

Keeping track of the food you eat also helps you realize when you have eaten enough, and what you might need to eat more (or less) of to hit your daily goals. You can do this on paper, in a Google doc, or use an app, too. Keep it simple and stick with it.

Weigh yourself at the same time every day.

I’ve found that I get discouraged easily, so I need something to help me know that I’m making progress. Weighing myself shows me that progress. I started out weighing once a week. However, I saw that my weigh bounced up and down. I discovered that when I weighed affected how much I lost.

I did an experiment and weighed at three different times each day: first thing in the morning, after breakfast (which I eat around 10:30 AM), and right before bedtime. I found out that I weighed differently at each time.

But — my weight was consistent between the similar times. If I weighed right after breakfast every day, I found that my weight loss stayed consistent and continued to trend downward. Also, I was able to see daily success. It might have only been .2 pounds, but knowing that it goes down every day helps me.

Pick a time each day to weigh and stick with it. If you weigh before bed, resist the urge to weigh in the morning. Your weight loss will be more evident. Keep track of your progress to keep yourself motivated. A sticky note on your mirror might be enough.

Accountability keeps you motivated.

So far, I have lost 10 pounds of my 80-pound goal. It has taken 2 months, and I still have a long way to go. I know that I will have setbacks and get discouraged. An accountability partner helps me with that. For me, it’s my husband.

An accountability partner keeps you honest about how much weight you’ve lost and the food you track. They also encourage (perhaps badger you) to get out and exercise, even when you don’t want to. I hate sweating and the heat, so my husband makes sure I go before it gets too hot.

A partner can also exercise with you and talk you through it when you want to give up for lack of progress. Mine even lets me know when the meals I make are getting too carbohydrate heavy or repetitive and boring. Maintaining variety in our diet makes sticking to it much easier.

If you have a friend or a neighbor who is on the same journey, partner up and keep each other going. If you have the money, consider hiring a fitness and nutrition coach. Sometimes you can get those things through a gym membership.

Check with your health insurance company to see if they have any wellness programs that include weight loss coaches. Even your doctor can keep you accountable.

The point is — don’t go it alone.

Stay the course.

Never give up on your desire to be healthy and feel better. You deserve that. When you get off track, reset and start again. It’s okay. You don’t have to be perfect to have success, just stick with it long enough to reach your goals.

  1. Establish an exercise habit.
  2. Keep track of your food intake.
  3. Weigh yourself regularly.
  4. Partner up with someone so you aren’t trying to do it alone.

You are worth the effort and will feel much better when you do. I’ve lost ten pounds so far and already feel so much better.

How awesome it that!

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Pat Davis, a retired teacher and editor of Simply Living and Living Simply, lives with her husband and neurotic cat, Neko. She loves to read, write, travel, bake, garden, sew, and craft.