Weight gain is becoming a reality for many practicing social distancing. If you feel like your winter padding is now turning into spring rolls due to isolating at home, you’re not alone. The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has put most Americans in hibernation mode – allowing us to sleep, and eat, more than normal. We asked Kim Colegrove, Outpatient Dietary Educator with Renown Health Improvement Programs, how to avoid (or shed) the “quarantine 15” and she shares her advice below.
For many the “quarantine 15” is the perfect storm of three social distancing realities. First of all, if you are a non-essential worker it means you are at home – in close proximity to snacks. Secondly, you are off your usual, day-to-day activity routine. Whether exercising solo at gyms or participating in group fitness classes, movement is on the back burner. Finally, stress eating is real. Have you noticed the empty shelves down the snack aisle and ice cream section of your local grocery store? It’s no surprise that food can make you feel better in the moment, but there are healthier ways to manage emotional eating.
Read on below for tips on curbing those extra coronavirus calories.
Tips to Avoid Weight Gain During Social Distancing
1. Are you really hungry or are you thirsty?
Thirst and hunger signals are similar. When in doubt drink a glass of water and wait 10 minutes. If you still feel hungry grab a meal, or snack.
Also ask yourself, “Are you physically hungry or are you emotionally hungry?,” says Colegrove. “Physical hunger is gradual with cues from the stomach – grumbling, feeling empty, pain. Emotional hunger is sudden and often involves eating absent-mindedly. Try to distinguish between the two, and only eat when your body is physically hungry for nutrients.”
2. Make a meal plan and stick to it.
Now is the perfect time to eat healthier. Use the benefit of online grocery ordering to your advantage by ordering fruits and vegetables, avoiding the high calorie temptations. And you have more time to not only plan, but also make those healthy recipes you’ve been wanting to try. Avoiding weight gain doesn’t mean depriving yourself of yummy food. Swap the high calories of baking for healthy comfort food recipes.
3. Set a time limit.
Studies show people tend to make poor choices eating later in the evening. Late night snacking is a struggle for many. To combat this, try setting a ‘hard stop’ for your eating. Allow yourself only water or unsweetened, caffeine-free beverages after 7 p.m. each night.
4. Change your behavior.
Do you like to keep your hands busy? Take up coloring, fold laundry, write a note of gratitude or even paint your nails instead of reaching for the chips. “These activities can also help to manage your stress and mental health,” emphasizes Colegrove.” Stress plays such a major role in overall health and weight management, so properly managing stress, anxiety, and any other negative thoughts is crucial for staying healthy.” She suggests considering your stress outlet and finding a healthy solution. Ultimately managing weight gain starts with small, consistent behavior changes.
5. Visualize your end goal.
Where do you want to be health-wise when the restrictions of the coronavirus are over? Imagine how you want to be in four weeks and keep that imagine at the forefront of your mind. “Try writing down specific and realistic goals that will focus your efforts, and check in on them periodically to stay on track,” advises Colegrove.
6. Utilize available resources.
“Lots of gyms, apps, and other platforms are offering virtual classes for free so that you can stay active without even leaving your home. Going for walks, hikes, and bike rides are also still on the table! Just be sure to practice social distancing outdoors as well,” states Colgrove. “Bonus! Physical activity can boost mood and relieve stress, so it’s beneficial for overall health and wellness.”