Picture what this time looked like last year, summer turning to fall and returns to daily destinations of work, school, sports and other activities. Life as we knew has changed drastically. The arrival of COVID-19 led us to the shutdown of a lifetime and changed our lives. Don’t be discouraged if you have found yourself feeling and looking different than this time last year, perhaps with an unanticipated weight gain. A reality of quarantine may be a weight gain of 10 lbs., 15 lbs. or even the so-called “Quarantine 19.” But don’t worry, it is possible to regain control of your weight with a few thoughtful and helpful tips.
1. Change your way of quarantine-thinking and don’t look back.
Come up with a plan and build a routine that is manageable and can be done under your current remote or back-to-work/school scenario. Set yourself up for success by getting up a doable 30 minutes earlier than your normal start time, and go to bed 30 minutes earlier to not lose any precious hours of sleep. Go for a walk, do an online exercise class in your home, or hop on your bike or hike, before your work or school day begins. It is amazing what a few minutes a day of dedicated movement can do to reset your mind and body. Weigh yourself once a week to establish a starting point, provide guidance and motivation to actually see the results.
2. Plan meals carefully and with healthful purpose.
Try to plan meals and portions for two weeks so that you do not go into the market hungry and then impulse shop on foods that serve no nutritious purpose, like cookies or chips. Prepare and cook your own meals by finding simple recipes which are available online. It is not the quantity of food; it is quality of food and taste that fills us up and helps us to trim our waistlines. Use a smaller plate, eat protein first to limit the amount of carbohydrates on your plate, and drink water 15 minutes before eating to give you a sense of fullness to avoid overeating at a sitting.
3. Set up work/classroom areas away from the kitchen.
The closer we are physically located to the kitchen, the easier it is to simply walk over during a Zoom call or class activity and graze-eat at the pantry. Try to limit mindless eating by keeping high calorie and sugary foods such as sodas, chips, candy, or baked goods – whether homemade or store-bought – out of the house. If you start to feel hungry, go outside and sit on the deck or patio, physically distant from food. In most cases, the thought to eat or food cravings will go away because the mind becomes busy with other thoughts. Plan on not opening the refrigerator before a certain time of day to avoid mindlessly scouting out the goods and eating out of boredom.
4. Try new ways to manage stress.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed and out-of-sorts during this time, and seeking comfort in food is all too easy. Don’t use alcohol to ease your nerves or nibble a candy bar or freshly baked chocolate chip muffins to make you feel better. There is no nutritional value in eating for happiness. Try spiritually connecting with an online platform to virtually chat with others, meditate, increase your mindfulness or attempt those yoga moves that you have always heard about. The more you conquer your stress, the less likely for those hormones, like cortisol, to hang on to calories and make us gain weight.
You cannot conquer your weight loss goals unless your mind and body have rested. Take the time to allow your body to wind down and think positive thoughts about your day and your accomplishments. Repeat a positive saying like a recording in your mind: “I need to be healthier because of what is going on.” That’s more motivating than “I am going to do nothing because the news depresses me, COVID is scary, and why does it all matter anyway?” Instead, turn those pesky negative thoughts in to positive motivation-think like: “If I decrease my calorie count by 500 calories a day, I can lose 1 to 2 lbs. a week and be ready for my beach body by next spring!”
No one knows how long the COVID-19 lifestyle is going to last, but these tips can offer a good starting point to get back to pre-pandemic weight and even help maintain and lose weight for a healthier tomorrow.
To discuss your health with a ChristianaCare primary care provider, call 302-777-0643.