Staying home is the best thing we can do right now. But stress coupled with a lack of routine and constant access to snacks creates a perfect storm for weight gain. Knowing it’s a perfect storm is the first step in weight maintenance.
Now you can make a plan. To address stress, make sure you’re practicing some form of mindfulness and getting some exercise every day. (Here are more tips for managing stress that work during a pandemic or during the holidays!)
Regarding routines, I think the answer is to make a new one. It doesn’t have to mimic the old, but it does have to help you be functional during the day, with designated blocks of time for things that need to get done, whether for work, pleasure, household, or community. Established mealtimes and sleep schedules are also important.
As part of a new routine, you might also establish new healthy habits. For one person I know, the inability to pick up a caramel latte reduces her intake by a couple hundred calories each day. Another has set a daily habit of a salad for lunch. And one more has upped her breakfast game with fresh fruit and granola, which she’s finding sets her up well for a day of intentional eating.
From the conversations I’ve had, it seems like snacking is the most pervasive eating issue at this time. If that’s true for you, there are a couple of tactics I’d recommend.
- If you’re eating because you’re bored, pick an activity that you’ll do instead, when the urge to snack hits, e.g., arm exercises, cleaning out a drawer, or calling a friend. The urge will pass, I promise.
- If you’re snacking because you’re a little hungry, respect the hunger but choose a low-calorie option. A cup of hot tea will both occupy you in the making and satisfy low-level hunger pangs. Celery or carrot sticks, a handful of nuts, or an apple can satisfy your craving and make you feel virtuous at the same time.
For me, eating and exercise go together. When I’m consciously caring for my body, I make better choices about food. I don’t want my exercise to go to waste! If you haven’t already, design a fitness routine that fits your circumstances, whether solitary hikes, yoga, or online dance class.
Finally, it’s okay to indulge in a favorite comfort food once in a while, even as you work to get yourself back on a more healthful, sustainable path. With some thoughtful consideration, you can make room for that Chunky Monkey ice cream—after your green salad lunch and your afternoon workout.
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten.