At this time of year, we often find ourselves setting new year’s resolutions. This year it seems harder than ever given the rough 2020 we’ve all experienced.
Gaining weight is one of those rough impacts that many people experienced as a result of quarantining. According to an article in University of Missouri Health Care the Quarantine 1” has become a common way to refer to weight gain during the COVID-19 pandemic. MU reported that in a poll of WebMD readers, nearly half of the women and one-fourth of the men said they’d gained weight due to Covid restrictions.
Furthermore, as reported in a Healthline article Dr. Len Horovitz, an internist and pulmonologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, says that the average patient has put on “anywhere from 3 to 15 pounds…My patients will often recount how it is they got that way,” he says.
What has caused this unusual weight gain this year? Dr. Horovitz posits the following:
- Stress eating
- Challenges finding healthy food
- More time spent sedentary
- Increased stress from the pandemic and recession can make it difficult for people to focus on healthy eating and working out.
According to Deborah B. Horn, DO,an obesity medicine specialist and medical director of the Center for Obesity Medicine and Metabolic Performance (COMMP) at UT Physicians, goes on to state that some other factors contribute to the added weight:
- Working from home
- Constant access to a kitchen
- Snacking on highly processed foods
- Limited access to gyms
- The ways their own genetics and physiology respond to changes
Many people know that exercise plays a big part in helping them succeed in losing weight and keeping it off. With gyms being closed last year many who depend on the gym to use machines or engage in group fitness classes suffered without having the inspiration to work out with others in the way they were accustomed.
Furthermore, having to stay at home caused a whole new realm of stress especially for workers who need the inspiration and camaraderie from teammates to succeed at work.
Under the best of times, stress can cause weight gain, but in 2020 stress was at an all-time high.
So how can you reverse the negative trends of quarantine eating in 2021?
Here are my top 4 tips:
- Choose the right weight loss program for you.
There are several options I recommend. First, you can go it alone, knowing the basics of healthy eating, which include:
- Lean Proteins
- Healthy Fats
- Whole Grains
- Legumes and Beans
- Plenty of Water
Second, a newer popular program called Noom splits foods into three groups: green, yellow and red foods. Green represents the foods you can eat in large quantities, yellow, medium amounts, and red, small amounts. Then you receive a tip every morning based in psychology. (www.Noom.com)
Third, Weight Watchers, which has been around since the 60’s and is constantly being improved, is about not only counting points, a value which is assigned to every single food except zero-point foods (similar to the green list in Noom), but also support in the form of weekly meetings, where you can share your successes and your struggles. At this time, there are Zoom-based WW meetings all over the country and even some socially-distanced in-person meetings. (www.WeightWatchers.com)
You have to figure out which plan will be right for you. Both Noom and WW are offering new year’s deals right now.
Whatever you do, take a small action step to get started. Visit the website of each and make a decision or find a plan more suited to your lifestyle.
In my new book, Banish Burnout Toolkit, there are other suggested ways to improve your overall eating habits. See Tool #4 Practice Self Care.
- Find your Intrinsic Motivation.
You need to find the real motivation to actually work the food program you have chosen. There’s getting on track and then there is staying on track.
We all know what to eat, we just have a hard time sticking with a healthy food plan.
Getting and staying on track has to come from your intrinsic motivation. What does that mean? Intrinsic motivation refers to finding the internal reward for engaging in a behavior. It has to do with the internal feeling of joy or pleasure from reaching a goal you set for yourself. Only you know what that motivation is. It’s about self-satisfaction.
Think about how good you will feel once you reach your goal weight. And what is the reason you want to get there? Is it the way you feel physically from being able to bend over and tie your shoes without getting out of breath? Is it the fact that there will be less plaque built up in your arteries and less fat around your internal organs? Or is it simply the feeling of pride from taking care of yourself and liking the way you look.
Write down all of your thoughts about what your intrinsic motivators might be and how your life will be improved by reaching your goal weight.
- Recruit an Accountability Partner.
If getting on track comes from intrinsic motivation, staying on track while building new healthy habits can be aided by finding an accountability partner, someone to help you and whom you can help. Staying on track can be so much easier when you have someone to share struggles and successes with.
Not only can you help each other with food ideas and overcoming food challenges, such as unhealthy snacking in the afternoon or evening, you can support each other with exercising. You can find tips on how to recruit an accountability buddy in my Banish Burnout Toolkit, Tool #6, Enlist an Accountability Partner.
- Engage in fitness.
Engaging in regular physical activity can support your weight loss journey in several ways. First, to the degree that you do not eat the calories that you burn, you will speed up your weight loss in a healthy way. Second, physical activity improves the health of every function in the body from the heart and lungs to the muscle tissue and all the way down to the flow of fresh blood from the extra pumps of the heart. All that extra blood flow supplies desperately needed oxygen to regenerate and rejuvenate the cells. Exercise is the key to healthy weight loss and reversing the aging process. As you may know exercise also boosts your mood through the release of endorphins. Engaging in physical activity is like taking a happiness pill.
How much and what type of exercise should you get?
The Centers for Disease Control and the American Heart Association recommend 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of high intensity. In addition, they recommend one to two hours of weight training per week.
Let’s start with the aerobic exercise.
To keep it simple, I break 150 minutes into 5 days. That gives you 30 minutes per day. Choose a time you will really do your exercise. There are many options. You could sign up for a Zoom-based fitness class, of which there are many right now. Alternatively, you can take your accountability partner for a walk with you, using Zoom, Facetime, Skype or the app of your choice. Or you can use your walking time to listen to a business podcast or a fiction audio book. Finally you can use walks to check in and bond with your life partner at the end of the day.
For those of you who have seen me speak, you will recall that I often talk about the fact that the exercise has to be fun or you will not stick with it. Talk with your accountability buddy and come up with some ideas.
Write those down in your journal or log book. If you have my Banish Burnout Toolkit there is room to write your plan in the Fitness section of Tool #4, Practice Self Care.
The final piece of the puzzle in terms of making fitness stick is to schedule it at a time that really works for you. Maybe it’s weekend days at 10:00 am or weeknights at 6:00 pm. Whatever time you choose, put it on your calendar.
What about strength training?
In terms of strength training you don’t have to go out and buy fancy weights, unless you want to. You can use your own body weight. I recently blogged about a quick method called “Nickels and Dimes.” You can find that blog post here: https://janicelitvin.com/fitness/
In summary, setting new year’s resolutions this year may feel more difficult than in past years. Try to stick with them past the common one-month threshold. By using the tips I’ve discussed above, finding the weight loss program and fitness regimen that will work for you and your lifestyle, connecting to your intrinsic motivators, and engaging with an accountability buddy you will find success because you will stick with your goals for the long term.