ISSN 2477-1686

Vol. 8 No. 1 Jan 2022

How Covid Can Make You Fit: Breaking The Bad Habit



Astrid Gisela Herabadi

Fakultas Psikologi, Universitas Katolik Indonesia Atma Jaya


Before the Covid-19 Pandemic risen, Rheena was an active working woman, living in one of the suburb area around Jakarta. She commuted everyday to her office in Jakarta, worked there within the regular office hours, and hence she had established  a daily routine. When the pandemic hit, suddenly her lifestyle was changed completely, her office was in a complete lockdown for months, so Rheena did almost all her work online. Her physical activities were significantly decreased, she slept late at night and woke up also rather late in the morning, she started to feel the stress of being confined at home. Initially, she was not even aware that her eating habit had also turn for the worse, she ate more snacks and bigger meals. Rheena gained weight in an alarming rate, until one day she realized that none of her clothes fit her anymore. She is very close to obesity and started to have trouble doing even the simplest physical activities. 


It turns out that Rheena’s case is not unique during this pandemic situation, when people are abruptly forced to stop their daily routine which has become a habit for them, they had to fill in the void and create a habit substitution (Verplanken, 2018). In the beginning of the pandemic, people were still trying to figure out the right thing to do for them and hoping that the situation will get better soon. Much to their dismay, the situation did not get better quickly, hence stress and frustration started to set it. Unfortunately, stressful situation can increase people’s dependence on habits, including bad habits (Wood and Rünger, 2016). Instead of forming positive new lifestyle, people started to rely on bad habits that were developed in an unusual circumstance. A survey conducted in Italy by Di Renzo (2020) found that the pandemic had caused depressive mood, tension, and even anxiety, especially in females. Their study also found that females had more tendency than males to display emotional eating, the drive to eat as a reaction to negative feelings and stress. The fact that people have more time to shop for food and cook at home, also added to the tendency of overeating during the pandemic. 


Let us now go back to Rheena and continue her story, she was still having a hard time to control her weight by the time her office decided to have an offline end-of-the-year gathering. On that occasion, she could judge by the reaction of her co-workers; although they did try to hide it well; that they were aghast by her physical appearance, because she had put on so much weight since the last time they saw her in person. That was a wake-up call for her, thus as her new year resolution, she decided to adopt a much healthier lifestyle. She began her transformation journey with small actions, first by following a regular pattern of sleeping and waking up. Next, she made sure that she would still have time to do an hour of daily physical exercise routine before starting her online work. Finally, Rheena also adopted the intermittent fasting eating habit, allowing her body to go without food for at least 12 hours, and avoid snacking between meals. The combined efforts paid off almost immediately, Rheena started to shed her extra weight and now she is even slimmer than before the pandemic. As a bonus side-effect, she is feeling much healthier and she very rarely feels the stress and anxiety that drove her to the bad habits in the first place.


The secret of her accomplishment is Rheena’s conscious awareness of breaking the bad habits by implementing her intentions to form new routines. Any disruption on habit creates a niche, providing the window of opportunity for behaviour change (Verplanken, 2018). Rheena’s set specific, realistic, and clear goals for herself, so that she can follow the new routine and most importantly stick to it for a significant period of time, therefore creating new and better habits. A study conducted in Qatar indicated a shift toward a healthier diet during the COVID-19 pandemic, people opt for healthier food choice because they have more time to think when choosing their food and also because of health concerns (Ben Hassen, El Bilali, and Allahyari, 2020). Food online shopping also introduced an easier way for people to buy fresh and local ingredients which taste better than processed food, making the shift to healthy food a pleasant experience.


If we take a closer look, Rheena’s success story is actually shared by a number of celebrities; both in Indonesia and abroad; which has managed to significantly transform their physical appearance during this pandemic. Just to mention a few here, in Indonesia there are; Melly Goeslaw, Tya Ariestya, Ricky Cuaca, and Babe Cabita; and abroad we can see the cases of: Rebel Wilson, Kelly Osbourne, Channing Tatum and Dan Fogler. 


As a closing remark, it seems that the unfortunate event of Covid-19 pandemic has managed to interrupt quite a significant number of people’s routines and habits. At a first glance, it felt as only bothersome and infuriatingly difficult; however if we take a rather different perspective, this situation in fact offers the chance for transformation. Well-thought systematic and attainable interventions to increase our or others’ well-being have a better likelihood to succeed in this pandemic situation, because people are starting to accept the demand of continuous adjustment they need to do in the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world around them.





Ben Hassen, T., El Bilali, H., & Allahyari, M.S. (2020). Impact of COVID-19 on Food Behavior and Consumption in Qatar. Sustainability12, 6973.


Di Renzo, L., Gualtieri, P., Cinelli, G., Bigioni, G., Soldati, L., Attinà, A.,  Bianco, F.F., Caparello, G., Camodeca. V., Carrano, E., Ferraro, S., Giannattasio, S., Leggeri C., Rampello, T., Lo Presti, L., Tarsitano, M.G., & De Lorenzo, A. (2020). Psychological Aspects and Eating Habits during COVID-19 Home Confinement: Results of EHLC-COVID-19 Italian Online Survey. (2020). Nutrients12, 2152,


Wood, W. & Rünger, D. (2016). Psychology of Habit. The Annual Review of Psychology 67, 11.1–11.26.


Verplanken, B. (2018). The Psychology of Habit: Theory, Mechanisms, Change, and Contexts. Switzerland: Springer Nature.