AUSTIN — Nutrition expert Andrea Ahern has seen an increase in people over eating or stress eating during the pandemic.
Some people call it the ‘Quarantine-15,’ a term used to describe the weight gain.
“Everybody’s on a different schedule. If they’re working from home, if they have limited office hours or if they’re home caring for loved ones, everything about that day has changed,” said Ahern.
That includes eating habits. She advises people on how to obtain a healthy weight with the help of a food diary, meditation and choosing the right foods.
The challenge comes when Ahern, who works as the clinical nutrition manager at St. David’s North Austin Medical Center, helps patients who are recovering from COVID-19.
She says COVID-19 patients need the right nutrition plan, and diet plays a huge role in getting energy back, after their bodies have taken a beating from the damage of the disease.
“There’s still a lot we don’t know about the long term recovery,” she said. “It is a very highly-inflammatory disease process, and that can create an environment where the body needs more energy of protein to help it recover and heal from everything that it’s going through.”
Ahern says that can be a difficult with patients who develop gastrointestinal issues, hormone changes and organ damage from COVID-19.
“If there’s lung damage, we want to talk about what their needs are for that, and how they can find the appropriate meal plans to continue to fuel them to fight the rest of the process,” she explained.
The process she says starts at home by eating healthy, even during a pandemic, because stress eating may only add more stress if you have to fight off COVID-19.