COVID-19 and the effects on diet, exercise and alcohol consumption

What you do not see going on behind closed doors

Haskell, N.J. – While scrolling through your social media news feed you have most likely seen a post or two about someone eating a meal that tastes delicious. You may have seen one about someone skipping a workout to binge a Netflix show. You have probably seen a few about drinking wine or cocktails at noon because of the quarantine.  You probably liked the post or laughed to yourself, but the truth behind the scenes is not at all funny. 

A recent survey conducted by Rutgers University found that people are drinking more alcohol, eating less healthy and exercising less. The combination of these changes to people’s behavior is a cause for concern. 

The reality is that COVID-19 has radically affected how people are eating. A total of 75% eat less fresh food now than before. A staggering 84% of those involved in the poll are ingesting  too many calories daily. 

In a study by Frontiers in Psychology, there is a direct link found between change in diet and with a change in work. With many people losing their jobs as a result of the pandemic, diets are being affected. 

What people are putting in their bodies dictates how they are able to feel on a daily basis. Tim Blewit, a personal trainer and dietitian, said, “Diet is the most important thing a person does for their physical and mental health. Having a balanced, sustainable diet coincides with exercise and is imperative.”

In addition to diet, exercise plays a role in mental and physical health. CrossFit coach and certified personal trainer at Spa 23 in Pequannock, N.J., Amanda Bonney, says, “Fitness plays a vital role in many of our clients mental health. Without daily workouts people can fall into a depression. We have seen people struggle with negative self image as well.” 

The Rutgers study shows that 76.2% of people are no longer exercising the same amount as before the pandemic. Gyms were shut down into March, at the beginning of the pandemic. Bonney said, “people were adapting their routines to home style workouts, using creative methods of getting a workout in one way or another.”

Despite those efforts, a total of only 16% of those polled have been able to adapt their routine to stay active. 

Only 23.8% maintained a fitness routine during the pandemic. When the gyms finally reopened months after the shutdown many people did not return. Bonney said, “People didn’t have the motivation to come back. Those who did were not in the same condition physically as when the state shut us down.” 

Without exercise and proper nutrition people are not utilizing proper coping techniques for their stress and anxiety. 

In an article from KFF.org, people have reported feelings of anxiety and depression more than prior to the pandemic. Furthermore, people are more likely to form dependency on substances such as alcohol. 

Marla Sprock, a counselor at Open Door Behavioral Health, said, “As an outpatient facility we had never seen anything like the shutdown. It was detrimental to many client’s mental health.” 

Without these resources available people have turned to alcohol to cope with everyday stress.

Looking at the survey, 42% have increased their intake of alcohol. The survey did not poll a specific group, however based on the numbers it is apparent that many are increasing their alcohol intake. 

Isolation is one of the main causes of relapse for addicts. Sprock said, “As a counselor I have about fifty clients on my caseload. Within three weeks into the shutdown, I saw at least a quarter of them relapse in one form or another. It was really sad not to be able to provide the treatment they are in need of.” 

There are resources available for those who are in need of help for mental and behavioral health issues. The website https://www.mentalhealth.gov is a source for those struggling with mental health during the epidemic. The website https://www.helpguide.org/articles/addictions/overcoming-drug-addiction.htm is another website designed to help those struggling with addiction.

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