The quarantine and social distancing measures have thrown everyone’s routines into disarray. People who are used to the structure of daily work at the office suddenly found themselves without those outside cues to tell them when to eat and when to move. Plus, the uncertainty of the current circumstances around the economy and everything else has sent more than one person into a comfort food spiral. As a result, many of us have put on some weight while we wait for the world to get back to normal. It can be tricky to contend with the COVID 15. But, with a bit of planning and a bit of inspiration, you can take off extra weight and form healthier new habits.
Living with the Lockdown Blues
If your mood has been negatively affected by the virus and other current events, you are not alone. The CDC conducted a survey and found that about one in three respondents was dealing with symptoms of anxiety and depression. In some cases, people were experiencing stress because they were worried about risks to their health. In others, they were worried because they were concerned about finances. Still, other people were dealing with significant disruptions to their routines and their daily lives. Most people have dealt with a mix of one or more.
While some folks find that they can’t eat when they are feeling stressed out, others turn to food for comfort. And, the foods we turn to when we need comfort are often less than healthy. In surveys, people report top comfort foods that include pizza, ice cream, mashed potatoes, and fried chicken, which are all high in calories.
And, while most of us are not eating at restaurants at the current time, many of us are buying more take out than we normally would. Stress and anxiety can often make people feel overwhelmed, and it’s much easier to hit a few buttons on an app to have food delivered contact-free than it is to get in the kitchen and cook.
Eating When Bored
Can’t go to the gym. Can’t go to a party. If your job is one that was shut down by the pandemic, you may not even be clocking in time at work. As a result, you are probably dealing with a lot of boredom.
It’s easy to wander into the kitchen for snacks when you don’t have beneficial things to occupy your mind. But, that mindless consumption can lead to consuming far more every day.
Total Disruption of Your Daily Routine
If you aren’t used to working from home, the lack of structure can be a shock. With no morning commute, there’s no reason to get up and eat a healthy breakfast at a specific time of day. With no lunch break to break up the hours, you might as well snack whenever instead of sitting down to a deliberately chosen, nutritious meal.
All of these factors add together to throw you off balance and do a number on your diet and your levels of physical activity. Between a more sedentary lifestyle and uncontrolled consumption of less than healthy foods, weight gain is nearly a foregone conclusion. Luckily, it does not have to be that way. With a more mindful approach, you can make choices that will help you lose weight, feel more energetic, and even help you become more mentally and emotionally resilient.
How to Get Out of Your Quarantine Rut
Start by looking at how your life has changed since you have been socially distancing. Maybe your old commute involved a mile of walking on the way to and from the train. Perhaps you climbed stairs more often. Or maybe you made a point of meal planning so that you wouldn’t be tempted by fast food and other unhealthy choices by the office. Think over your old routine and what sorts of activities and factors you would like to bring back under control.
Exercise at Home
In many areas, gyms have started opening again. However, many people are finding that reduced operating hours mean that they can’t get in for their workouts at a time that works for them. Other people have decided that they don’t feel safe heading back out for public workouts yet. And, if your previous physical activities involved classes or team sports, you probably do not have a safe way to pick up your old routine yet.
Instead, look at the possibilities of getting physical activity while you are at home. Amazon Prime Video has a number of exercise videos available to stream, as does YouTube. You can also find standalone streaming services and apps that offer guidance for workouts.
Many people have turned to home workout programs, which has meant a run on workout equipment that ranges from treadmills to free weights. If you are having trouble finding equipment, or if you aren’t sure you’ll continue to use it at home when social distancing is over, consider body weight workouts. These include moves that use your own body for resistance. As a result, the amount of equipment needed is far lower than for other workout types.
Having trouble motivating yourself? It can be hard to get moving again when you’ve fallen into a rut. Try starting small. Even adding a dozen squats at the beginning of the day is something. You can also consider adding short intervals of exercise throughout the day instead of doing all of it at once. The 7-Minute Workout that became trendy a few years ago is a good place to start. Begin with a single interval a day, then work up to more as you feel capable.
Create a Food Plan
As many of us have discovered in quarantine, eating what you want when you want it doesn’t always lead to the best food choices. To get back on track, create a food plan that ensures you are getting optimal nutrition and calories throughout the day.
How strict your plan should be is a completely individual thing. Some people thrive on advanced meal preparation, where they spend a bit of time on the weekend preparing meals for the week. For others, a looser plan tends to be a better fit.
Start experimenting by making a detailed plan for meals for the week. Select recipes, order the ingredients you’ll need, and then do any advance prep that you can to make it easier for you to cook each day. For instance, if you have several recipes that use chopped onions, cutting them, and measuring them at the beginning of the week can make it easier to cook each day. This sort of meal planning makes it far less likely that you will succumb to temptation and order take out again when your mood is low. But, make sure that whatever you plan is not too draconian. Include foods that you enjoy every day. Make room for small snacks or treats so that you do not feel deprived. This way, you are less likely to cheat and wind up bingeing on less healthy foods.
Make a New Routine
Having a predictable daily routine can help you get back on track and stay there. Try to get up and go to bed around the same time every day. Research shows it is harder to lose weight when you are fatigued, so ensuring that you get a good night’s sleep will help.
Have a few healthy breakfast options that you can rely on each day. By starting the day with a meal that offers fiber, protein, and other nutrients, you can curb hunger later and help protect against late afternoon snacking.
And, don’t feel you need to adhere to your old hours. If you have always been more of a night owl and no longer need to get up at six to beat the traffic, see how you do getting up later instead. Just keep your routine predictable to keep circadian rhythms in line.
Don’t Give Up!
Everything is a little unpredictable right now, so it can feel incredibly difficult to make the right choices. If you backslide, don’t heap recriminations on your head. Just start over the next day with your health goals in mind. If something isn’t working for you, try another method. For instance, you may find you hate yoga, but dance-based workouts are a great fit. By experimenting with different foods, exercises, and routines, you can find a healthier balance. Try different options until you find a fit for you. Over time, you’ll have more energy, take the weight off and find that you are in better spirits and better able to handle whatever life throws your way.