The American Psychological Association conducted a survey of more than 3,000 people. Roughly 61% reported they have gained unwanted weight since the pandemic began.
Why did this happen?
When the pandemic hit, our world was flipped upside down, and practically overnight. Businesses closed, people lost jobs, and stay-at-home orders were put into place. Not to mention, a virus that we didn’t know much about, began to spread. That’s pretty stressful. Many people turn to food when they are stressed. More people also began working from home. This took a lot of movement out of our days and gave more people more sedentary lifestyles. Plus, working from home made getting to the fridge a lot easier than it is when we are in an office. When we take in more calories than we burn, we gain weight. It’s simple math.
What do you do now?
If you find yourself in unfamiliar territory when it comes to weight gain during this pandemic, here are a few tips to get the process started.
Get up out of your chair and move. You need to move more to burn more. And you don’t need to hit the gym to do it. Sure, regular workouts in the gym are great. I encourage that. But getting outside for a walk, jog, or bike ride can be just as good. Possibly better, because you are getting fresh air and sunlight at the same time, which are two things we all need. And while you’re at it, get up and take a few steps around your house or office during your workday once in a while. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park your car at the far end of a parking lot so you have to walk further. Sneak in some extra movement anywhere you possibly can. It doesn’t have to be complicated. And you’ll be surprised how much a little extra movement here and there can add up.
Start writing down your intake
Don’t change anything yet, just start writing down everything you eat and drink. You can also use a food diary app if you like. It’s pretty eye-opening to see it all written in front of you. And if you use a food diary app, you’ll see how many calories you are taking in every day. Once you have documented for a few days (I, typically, recommend a full week), it’s easier to see where you can make some cuts and healthier swaps. For example, if you are eating dessert every night, that could be an easy one to cut out. Or maybe swapping your lunchtime chips with some fruit or a small salad. Small changes can make a big difference.
Clean out your fridge and pantry
If there is junk food in your house that you can’t resist, get it out. It’s doing you no good by sitting there and taunting you. If you know it’s there, you’ll want to eat it. Get rid of it. Special times are coming back our way soon. Save the special treats for a special day.
It helps a lot to have a plan, so plan out your meals and your workouts. I like to sit down at night and plan what I am going to eat the next day, as well as scheduling my workout. I put my workout in my calendar and I document everything I am going to eat the next day in my food diary app. Now, all I have to do is stick to my plan.
Cut back on alcohol (and other high-calorie drinks)
The pandemic gave us the ‘Quarantini’. Which would be funnier if it wasn’t so true. According to an article published by NPR on September 11, 2020, per Nielsen’s market data, total alcohol sales, outside of bars and restaurants, increased by roughly 24% during the pandemic. And sales of spirits with a higher alcohol content increased even more, by over 27%.
I am not saying you have to eliminate it (even, I, love me a nice cocktail every now and then). But it can be shocking how many calories one can consume by drinking. And not just alcohol, but any high-calorie drink. Sodas, juices, and sugary coffees and teas all add up fast. Some people drink so many of these types of drinks, cutting back on that alone could help them lose some weight. If this is you, start with scaling back by one of these drinks per day. As you get used to it, gradually begin to cut back by one or two more per day.
Drink more water instead
I know that water isn’t as tasty or as exciting as those sweet drinks I am suggesting you cut back on. But staying hydrated can help you feel less hungry (and it’s calorie-free!). Roughly 60% of our body is water. We need to keep water flowing through us in order to flush out toxins and waste, as well as keep our organs functioning properly. If you need to put a number on it, men should drink about 15.5 cups a day. Women should drink about 11.5 cups a day. Shooting for half your body weight in ounces per day can also be a good goal. If you just can’t do plain water, there are lots of unsweetened flavored seltzers out there that can help give you a little something. Adding some fruit to your water like citrus fruits and berries can add a little flavor as well.
Rate your hunger
Any time you feel like getting up and heading to the fridge, stop for a second and ask yourself ‘Am I really hungry?’. Rate your hunger on a scale of 1-5, 1 being hangry, 5 being overfull. Go for a snack or meal when you are somewhere in the 2 level. Try not to let yourself get to a 1, you’ll want to eat everything in sight. We don’t want that.
When you do eat, rate your hunger again when you are finished. Try not to let yourself get to a 5. Overeating to the point of fullness isn’t good either because now you have taken in more calories than your body really needs. Try to keep yourself in the 2-4 range throughout the day. This way, you’ll take in just the right amount that you need and you won’t get hungry. No one likes hungry.
If you have some unwanted weight gain during the pandemic, don’t panic. Remember that you are not alone and lots of people are experiencing the same. It doesn’t mean it will stay on your body forever, but you do need to take action and make some changes in order to get the unwanted weight off. Small changes can make a big difference. Take a good hard look at how life is going for you now. Look for ways you can make some small changes and you’ll be on your way to a healthier you.