Posted 1 month ago
Managing the Quarantine 15
Quarantine 15, quarantine 20, or even quarantine 40 are the catchphrases for weight gain during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whatever you call it, the weight gain, that many have experienced over the past 10 months or so since the pandemic hit, is just what happens when your routines and lifestyle have been altered and the refrigerator and pantry are always just a few steps away.
COVID-19 has created the proverbial perfect storm for weight gain.
First, there is the need for comfort food as most of us turn to food as a way to deal with both boredom and stress. Sadly, it is not just any food that will work for most of us, it is comfort foods – foods higher in carbs – foods that taste good and make us happy. There is research that supports that these foods can activate the brain’s reward system, which may lead to overeating.
A recent study showed that since March 2020, there have been increased purchases of processed, shelf-stable, calorie-dense comfort foods, alcohol, and fast food/take-out orders. Nabisco, the company that makes snacks like Chips Ahoy! Teddy Grahams, Ritz cracker, and Oreos had a great 2020 with sales in North America jumping more than 16% from 2019. When we started to go into lockdown, we stocked up on shelf-stable, comfort foods.
Adding to the changes in our eating, the gym closures followed by restrictions and even the park closures. Despite the best efforts of the gyms, working out with a mask just is not exercise-friendly for most of us.
Not to mention the stress; whether it is increased stressed for parents who suddenly have to work at home while teaching their children or stress resulting from the uncertainty the pandemic has created or financial stress so many are facing as a result of job loss. All this stress can affect weight.
The causes of weight gain and obesity are multifactorial but there is no question that stress is involved. Not only are there changes in our bodies, but we turn to food as a way of coping with the stress. There are metabolic changes associated with the “fight –or –flight” syndrome. When you are stressed, your body will sense it and it will not give up any calories when it thinks it needs them for energy for running away or combat.
Despite all this, losing weight during the pandemic is possible. Start by weighing yourself; weighing yourself is both therapeutic and diagnostic. People who weigh themselves are more likely to keep their weight down. If you need to lose fifteen or more pounds, even with the restrictions and changes of the pandemic, it is doable.
However, do not expect it to come off as easily as it seemed to be put on. The first step is to come up with a plan. Build new routines around the four pillars of weight loss: diet, exercise, sleep and stress management.
You have to have routines and you should start with the basics that mean getting up at the same time each morning, showering and getting dressed, eating a good breakfast, and having a plan for the day. Purpose gives direction, and that direction helps when it comes to weight management. If weight loss is your goal, aim for a loss of one or two pounds per week; this is not only a reasonable goal for a loss but also a maintainable loss. If you are losing more than that per week it may not all be from fat loss.
Here are some strategies to help shed those pounds and keep them off.
Create a daily routine
Set a daily wake-up time and bedtime
Plan your meals ahead, if you can
Dress up for work every morning even if you are working from home- if you wear sweatpants or other loose-fitting clothes every day it is easy to ignore weight gain.
Think about what you are eating
Control your portions. Try using a salad plate instead of a dinner plate. You can also drink a big glass of water before you eat, wait about 15 minutes to see if you are still hungry.
Eat proteins first- proteins will help you feel fuller and may result in eating less volume. Too many carbohydrates can cause swings in blood sugar and leave you feeling like you have less control over your hunger.
Be sure to include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean meats
Shop carefully, if you think you will eat a whole package of cookies or a whole bag of chips in one sitting, do not buy them.
Schedule regular exercise
If social distancing and restrictions are keeping you from the gym or exercise classes, find other forms of activity. This is the perfect time of year here in the Valley of the Sun for hiking, try online exercise classes, take a walk or bike ride. After record-breaking heat this summer – that likely contributed to that quarantine weight gain, it is perfect weather for getting moving outdoors, and for now, parks and trails are open.
While exercise is not the main factor for weight loss, it does contribute to loss and more importantly keeping weight off.
Exercise can also help with mood, stress management, and improved sleeping.
The recommendations are to have at least 150-300 minutes (three and a half to five hours) of moderate-intensity exercise per week. Breaking exercise up into smaller time periods may be helpful to get the recommended amount per week.
Get a good night’s sleep
Most of us need seven to eight hours of sleep per night.
Set a daily wake-up time and bedtime
Dim the lights 2 hours before bedtime and turn off electronics at least 1 hour before bedtime
Avoid stimulants like caffeine after 2 pm
Avoid alcohol which can disturb your sleep as well as make you dehydrated which may prompt eating
While there is still much uncertainty in our lives today, and we are not sure when we will be back to “normal” or even what our new normal will be; whatever your goals may be, now is a good time to assess your lifestyle and focus on those things that you can control and that will keep you healthy.
Kindra is a Registered Dietitian. She received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Nutritional Science from California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo and her Master’s of Science Degree in Nutrition from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Kindra has almost 20 years of experience working in Healthcare and Nutrition and over ten years of teaching experience, specializing in courses related to nutrition, health, and wellness at the university level.
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