Jennifer Silate works out at the MAC Harbor East gym to take off… (Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina…)
Weeks ago, when everyone was worried about the feet of snow piling up around Baltimore, inches of another sort were accumulating inside.
Having trouble buttoning your pants lately?
After back-to-back snowstorms, and who knows how many days of snow-day eating, Marylanders are still feeling the storms' effects - on waistlines, thighs and butts.
Snow pounds. And they're not exactly melting away.
Take Jennifer Silate. The 32-year-old Baltimore marketing manager entered the new year determined to do away with, as she calls it, the "holiday slide." She joined a gym - the week before the first snow hit.
While the snow came down, burying her car and any chance of making it to the gym, Silate, stuck inside, used her treadmill time to bake cookies. And then brownies. Frozen pizza made an appearance at one point.
She ventured outside for a few walks, but with the drifts deep and the going slow, she admits "it was easier just to sit on the couch."
"Over the snow, I think I gained 5 pounds," she says, lamenting her waylaid resolutions. "I was trying to get going, I was all gung-ho, but the snow just stunted my resolve.
"When I'm offered some sort of excuse I'll take it. And the snow was a really, really good excuse."
Though the snow wrecked many a diet, experts say the snow pounds aren't worth despairing over.
The storm eating was merely a bump in the road, a natural reaction to a life disruption, nutritionists say, the same sort of emotional eating that happens when we're stressed, or in turmoil or for any number of reasons.
"Any change to people's routines can throw them off," says Laura Katleman-Prue, author of the coming book "Skinny Thinking." "A lot of people eat emotionally, and all of the snow would be a natural trigger for a lot of people to eat in a way that doesn't serve their health or waistline."
Adding to the problem, the author says, is the tendency to romanticize food: People nostalgically recall the hot cocoa, fresh-baked brownies and other food they ate when they were snowed in during their childhoods.
As adults, they feel as if they need consolation food for being stuck inside.
Judith Feola Gordon, a Finksburg-based registered dietitian, has been fielding calls from clients who are frustrated and depressed that they fell off their diets during the storm.
"I had clients who gained 3 or 4 pounds in the two-week period," she says. "It's stirred business, that's for sure."
Though Gordon strongly advocates home cooking, she says the sorts of things people were making in snow-day mode weren't what she had in mind.
"When I went to the grocery store before the storm, I noticed the baking aisle was wiped out," she says. "People were just having a great time."
Amanda Smith called the dietitian in a panic. After losing 14 pounds over the past five months, she got on the scale and found that her snow indulgences had brought 3 of them back.
With her grown kids home, they ate french fries and cheeseburgers, brownies and cake.
"I kind of got away from my fruits and vegetables," she says. "It's hard, when they're having something good, to say, 'I'm having a banana.' "
Gordon is telling Smith and others not to get overly upset about the extra pounds.
"Your clothes might be tight, but don't obsess," she says. "Once you lose that first pound, your motivation will return, and you'll be psyched up and ready to go."
Steve Ehasz, fitness manager at the MAC Harbor East, where Silate joined, noticed that during the storm and its aftermath, gym attendance plummeted.
Only about half the people who typically work out showed up. And the day of the second storm, it was a mere one-tenth of the normal crowd.
Instead of working up a sweat, those folks were home, Ehasz says, cooking up a storm.
"I have overheard lots of stories about absolute bingeing on all sorts of [stuff]," he says, laughing.
At Charm City Fitness in Canton, which specializes in personal training, owner Jodi Naasz had to essentially close up shop for a week, with few able to make it to their appointments.
"Everything came to a screeching halt," she says. "Of course, everyone did their fair share of shoveling, but when you come back inside, all you want to do is sit on the couch.
"And now everyone is telling me they're feeling sluggish and fat and lazy."
Katey Clark, a 27-year-old public relations professional who lives in Fells Point, got a bit of exercise during the snow days. Once she trudged two slushy miles to her gym, only to find it closed. And, of course, there was the walking to bars.
Unable to make it to a party in Washington the Sunday after the first storm, Clark and her roommates, who had baked sugar cookies for their friends there, ended up eating the heart-shaped treats themselves.
"All there was to do was eat," she says. "And drink."
Naasz says people just need to put down the Doritos and get off of the sofa.