As some workplaces across the country phase out work-from-home in favor of in-person attendance, wage earners are fretting about how their colleagues will perceive their fleshier physiques.
According to a March 2021 poll by the American Psychological Association, 42% of Americans gained more weight than intended during the lockdown period. The APA found that people in the US have typically put on 15 pounds since March 2020, when COVID-19 first took hold, amidst comfort eating, exercising less and consuming more alcohol.
Some, however, have taken control of the situation and lost the pandemic pudge.
The Post meets three triumphant women who’ve gotten back into shape.
Victoria Holberton, Manhattan
Within the first three months of lockdown, Holberton put on 20 pounds. She went from being a svelte, healthy mom to a diabetic with “outrageously high” blood sugar levels.
“Working from home, my husband and I would order bacon, egg and cheese bagels every morning, cook huge meals and get through two bottles of wine a day,” she said. “I’d constantly snack on cookies [and] brownies.”
The CPA would unbutton her pants during Zoom calls and pray her old colleagues wouldn’t notice the change in her looks. When her firm acquired another company during lockdown, she fretted about having to meet new colleagues.
“I didn’t want them to see me at the worst weight of my life,” she said.
So, motivated by advice from her doctor and concern about her eventual return to the office, she lost a total 30 pounds through intermittent fasting and then kicking the booze in July 2021.
The 38-year-old, who is 5-foot-7, is down to 150 pounds and no longer needs to take pills for diabetes. She can’t wait to see colleagues new and old after Labor Day. She is also relieved her formal business attire from favorite stores such as Reiss fit once again.
“I might even splash out on some new clothes,” Holberton said. “I finally feel good.”
Terrilyn Brumfield, Dallas, Texas
Shortly before the onset of COVID-19, Brumfield interviewed for a new job in HR. She landed the gig, but after nine months of lockdown, the dress she’d worn for the big interview no longer fit.
The mom-of-one piled on the pounds and went up two dress sizes while working from home due to eating french fries and her 5-year-old daughter’s candies, and leading a more sedentary lifestyle.
“I avoided the scales,” she recalled. “I’d wear sweat pants that had room to give.”
Her lowest point came during a holiday photoshoot with her family. The pictures emphasized her larger figure and fuller face.
“I don’t know if my colleagues noticed the changes on Zoom calls,” Brumfield said. “But I wanted to get off on the right footing and make a professional impression when we saw each other in person.”
She finally started using the $2,000 Peloton bike she’d invested in before Christmas, doing 30-minute rides — her favorite instructors include Ally Love, Cody Rigsby and Jess Sims — five times a week. The 34-year-old also took to meditating regularly using the Peloton app.
“It was a holistic approach and the weight came off,” said Brumfield, who reckons she has lost around 40 pounds through a combination of exercise and healthier eating. Her hope is to shed 20 more pounds to complete the transformation.
Her company hasn’t yet announced an end date for its remote working practices but she is eagerly awaiting the decision and excited by the opportunity.
Brumfield added: “I want to put my best self out there.”
Robin Cocheu, Portland, Oregon
The 57-year-old elementary school teacher has not seen her young students in person since March 2020. She’s been instructing them remotely as part of the district’s “comprehensive distance learning” program.
“It’s been a challenging [time] for everyone which, in my case, led to weight gain and feelings of depression,” said Cocheu.
Poor food choices caused Cocheu to go up at least one dress size. She tried to disguise her expanding figure during class video sessions by adjusting her position in front of the camera.
But in June, after school closed for the summer, she resolved to take action. Her aim was to look and feel better before in-person interactions finally resume in September.
She said: “I didn’t want my principal and colleagues to think I was unhealthy and was keen to show I could keep up with my first graders.”
Soon after beginning the online “Sparkle Girl” plan devised by New York wellness coach Deborah Capaccio, Cocheu experienced a change in her mindset.
She became more optimistic and contemplative, and felt motivated to abandon her poor eating routine and follow a vegetable and protein-based diet while drinking plenty of water.
“I met at least some of my colleagues and students at a weeklong summer school in early August,” said Cocheu, who is down 16 pounds and back to her previous dress size. “I felt good in the shorts I was wearing and comfortable running around with the children.
“When the new school year starts after Labor Day, I know I’ll be proud of what I’ve achieved.”