In April, millions of people had an Ah-Ha moment when they read an incredibly insightful article (1) that introduced the term Languishing into the lockdown lexicon. The term describes that deep feeling of indifference that isn’t quite depression but is still far from feeling ok. Instead, it’s that blah-feeling that you have when you can’t seem to muster the desire to do anything but scroll on your phone for hours at a time.
This feeling of apathy is a major contributor to the global weight gain problem during the pandemic. Millions of people can’t find the will to work out or care about making good eating choices.
“The mass weight gain has been called the Quarantine 15. It’s a funny name, but it’s no laughing matter for the people that have gained this weight,” said Dr. Stephen Mulholland, owner of Toronto Plastic Surgeons.
“Liposuction consultations are up in a big way across North America. We’ve talked to countless people that have gained weight during the lockdown and can’t lose it. This leads people to feel worse about themselves, and they could start to spiral emotionally.”
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The Quarantine Fifteen and Zero Energy
The pandemic lockdown has been a perfect weight gain storm for far too many people. Gyms have been closed. Routines have been destroyed. Diets have been reduced to “whatever is the easiest.” This is why that over 60% of surveyed Americans have gained weight during the lockdown. (2)
But this weight gain goes well beyond the inability to work out or the unavailability of healthy food. Countless people have ditched their gym membership and bought a Peloton Bike. They have the best intentions of working out, but the desire isn’t there most nights.
Is it laziness? No, it’s languishing, and it’s not your fault. Dr. Adam Grant wrote that “Languishing dulls your motivation, disrupts your ability to focus, and triples the odds that you’ll cut back on work.”
Languishing means that it takes all of the energy in your tank to get through your workday, run your errands, and make sure the kids are fed and doing their homework. But, then, you look at the Peloton sitting in the corner, and you don’t have anything left in the tank. “Not tonight,” you say.
“Maybe I’ll have an espresso tomorrow after supper and try again.” But tomorrow comes, and you still don’t have the energy or the desire to work out. And you don’t care. It’s not your fault, and you’re not alone.
Self-Medicating isn’t Helping
Dealing with new levels of stress and not having to go into the office tomorrow has been the impetus that some people need to indulge in more cocktails than normal. A startling study revealed that binge drinking (defined as having 5+ more drinks for men or 4+ more drinks for women) is definitely on the rise during the pandemic. This is particularly prevalent among women, as the numbers have increased by 41%. (3)
At the same time, a survey asked people to indicate a Yes or No answer to 15 questions that included: (4)
- I have felt guilty or ashamed because of my drinking
- I have taken foolish risks when I have been drinking
- My drinking has hurt my family
Between 2019 and 2020, the number of Yes answers increased among men, while the number of Yes answers among women doubled.
Both binge drinking and casual drinking can lead to weight gain in a number of ways. First of all, there are 340 calories in 4 glasses of red wine and 1,000 calories in 5 IPA beers. At the same time, the hangover the next day can leave you feeling too tired and too lethargic to work off the calories. And then, of course, there is the evening snacking that is far-too-easy to justify when you’ve had a few.
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What Can Be Done?
Putting a name on this feeling is a great start. Just saying, “Languishing. Yes, that’s exactly how I feel” can be instantly helpful. It’s good to know that you don’t have to be clinically depressed to be struggling daily during the pandemic. It also helps you describe your experience to friends and family members who could also easily have the lightbulb-moment when you talk about it.
Be kind to yourself. Don’t feel guilty about wondering if you should get liposuction to get your pre-COVID body back. Roughly half of the locked-down world is currently open to their first-ever plastic surgery (5). If it will help you feel better about yourself and take a major worry off your plate, you deserve it.
Meanwhile, our society’s recent focus on mental health and the need for self-care has never been more critical than it is right now. You need to schedule time for yourself and view that time as sacred. Friends, families, and bosses may seemingly do their best to steal this time. You need to expect that and learn how to say a loving No.
- “There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing” – nytimes.com
- “42% of Americans Say They Gained Weight During the Pandemic” – healthline.com
- “Alcohol Consumption Rises Sharply During Pandemic Shutdown; Heavy Drinking by Women Rises 41%” – rand.org
- “Alcohol consumption rising sharply during pandemic, especially among women” – abcnews.go.com
- “American Society of Plastic Surgeons Releases New Guidance for Resuming Elective Procedures Amid COVID-19” – plasticsurgery.org