I’m sure we’ve all seen the memes recently with the notes in front of the refrigerator that say “you just ate”. Or any other memes along similar lines referring to the excess eating while we are all sheltering at home. This new normal, and the easy access to snacks, can put just about anyone out of their regular healthy food routine.
And for those of you who have been deemed essential workers at this time, first and foremost, thank you. I recognize that most of you who are keeping us fed, taking care of our health, and protecting our cities are likely working longer hours and under more stress than before. And I think I can speak for most people when I say we are truly appreciative of the work you are doing every day!
But for those of us who have switched to a completely remote lifestyle, the drastic change can throw anyone for loop. Especially when it comes to your daily food routine. Most of us are not used to having the kitchen so easily accessible and a lack of a typical schedule. This does have the ability to lead to some excess weight gain during our new normal. Similar to when you used to hear people warning about the freshman 15 when you go off to college, I’ve started to hear reference to the COVID 15 warning about excess weight gain when dealing with our new situation.
Avoiding excess weight gain is important to overall health. Excess weight gain has been associated with a number of health risks, including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and others. And I think we’ve all seen with the impact of the coronavirus that conditions such as these can put you at higher risk for a more severe infection during this time.
Here I’ve included 10 tips to avoid putting on excess weight during this time. We are all waiting for the stay at home measures to be lifted and to start getting back to routines. But these tips hold true too for anything that tends to disrupt our regular schedules, which can include the holidays, vacations, and summer break.
10 Tips to Avoid Gaining Excess Weight
1. Stay Active
This may not seem as easy as before, with all of the gyms closed due to social distancing requirements, but there are many ways to stay active while at home. Staying active has additional benefits over just burning calories to help avoid excess weight gain. It can help relieve stress during this time and help you maintain a positive outlook. It can also help you sleep better, including falling asleep faster and sleeping more soundly. This leads to improved energy levels throughout the day and better focus on whatever your time demands.
Now, if you are binge-watching the next thing on Netflix, and yes, I’m even referring to Tiger King, at the end of the day and feeling completely drained, I hear you. There are so many different demands on us during this time, remote work environments, homeschooling your kids, etc. that it may seem like fitting in a workout is impossible. If this is you, then know there are ways to squeeze in being active without committing to a 30 min workout. You can take walks with your family (while minding social distance from others), take a few extra trips up and down your stairs throughout the day, or clean a room in your home. All of these, while maybe not considered a workout, keep you up and active during the day.
Take breaks from Screen Time
Especially during this time, we all need to focus on taking breaks from our screens. It is so easy to get lost in a show, the emails that constantly pile up, or the work to-do list that somehow never seems to end. But I think we all know that too much screen time is not healthy for us. I set a timer on my phone for 30 min, to remind me to stand up and stretch (maybe even take a few trips up and down the stairs) and just take a brief break from staring at a screen for too long.
Workouts that can be done from home
If you are someone who does have the time to workout during the day but don’t know where to start. I have a few posts that review apps and different workouts that can all be done with minimal equipment from home. Social media, including Instagram and YouTube, also have a lot of great fitness instructors leading workouts throughout the day. These are all great options to help guide you through new ways of staying active at home.
2. Keep Healthy Snacks in the House
I seriously love my snack breaks as much as the next person. There is something delightful about taking a snack break or a few snack breaks (if you are pregnant like me) throughout the day. One of the keys to actually making a snack break satisfying and nutritious is to make sure that healthy snacks are available. Chips, cookies, and other highly processed foods are often not satisfying but are full of empty calories. However, what they are, is easy and convenient to grab.
I find that if I have healthy snacks readily available, I am much more likely to choose that option than if it takes a lot of time to prepare my snack. Another great way to avoid the unhealthier, processed snack options is to just not buy them in the first place. If they aren’t around my house, I find that I don’t miss them. Some great healthy snack options that I love are: grapes (I keep a bowl of washed grapes in my fridge and go grab a handful every now and then), whole-grain crackers and cheese, an apple with peanut butter, and cut veggie sticks and hummus. There are a ton of other options out there, but the higher fiber content combined with the protein content of these snacks will leave you feeling full and not running back to the fridge 30 minutes later.
3. Drink water
Sometimes dehydration can manifest itself as hunger. So by drinking a glass of water, you may find that this is filling enough that you do not need a snack. And we all could use more water to stay adequately hydrated throughout the day.
The benefits of hydration are numerous, as water is a necessary component of every function in our body. The average person needs about 8, 8 oz. glasses of water per day or about 2 liters. Some individuals may need more or less depending on certain conditions. Being pregnant, I need a fair bit more water than the average person currently. I carry a water bottle with me everywhere I go to make sure I am getting enough water during the day. And I have noticed that on days where I do not drink quite enough, I do tend to feel a bit hungrier.
4. Avoid stress eating
There is no doubt about it. This is an extremely stressful time for everyone. We are worried about our own health and safety and the health and safety of those we love. What we used to think was normal has been entirely thrown out of whack, and we are all trying to get used to the new normal. It’s no wonder that anyone would feel a little more stressed during this time. Stress eating, or as its also called emotional eating, is a method many use to cope with the onset of new stressors.
To avoid stress eating, ask yourself if you are really hungry. If you ate recently and you don’t have a growling stomach, then likely it is not hunger. Another way to help avoid stress eating is to find other outlets for your stress. Some great options are yoga or meditation, or even having a solo dance party to your favorite song. All of these help alleviate some of the stress and make you feel a bit better.
I know I have had increased worry about the health of my pregnancy during this time and what it will be like to deliver at the hospital. When I get overwhelmed, I find that spending time on my yoga mat helps relieve some of these anxieties. It’s also important to have someone to talk to. Between my husband and my mom, I am so grateful to be able to discuss my worries and fears with them and have them help me through this time.
5. Get enough sleep
Recently, our local TV news station has been focused on covering stories relating to how the coronavirus is affecting sleep. The stress of how this virus is changing our daily lives and the lack of typical routines has been leading to sleep difficulties for many people. This can include both not sleeping enough and over-sleeping.
Scientific sleep deprivation studies have shown that it can impact levels of specific signals in the brain that trigger the feelings of hunger and satiety. A lack of sleep can lead to increases in the hormone that triggers hunger leading to the potential to overeat and gain weight. Other changes in brain chemistry due to lack of sleep also leads to choosing unhealthy, weight-gain promoting food choices.
To help improve your sleep during this time, try to create a routine for your new normal by going to bed and waking up at similar times every day. To limit some of the stress during this time, try to minimize how much time you spend watching the news. If you are interested in updates, rather than leaving the news on all day, you can check an online, reliable news source. Another tip to help improve sleep is to turn off all devices about an hour before bedtime.
6. Concentrate on high fiber foods
High fiber foods, which include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, are great healthy food choices that will keep you full. By including more of these options at every meal and snack, it will help keep you feeling full and avoiding another trip to the pantry. High fiber foods also function to slow the absorption of sugars in our diet. This helps prevent any feelings of energy crashes after eating.
7. Limit alcohol intake
During the coronavirus, I’ve seen statistics that alcohol sales are up by around 40%. While this may seem like a good way to unwind after these unconventional days, limiting alcohol intake can help avoid excess weight gain in a multitude of ways. First, alcohol is considered to be empty calories. It provides no nutritional value while often being highly caloric. Substituting in a glass of water for an alcoholic drink can not only help keep you hydrated but also limit the intake of calories.
Alcohol can also interfere with sleep and lead you to make unhealthier food choices. I’ve covered why both of these can lead to excess weight gain in previous tips, so I won’t go into further detail here. However, these are also important reasons why you should limit alcohol intake to avoid excess weight gain.
8. Mindful Eating
I’m sure we’ve all done this before, but you sit down to watch a movie, and before you know it, you’ve eaten half a bag of chips. And it’s not because you were that hungry. Being mindful when you eat is important, so that you notice when you’re full. Multitasking while eating, this includes eating at your desk while working and eating while watching TV, can often lead to overeating.
By making meals and snack breaks specific times of the day, it allows you to focus on the meal, and possibly spend quality time with family. Mindful eating allows you to focus on what you are eating, and through that, be able to pay attention to feelings of fullness. If you do want to have a snack while watching TV, a great idea is to pre-portion out the snack to avoid overeating.
9. Eat Breakfast
I’m sure somewhere as kids, we all heard the saying, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. And while everything we eat is important to nourish our bodies, there is a reason that saying came about. Having a meal, or even a snack, earlier in the day, can help avoid overeating later in the day. It also helps support your energy needs to work and stay active.
Some of the best options I have found for a healthy breakfast include a mixture of complex carbs and protein. This keeps you feeling satisfied and doesn’t spike your blood sugar early in the day. One of my go-to breakfast meals is oatmeal with berries and nut butter. Yum!!
10. Keep a routine
This may seem like quite a difficult task right now with how many things have been altered in our lives. Whether that’s now having to home school your kids or getting used to working from home, there is a lot of change. One of the best ways to help adjust to so many new things is to set a routine. And a lot of this can revolve around mealtimes.
By setting up mealtimes for the family, it can help set up some other routines that help us all adjust to the new normal. Establishing meal times is also a great way to start meal planning for the week. Planning out your meals helps you to make healthy choices and avoid impulse buying while at the grocery store. It is especially beneficial to meal plan during this time, since having a specific list will help minimize the amount of time you need to spend in a grocery store.
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