LOUISVILLE, Ky. — It’s paramount to be as healthy as possible during a pandemic, but for many Kentuckians, social distancing and working from home have caused some people to pack on quarantine weight.

Despite it being fish fry day at the cafeteria, Devin Gehrke brought a salad to her job as a clinical nurse at Norton Women and Children’s Hospital. She said she has gained 20 pounds since March.

“My first goal is just to lose five pounds just to show I can get the weight moving in the right direction,” said Gehrke.

Before March, Gehrke was on track for her weight loss by working out and eating right. But when COVID-19 created anxiety, uncertainty, and stress, she found herself going to comfort foods.

“All the changes of the pandemic I was working to keep up with and both my personal life and the job. I feel like I just knew I wasn’t focusing on healthy eating and knew exactly the bad choices I was making,” she said.

Dr. Meredith Sweeney with Norton Weight Management Services says that Gehrke is not alone with gaining weight. It’s been the most common thing she's seen of late.

“Nearly I’d say 90 percent of them, their main issue is, they’ve say ‘Dr. Sweeney, I’ve gotten off track. I need help. I need to get back on track,’” said Sweeney.

If you find yourself in that situation, Sweeney doesn’t want you to beat yourself up. Instead of being hard on yourself, she wants to encourage you.

“It’s very important to give yourself grace,” said Dr. Sweeney. "It happened, it’s okay, let’s start to make little changes to turn it around,” she added.

There are easy steps we can all take to help make those healthier choices. One of the tips that Gehrke utilizes is being more aware of her dietary choices and keeping the right mindset.

“Your mood follows action and not the other way around. If people are waiting for their mood to change to get back on the wagon, it’s not going to happen. You have to take the action first, and your mood and motivation will come after,” said Gehrke.

Sweeney suggests patients like Devin use intermittent fasting. It helps plot out your day mainly when you eat and hours you block off where you will not eat. She also wants you to be aware of comfort foods. Even though food is so much a part of our culture, you'll want to enjoy those in moderation.

“These are biologically addicting foods. What I mean is that they actually stimulate the same centers in your brain that drugs and alcohol do that cause addiction, that cause the cycle to repeat itself,” said Sweeney.

The reason why Gehrke is sharing her story is simple. She wants to be that encouraging friend to you at home if you find yourself in a similar boat.

“Just need to no matter how bad you’re feeling, take action now and then your mood and motivation will follow that positive, healthy action,” she said.

If you are forced to grab food on the go, Sweeney said it's still possible to make healthy choices. Do a little digging to see if that restaurant has healthy options or adjust your usual order to leave out unnecessary bread or carbs.