Pandemic and weight gain: Why you’ve gained weight and 7 ways to lose it

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Are you finding it harder to fit into your clothes during this isolation period?  

I bought these cute shorts a couple of months ago which fit me at the time, but now don’t zip up. I have gone up a whole dress size! But I have a plan and I’m going to let you in on it. First, why have we gained the weight?

Your routine has been flipped on its head

Pre-pandemic, you had a routine – you had certain habits. You may have dropped off the kids at school, arrived at work but not before you grabbed your coffee to go and worked through the day. These habits were once conscious decisions until the behaviours became automatic. So what happens when your routine changes completely? Those habits no longer apply to the extent they used to, and so your behaviours change. This is the root cause of the weight gain – you are adapting to your new routine while dealing with a variety of emotions and possibly juggling more than you used to. You may feel less in control and this leads to less movement, and more calories in. But more about this later.

The juggle is real

So I have always been curious about homeschooling but this pandemic taught me one thing, there is no way you can work full-time, homeschool and remain sane. I would set up my two kids on the computer with their schoolwork and walk to the next room for a skype meeting. I’d come back an hour later and find them playing Minecraft but I’d be heading into the next meeting so just pretended I didn’t see it and walked away. You know they’re about to tell you they’re hungry because they seem to do it on the hour – their hunger is insatiable, but it always seems to be when you’re in a meeting or on the phone. Sound familiar? You’ve got a lot on your plate, so who’s got time to exercise, plan out your meals for the week and eat mindfully? Which segways into…

Eating in isolation

When you’ve got a lot to juggle, you’re more likely to eat mindlessly on the run, or in front of the TV. If you have naughty snacks in the pantry, this is the period you’re most likely to turn to them. You’re trying to get by.

You’re also in the comfort of your home for most of the day, closer to the TV and so snacking on the couch has probably become more common for you. 

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You’ve been thrust into this situation without much warning, so it’s likely you haven’t really planned out a proper routine that involves healthy mindful eating and movement. 

To add to it, this is a stressful period for many – you may be worried about losing your job, many have already. You may be worried about you or your loved ones contracting the virus. And this is where emotional eating comes into play. Generally, humans associate food with pleasure. This is generally why people overeat and eat the wrong foods. It makes them feel better. But it’s not just emotional eating that leads to weight gain. Boredom can also play a role here – there’s less to do during isolation so you may be turning to food to keep yourself occupied. 

Less incidental exercise

Incidental exercise is the accumulation of small amounts of physical activity throughout the day. Running out the house, catching the bus, walking up the stairs, to the photocopier, to your colleagues desk. All this activity leads to lost calories. However now, you are rolling out of bed and onto the laptop, and the kitchen’s not far from the bedroom unless you’re beyonce. 

So how do you now turn things around? Here are 7 tips to help you lose weight in lockdown

  1. Plan the way to your goal weight

We are creatures of habit, and habits take about 8 weeks to form on average. If you’ve formed new habits which may include snacking on chips while binge watching the latest on Netflix, then you need to snap out of it. 

Creating a plan that details when, where and how you will burn calories, and what you’ll eat will increase your chances of weight loss success.

Plan your mindset, exercise regime, meals and snacks and you’re set.

  1. Eat well

In order to have energy to plan, prepare meals, exercise and do all the other day to day tasks, you need energy. You need to nourish your body’s cells so that they can perform all the biochemical reactions your body needs to manage stress hormones, burn fat, sleep well and do all the other jobs it needs to do for you to not just survive, but thrive. 

How? Make sure you eat well. A varied diet filled with colourful vegetables and fruit is the best way to do so. Vegetables should make up at least half of your plate. Colouring it up ensures that you’re consuming a variety of vitamins and minerals. For example, green vegetables contain chlorophyll which is rich in vitamins A, C, E and K and also Iron, Magnesium and Calcium. Orange vegetables contain carotenoids which are great for your immune system, eyesight, and high in vitamins A, C, Folate (B9) and potassium. Don’t forget to eliminate the badies, including refined sugar and processed foods and oils. 

  1. Reduce the temptation

The best way to avoid naughty foods is to keep them out of the house. Never go grocery shopping when you’re hungry. A well thought out shopping list based on your meal plans will help you to stick to the foods that will work for you, to help you lose weight. And those late night snacks can be healthy ones. Love chips? Why not switch it with popcorn. Ditch the biscuits and go for rice cakes and healthy dips with rice crackers.

  1. Exercise

Raise your heart rate for at least 30 minutes a day and the best way to do it is to find an exercise you enjoy. In addition, try to add strength training to your exercise plan. Building muscle helps to burn more fat and you’ll be stronger to boot. Here’s a tip: In meetings where possible, turn off your camera and exercise when you’re not contributing. Compound body exercises such as push ups, squats and planks will have you burning calories and building muscle – and you won’t be out of breath when you go to talk. You could even download the meeting app to your phone, to walk and talk.

Why not look at some free food planning and exercise apps like Cronometer, Freeletics, MyFitnessPal, Runtastic, My Virtual Mission and Couch to 5K.

  1. Reduce your stress levels

Did you know that stress makes you fat? Simply put, the biochemical reaction to stress releases a number of hormones that hold on to fat. So even if you are doing your best to shed the weight, stress can make it a lot harder. The harder it gets, the more dejected you may feel. I’ve heard many people say “But I’m just doing everything I can to lose weight, it’s just not coming off.” This may be part of the reason why.

How do you de-stress? Get in touch with your breath. There are hundreds of ancient breathing techniques many of which have been studied scientifically. Studies show that meditation, conscious breathing and slow and mindful exercises such as yoga and Tai Chi lower stress hormones and have a positive effect on the body and mind. 

  1. Sleep well

Sleeping adequately will help you to lose weight. One study showed that dieters who cut back on sleep felt hungrier and lost less fat than those who slept adequately. Health experts recommend that adults should aim for 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Sleep will help your muscles recover and grow more effectively, and we know an increase of muscle mass leads to fat loss. Encourage your body to produce melatonin, the sleep hormone, by switching off the screens at least half an hour before bedtime. The blue light emitted from screens delays the release of melatonin and also affects the quality of sleep. If you have thoughts running through your head, simply meditate. Also, watch your intake of caffeine and other stimulants, particularly after 2pm.

  1. Visualise your ideal body

Your brain doesn’t know the difference between imagery and real life studies reveal. So when you visualise, you’re effectively priming yourself to take the action that you want to take. When you do, you will be more likely to stick to your plan. Research undertaken at the University of Plymouth in the UK found that participants who used a visualisation technique lost 5 times more weight on average, than those who voiced their motivations and goals.

Prove it to yourself: picture a juicy lemon. You cut it in half and the juices spill out. Now taste the lemon, shove that half a lemon into your mouth and start chewing. Close your eyes and imagine this for 30 seconds. Did you salivate? You bet you did. You tricked your brain into thinking it was real. So by visualising what you’ll look and feel like, do and experience when you’ve reached your goal weight, you’ll be increasing your chances of success.

There’s no time like the present. Plan today, start tomorrow. What are you waiting for?

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