I invited activist Brie Koons to write about how she lost weight during a pandemic, which is something many people with mental illnesses struggle with on a regular day due to side effects of psychiatric medications.
How I Lost Weight During COVID-19
Please know that I am not a dietitian, nutritionist, or any kind of medical doctor. This is just my personal experience. Consult your doctor before making changes to your diet or medicines.
Weight loss is something we all struggle with at some point in our lives. Growing up, I was naturally slim. I stayed slim during high school because I ran Cross Country and Track and Field. I was diagnosed with my mental health condition in my early 20s and added meds, but I didn’t gain weight right away. It wasn’t until my late 20s that I started packing on pounds. A lot of it was due to my diet, which I’ll get into further.
Some people have a lot to lose, and some only need to lose 15 pounds or less. During COVID-19, it seems like a lot of people have struggled with gaining weight, from what I see on social media.
Somehow, I’ve managed to lose. How?! You ask. Well, I used to have a bad diet. I ate out a lot, fast food and dine in restaurants, Starbucks a couple times a week, etc. Nearly all these foods are extremely high in calories.
So, when everything shut down in March, and we were required to quarantine ourselves for a couple months, these bad habits came to an abrupt halt. No longer could I swing by Taco Bell on a whim.
You see, I live with my folks at the moment, and my Mom is at high risk of dying if she were to contract the virus. She has an autoimmune disease. She asked that I don’t get a job outside the house during quarantine or go anywhere until we are sure the virus is gone, or there’s a vaccine.
Reluctantly, I agreed.
So, as you can imagine, my diet abruptly changed. I had to eat at home, and I began eating less, and eating more whole food. I also have been drinking more water. My sister and I would go for walks about 3 times a week.
I’m estimating that I cut my calorie intake in half. Since March, I have lost about 15 pounds. Since October, I have lost around 30 pounds.
Now, I’m not trying to brag or make anyone feel bad. Please do not feel bad if you have gained weight during the pandemic, especially if you take medication. For some of us, the kind of meds we take make losing weight extremely difficult. I’ve struggled for 11 years to lose weight and change my bad habits.
Why it’s working now all of a sudden, is due more to the situation than anything else. I knew I needed to change my diet in the past, and I tried several times. There were times I’d lose weight, and then regain it.
My mindset was wrong, and I have trouble sticking to exercise. Another contributing factor to my weight loss was the fact that one of the meds I take reduces my appetite. So that helps too.
As you can see, I made a few drastic changes to my diet. (I wouldn’t recommend this.) But it worked. From what I’ve gathered from other mental health advocates, exercise, portion size, and what meds you take can all influence one’s ability to lose weight and keep it off.
If you live with a mental health condition, and you struggle with weight gain, I recommend talking to your doctor to see if there are any alternatives to the medication that is causing you to gain. There may be a med that works just as well that doesn’t cause as much gain, or no gain at all.
Next, find someone who can hold you accountable for what you eat, even if it’s just over the phone. Keep a food diary. Track what you eat. Remove certain foods from your pantry, like cookies, cake, chips, etc. Things you know will make you gain. These things are ok in moderation but try not to overindulge. And make sure to drink enough water.
I hope this helps someone struggling with the same things I have.
Where to find Brie: