For many, staying at a healthy weight has long been difficult both mentally and physically. However, the recent quarantine due to the novel coronavirus has not helped the matter. In fact, being forced to stay at home more frequently, being unable to go to a local gym and having ready access to a refrigerator and kitchen pantry at all hours of the day have caused some to put on more weight even over the summer months when individuals are traditionally more active. Often called the quarantine 15, weight gain throughout this period has not been specifically measured in research studies but has certainly been noted anecdotally by numerous physicians who have seen many of their patients pack on anywhere from an additional 5 to 30 pounds over the past several months.
While some people are suggesting an attitude of acceptance rather than dismay over this problem, there are certainly numerous issues that could occur when living with too much weight. For one thing, some researchers have found that individuals who are obese actually have a higher likelihood of contracting COVID-19 when compared to their lighter-weight peers. Other health concerns that have been tied to being overweight or obese include heart disease, stroke, diabetes, many types of cancer, osteoarthritis and even sleep apnea. This is especially true of the most dangerous type of fat known as visceral fat that is located around your internal organs. In addition, you may find that extra weight makes it more difficult for you to move frequently and comfortably during the day and that you are more prone to injuries when you do move or exercise.
Instead of sticking your head in the sand so to speak when it comes to the weight you may have put on during recent months, you can find easy ways to combat your weight gain and create new healthful habits. Rather than opting for quick fixes through crash diets, work on creating sustainable habits, such as the ones below, so that you can maintain a healthy weight no matter what your family, your job or the world throws at you next.
Focus on Your Health Rather Than Your Appearance
Although it can be tempting to take a look in the mirror and retaliate with self-loathing thanks to the extra pounds you have recently packed on, the healthiest approach to lasting change is to be concerned more about your overall health than you are with your appearance. In fact, one study published in Health Psychology Open in 2018 showed that women who initially wanted to lose weight because of how they judged their own appearance actually gained weight while those without this feeling ended up losing the most weight.
When you focus on your health as your primary motivation for weight loss, you will find that you enjoy your new lifestyle and that you are highly likely to stick with your healthy lifestyle over the long haul. If you have found that it is more difficult to walk long distances, climb a flight of stairs or bend over to touch your toes these days, creating new habits to address these problems can be highly effective in helping you feel better and gain strength with a secondary benefit of weight loss.
Many people find it difficult to work on their health without attaching too much importance to the number on the scale. Although you may find it motivating to weigh yourself once every week or so, try to focus on other health criteria rather than only your scale as you change your lifestyle and habits. While the scale can sometimes point you in the right direction, it cannot tell you how you feel, how strong you are becoming or how much endurance you have built.
Surround Yourself with Healthy Foods
The majority of weight loss will come from changes you make in your diet. While you probably already know the sort of foods that you should be eating for your best health, such as plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and proteins, as well as limited amounts of sweets (particularly those with added sugar) you may not find it that simple to switch your entire diet. One thing that could be to blame is the sheer amount of time you are most likely spending in close proximity to your kitchen these days.
When you turn to your refrigerator or cupboards to find something to nibble on, you most likely do not think about grabbing carrots and bell peppers or some juicy strawberries with Greek yogurt for your afternoon snack. Instead, if you are like most people, you are probably inexorably tied to convenience foods these days, many of which are highly processed. To turn this trend around, consider the following tips.
First, shop for mainly whole, unprocessed foods whenever possible. If you do not have unhealthy foods in your house, you will most likely eat healthier because it will take a great deal of energy to head out to the store or to your favorite fast food joint the next time you have a craving. Try to shop from mainly the outer edges of the grocery store, where the more nutritious produce and refrigerated items are kept. Skip the highly processed and sugary foods that are mainly kept in the center of the store. In addition, go shopping on a full stomach when you are less likely to make impulse purchases of sugary treats.
Second, try to prepare and eat the majority of your meals at home, a step that is probably not terribly difficult these days. Doing some of the preparation work for healthy breakfasts, lunches, suppers and snacks on the weekends will help keep you on track during the week and will save you precious time and energy after a long day of working at home or in your workplace.
Third, watch what you are drinking as the calories in sodas, juices, alcoholic beverages and other sugary drinks can quickly spiral out of control. Try to drink water for the majority of the day, adding in some herbal tea or a cup of coffee if needed. If you need to feel the sparkly fizziness of soda on your tongue, opt for an unsweetened sparkling water instead.
While the foods and drinks that you put into your body are certainly important, the way that you consume them is no less important. Mindful eating has become increasingly popular recently, and if you have not yet heard of this, now is the perfect time to learn.
Mindful eating refers to being completely aware of what you are putting into your body and focusing on an in-the-moment experience. It also focuses on an observation of what you are eating and how you feel during your meals rather than on a judgment of the foods that you are putting into your body. As you eat, slow down and focus on the taste, texture and temperatures of your foods as well as on your levels of satisfaction and fullness.
If you have found yourself eating in front of your computer or television or have found that you often eat while on the telephone or between appointments lately, it is time to commit to slowing down and consuming your meals and snacks at the table.
Stop multitasking, and instead consider your foods carefully. Examine where your foods are coming from, how nutritionally healthy they are and how they make you feel when you are done. Instead of stressing over creating the perfect meal plan, focus on having nutritious foods already in your home so that you can eat what your body is telling you it needs. If drinking too much alcohol has become a problem for you during this time, consider what your limit is before you even take your first sip so that you can pour the right amount initially and put the bottle away to avoid temptation later.
Opt for Exercises That You Enjoy
While food and nutrition are priorities when it comes to getting rid of the quarantine 15, exercise and regular movement must also come into play. Scheduling daily movement should be a part of your routine. By viewing it as smart self-care and choosing exercises you enjoy rather than those that make you hurt the most when you are done, you may even find that you look forward to this portion of your day.
Exercises come in many forms today, making it easy for you to find one that you love. From yoga and Pilates to running and water aerobics, there are plenty of choices for important cardiovascular exercise along with strengthening and stretching routines. If you are just getting started, walking may be a good place to begin as it is a simple exercise for which you need no special equipment. Simply lacing up your walking shoes and stepping outside your door is all you need to get started.
Many gyms offer regular workout classes. However, if this is not currently an option where you live because of COVID-19, you can find plenty of free or low-cost workout classes online these days. You might be amazed by how many different types of exercise you can do in the comfort of your living room with little to no equipment.
Make Sure You Are Getting Enough Rest and Sleep
Letting your mind and body rest is also vital for losing weight and feeling like your best self again. Resting does not have to refer solely to what happens in bed when your eyes are closed. Instead, resting should also include scheduling downtime for self-care and reflection. Stress hormones that race through your body during the day can cause widespread inflammation and weight gain over time. However, starting a regular mindfulness practice, such as praying, meditating or doing yoga, can help you reduce stress and give your body what it needs to release unwanted and unhealthy weight.
In addition, plenty of nightly sleep is also vital for letting the body repair itself and reduce stress hormones. If you are not getting a minimum of seven hours of sleep every night, find a way to make it happen. Whether you need to turn off the television earlier, create a more restful sleep environment or stop setting your alarm clock in the mornings, there are plenty of ways to build better evening and morning routines. Even if you are getting seven hours of sleep each night, you may need up to eight or nine hours per night if you are not feeling well-rested each morning.
Manage Your Supplements
Finally, if you find that you have some gaps in your nutrition as many adults do, nutritional supplements can help you balance out what you are putting into your body while helping your body return to its healthiest set point. Although supplements should not be seen as the mainstay of a healthy weight loss plan, they can serve as supports for your goals.
A morning protein shake can be a fast and easy way to put you on the right path for the rest of the day while also helping you feel full until lunch. Opt for natural and minimally processed supplements, and always research brands and ingredients carefully. Of course, be careful of overdoing it with supplements as you should be getting the majority of both macronutrients and micronutrients from the foods you eat.
While giving up on your weight gain during this season is clearly not the answer for long-term health, you should also be careful of going too far the other way and becoming obsessed about your weight or appearance. Instead, focus on your priorities and ensure that you are creating a lifestyle that focuses on long-term, sustainable health and wellness. By changing a few of your priorities and creating a simple daily plan that works for you, you will find that you can lose weight, feel better about yourself and decrease your risk of numerous chronic diseases in the future.