The idea of “quarantine weight gain” seems to be sending us all in a panic. That’s totally understandable—it’s a new situation for all of us! But if you look at weight gain as more of a fixed science, it becomes a little less stressful and a lot more manageable.
It all comes down to energy balance. Weight gain stems from consuming more calories than you expend—and it is 100% in your control!
To simplify things, we’re going to look at avoiding quarantine weight gain through three straightforward concepts: how we eat, how we move, and creating a routine.
How we eat.
Mindless eating seems to be the primary culprit of quarantine-induced weight gain. As you’re stuck at home, you’re in the constant company of your fridge and pantry and may be more prone to making frequent visits. Eating is also a very common coping mechanism for those of us under stress. But again, these are things we can manage! Implementing some simple habits and mentality shifts can help you execute a more mindful approach to your nutrition.
- Next time you find yourself staring at the contents of your fridge or pantry, ask yourself if you’re actually hungry or if you’re just bored or thirsty. Hunger is commonly mistaken for thirst, especially if you’re feeling hungry soon after eating a meal. If you’re not sure, take down a big glass of water and wait 15-20 minutes before assessing if you’re actually hungry. Keep a full water bottle in arm’s reach all day and drink up!
- Eat the good stuff! Protein is a satiating macronutrient that preserves calorie-burning muscle mass and could help eliminate mindless snacking, so include it in every meal and snack. (A Cinnamon Roll ONE Bar is my favorite quick protein dense snack.) Also, eat your vegetables and fruits! The micronutrient and fiber content can help to keep you full and optimize internal health, and you can generally eat more of them because most carry fewer calories.
- Do not unnecessarily restrict yourself. This is a biggie! When we look at certain foods or food groups as “off limits,” we are more likely to binge on them. So add something special to your day. Maybe it’s a cookie, or a small bowl of ice cream, or a few squares of chocolate. Want a nostalgic grilled cheese for lunch one day? Go for it! Don’t treat quarantine as a nutritional “free for all,” but intentionally and moderately including indulgent foods into your diet helps eliminate deprivation.
How we move.
In short, get up and get moving! I’m not suggesting you tackle some crazy workout routine (unless, of course, that appeals to you). But committing to daily movement will impact your energy expenditure to a bigger degree than you may realize. Even better, if it’s nice outside, take advantage of the Vitamin D opportunity for a potential mood booster. There are 24 hours in your day, leaving plenty of chances to stretch your legs.
Working from home doesn’t have to be a barrier. Start your morning with a walk if your schedule permits, or take a walk during your lunch hour. Taking phone calls that don’t require a computer screen? You know it: walk and talk! Finally, separate your work-from-home day from your evening routine with a mind-clearing stroll.
And if you’re a fitness enthusiast, identify a virtual workout program that you ENJOY and keeps you moving! There are an overwhelming number of streaming fitness options available to all forms of fitness—from strength training, to running, to cycling, to yoga, to dancing and beyond!
Creating a routine.
Consistency is key… always! Your eating and movement habits will only be as effective as your routine.
I recommend having a schedule in place that lays your entire day out—from productivity to health and everything in between.
Committing to a schedule makes it much more likely that you’ll check off all of the boxes day in and day out.
Be sure to block time out of each day to take care of yourself. For example, if you consistently wait to work out or take a walk “until you feel like it,” that motivation may not show up, and you’re more likely to engage in more inconsistent habits. You know you spend most of the day doing things for others, so make sure you find time for you as well.
Remember: only YOU are in the driver’s seat of your health and wellness, so show up for yourself! A little mindfulness and consistency will go a long ways towards emerging from quarantine at least as healthy—if not healthier—than you were are the beginning.
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