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Pandemic side effect: bad eating habits

By Brielle Dunbar and Tabusom Marzi

Youthcast Media Group®

The pandemic has affected many things in student life over these last few years. One that isn't talked about much is the unhealthy eating habits that many students got in the habit of during Covid-19 times.

The connection between emotions and diet is as simple as the link between the brain and gastrointestinal tract. Your gut has a world of its own, filled with billions of bacteria that communicate with your brain.The bacteria communicate by creating chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. These function as message carriers, sending signals from your stomach to your brain.

Well-balanced meals can lead to better moods and feelings. If you’re constantly eating grease and a whole bunch of junk, you’re going to feel worse about yourself. If you were to eat vegetables and fruits, you feel more refreshed and revived. A poor diet can lead to stress and depression.

Flours and sugars often cause people to crave more of the same. They can trigger the dopamine in the brain that often causes people to come back for more and more. Processed foods we eat from places like McDonald's, Wendy's, and Pizza Hut are highly addictive and they often stimulate the dopamine centers in our brains that are associated with pleasure.

Being stuck at home has made it easier for students to develop unhealthy eating habits. And cravings fuel a cycle of binging on junk food (stock photo taken from No-Colest).

Sugars and refined foods can lead to inflammation throughout the body and brain, which can cause mood disorders leading to depression and anxiety. Building on that depression and anxiety is weight gain. It's healthier to eat foods with Omega 3 fatty acids, such as fish. Healthy foods that feed your brain include fruits and vegetables, beans and greens. These can potentially boost your ability to learn by making you more energized and prepared.

Your brain depends on certain nutrients to help it function properly. Lean proteins allow the body to think and react more quickly. Some examples are meat, chicken, fish, eggs, soybeans, nuts and seeds. Complex carbohydrates give you energy as well as keep you satisfied longer. Meanwhile, foods such as potato chips or candy can increase imbalanced energy levels.

Michael Bawah, a freshman at Annandale High School, says he ate whatever he wanted during the pandemic. He was still eating that way when he began wrestling this season. He had trouble competing at first, so he began to eat fewer fatty foods and more foods high in protein (such as yogurt, eggs and avocados) and more fruits (such as strawberries, blueberries, watermelon and mango).

Senior Wilmer Chinchilla-Lopez, another wrestler, said he has gained more endurance by eating Greek yogurt and green smoothies. “I stick to a diet that contains the amount of calories I need to stay in my weight class,” he said. "I do still like to eat unhealthy meals sometimes, which I find okay.”

Brielle Dunbar and Tabusom Marzi are rising juniors at Annandale High School in Annandale, Va. They worked on this story with Youthcast Media Group® journalist-mentors during the 2022-23 school year.


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