By Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD
Boredom, stress and anxiety are common triggers for emotional or mindless eating. Right now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems like many of us are struggling to make sense of this new world while being told to stay home. The combination of the stress, plus food being available all day long, may have you reaching for snacks often. Not to mention, many of us are sitting on the couch in our stretchy pants, which means we may not notice the extra pounds accumulating.
No one knows how long this crisis will last, it may be weeks or months. But, once this is over you probably don’t want to emerge from the house with an extra 10 to 15 “quarantine” pounds and be unable to get back into your work pants. Pajamas, afterall, are not proper office attire. So, here are a few simple tips you can implement while you are stuck at home to at least maintain your weight during this difficult time.
It was surprising to visit the grocery store and see empty shelves of pasta, canned goods and processed foods. Yet, the produce section remained well-stocked. It's totally understandable for people to stock up on foods that won’t spoil and other pantry staples, since you do want to minimize trips to the store right now.
But fruits and vegetables are the foods you need right now. These foods are high in immune-supporting vitamins and minerals, but low in calories. While it may not be feasible to pick up fresh produce every few days, frozen or canned offer great alternatives.
Add frozen berries to your daily protein shake. Make a big batch of vegetable soup that can be frozen and thawed when you are ready to eat. If you do want to keep fresh produce, stock up on heartier plants that last a long time in the fridge, like winter squashes, carrots, apples and oranges. Aim to eat at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day to cut calories and support your immune system.
Mindfulness has never been more important than it is now. It is so easy to let stress and emotions take over. But mindless eating can leave you staring at an empty bag of chips, not even remembering you ate them..
Instead, practice mindfulness around your food. This means checking in with yourself before eating. Are you eating because you’re hungry, or because you just looked at the latest coronavirus updates? If you are not hungry, yet find yourself in the pantry, look for an alternative activity to manage your stress. Maybe call a friend, step outside for a few minutes or take a bath. These activities will help manage anxiety better and prevent you from eating calories that you don’t need.
When you’re stuck at home, it can be tempting to just sit around binging on tv. But if you have more free time now, this is a great opportunity to get moving. Start your day with a neighborhood walk before you do anything else, or visit a local park with walking trail. You can effortlessly socially distance yourself in nature, and it's great for your mental health as well.
Many gyms and fitness websites are offering free, at-home workouts during this time. Peloton, Nike and Daily Burn are all offering extended trial periods over the next few months. Many of these websites have apps that can be easily accessed for home workouts.
The best thing you can do right now is be nice to yourself. These are unprecedented times: Don’t beat yourself up if you do gain a few pounds. Focus instead on doing things that bring you joy and peace. Don’t check the news constantly if it is stressing you out. The most important thing right now is to take care of your mental health, and seek help if you need it. Eventually, gyms will reopen, grocery trips won’t be so scary and life will go back to a new “normal” where you can focus on your weight-loss goals again.
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