• Mon, Nov 12 2012

Hurricane Sandy Damaged Homes, Businesses…And OH NO! Waistlines

weight gain hurricane sandy

TIME, the New York Times and the Huffington Post have all reported on on the real, hard-hitting issue that’s affecting people after Hurricane Sandy. No, it’s not gas shortages, the FEMA response or how to rebuild the devastation that hit the region. It’s weight gain! Obviously, a hugely relevant and highly pressing matter in the face of a natural disaster.

The “Sandy 5″ is billed as the Tristate area’s answer to the Freshman 15, pounds gained as people ate junk food in their dark homes, waiting for the lights to come back on. New Yorkers in particular are quoted telling their tales of woe, forced to eat Oreos and fries during the power outage. Workouts skipped, trans fats ingested, sugar levels gone through the roof…it’s pure Greek tragedy.

On November 7th, the New York Times published a vital and compelling article about the aftermath of the storm, titled “Jeans Tight? It’s Sandy.” A quote from the article:

“I can’t even talk about it — my jeans do not button,” said Emily Marnell, 31, a publicist who cited both boredom and anxiety as a reason she fell victim to odd, middle-school-kid cravings for junk food after her Gramercy Park apartment went dark.

With 120,000 homes and businesses still without power in New York and New Jersey, I can’t help but find these Sandy weight gain trend pieces to be tacky and insensitive. Oh no, some Manhattanites couldn’t get to their $20 for 45 minutes Pilates class?  They had to eat (GASP) boxed macaroni and cheese? Tell that to the people on Staten Island who no longer have homes.

Chichi Kix of FitVillains got it totally right when she posted on her Facebook page about some of the seriously skewed fitness-related reaction to life post-Sandy:

One [question] told an evacuee which canned foods they should avoid. I’m sure everyone handing out supplies was thrilled to watch her turn down canned food that wasn’t “organic,” “low carb” or “low sodium.” Another suggested workouts that could be performed in tight spaces, such as a rescue shelter, because, you know, all the other evacuees are gonna be inspired by your commitment to burpees at a time like this.

I get that fitness and healthy eating are a big deal to people. Healthy eating, in particular, matters a lot to me. I ate my share of Goldfish crackers and pretzels with peanut butter when my power on the East Coast was out for 24 hours. But I wouldn’t even think to complain about it. BECAUSE IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL. It’s for a few days. When circumstances are beyond your control, you adjust accordingly before, during and after. It’s not the end of the world; it’s not even the end of your diet.

Although it’s awesome that New York cancelled the marathon in the wake of the hurricane, it’s about time they got more realistic about some of the other fitness-related issues related to the storm. Geneen Roth, an expert in the psychology of eating, told the Huffington Post that, now that the hurricane is over, she recommends addressing underlying feelings that can lead to overconsumption of food:

“Find somebody you can talk to about what you feel. Realize you’ve been through something, that you’re in an atmosphere of loss. Then you can find a way to move on.”

Eating (as well as thoughts and feelings related to eating) are complicated and messy for many people. But “find somebody you can talk to? “Atmosphere of loss?” If you have a roof over your head, heat in your home and your life is returning to normal, I think you’re doing pretty well, whether there’s an extra inch around your abdomen or not.  Maybe the people concerned about the way their pants button should focus their “moving on” efforts towards people in the area who’ve actually lost their personal property, who are actually existing in an atmosphere of loss. Buck up, whiny New Yorkers.

Photo: Flickr User Dakine Kane

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