Preventing weight gain during COVID-19 pandemic

by Jill Fleming, MS, RD/LD

Many people are experiencing more worry and stress in their lives as they look for ways to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and the “new normal”. Unfortunately, a lot of those people may be turning to eating to fill the time and escape from the anxiety. Healthy eating and exercise plans have been replaced by comfort-foods and being more sedentary, as we absorb the daily news feed updates. It’s hard to cope with social-distancing from our loved ones, plus being bored and not wanting to reach for a favorite snack or two each day. While an occasional treat is usually not a problem, regular consumption can quickly add extra weight, as these processed foods are loaded with calories. Processed foods and baked goods increase stomach fat, because they create a yo-yo effect on a person’s blood sugar and insulin levels.

In order to prevent weight gain, it is important to get back to some of your healthy eating and lifestyle choices. Here is a short list of my best recommendations to help you pivot back toward feeling in control of your health.

1. Plan what you will eat tomorrow. This sounds really simple, but most people are waiting until they are hungry to decide what they want to eat. You will not be thinking clearly once your hunger signals kick in, but if you have a plan, you will be more likely to make better choices.
2. Eat a vegetable or fruit with each meal or snack. When you fuel your body with these nutrition power-houses, your cells will be more nourished, which will decrease your appetite. The fruit will also help satisfy your craving for sweets, which is often higher with stress.
3. Ask yourself, “Am I really hungry right now?”  If it has not been at least three to four hours since your last meal, you may just be bored. Find something else to do, such as clean a closet or take a bubble bath.
4. Get outside at least once each day.  The fresh air and sunshine helps improve attitude and lessens stress. The sun on your skin also helps boost your vitamin D level. Remember to apply sunscreen if you plan to be in the sun longer than 20 minutes.
5. Move your body; you can do this at the same time as your outside time. Exercise helps pump feel-good hormones throughout a person’s body. Sweating flushes toxins out of your body as well.
6. Hydrate your body with water. Drink half of your body weight in ounces of water. If you weigh 200 pounds, you should drink 100 ounces daily. Limit added sugars and artificial sweeteners.
7. Give your body enough rest. Ideally, you should sleep seven to eight hours per night. If you are not able to sleep this long, you may want to take a short cat-nap during the day, but limit it to 20 minutes or less.

As you adapt to the “new normal” of the pandemic, it is important to take good care of your health. You will feel better and experience less anxiety during the course of these uncertain times. You will also prevent unnecessary weight gain and protect yourself from being vulnerable to viruses and other illnesses.

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