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3 ingredients to help you lose the ‘Quarantine 15’

By Michelle Rogers, CPT | June 3, 2020 | 5 min read | Healthy Lifestyle, Coronavirus

woman eats pizza at desk

With our state on lockdown over the past few months, it’s no wonder that many of us are snacking more and moving less. Our regular gyms are closed. We have easy access to the kitchen. And we are dealing with sudden and significant life changes.

On social media, memes and posts with #Quarantine15 have been trending, a twist on the legendary “freshman 15” pounds. If your pants are feeling a bit tighter these days, you’re far from alone.

At the same time, many of us have been dealing with stress and uncertainty. We have enough on us right now without loading on extra pressure or guilt regarding diet and exercise.

But the trouble with weight gain is that a few pounds here and there have a sneaky way of adding up to much more over time. And obesity can wreak havoc on your health—not just your waistline.

If the idea of trying to lose weight seems overwhelming right now, instead aim to maintain your current weight. Focus on building more self-care into your daily routine.

This includes moving more, fueling your body with good nutrition, and getting enough rest. To the degree that you can, try to cultivate inner peace. Make it about feeling better and taking care of yourself, rather than just the number on the scale.

When you change unhealthy habits into healthier ones, in time you’ll see a difference on the scale, too. And you’ll start feeling better, inside and out.

Here’s a simple, three-ingredient recipe for heading off quarantine weight gain and stress, the healthy and sustainable way.

1. Move

Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous to be beneficial. If you’re not a regular exerciser, start with a short amount — say, 10 or 15 minutes a day. Find an activity you enjoy. Then schedule a time to do it every day so that it becomes a habit.

One of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to get started with exercise is walking. It requires no special equipment or skill. Simply get outside and go.

Any amount of exercise you do, no matter how small or light, will benefit you.

Over time, start increasing your daily amount of exercise in small increments. Aim to eventually work up to the current government physical activity guidelines. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 75 to 150 minutes per week of vigorous activity, or 150 to 300 minutes per week of moderate-level physical activity. You could easily accomplish this goal with a half-hour walk after dinner, five days per week.

READ: How to exercise at home with limited space and budget

2. Nourish

It’s possible to be overweight or obese and still be malnourished.

It’s natural that many of us have been reaching for comfort food and drinks at a time like this. The problem is, that tends to include things like cookies, potato chips, doughnuts, fast food, sodas or increased alcohol.

Comfort food could be contributing hundreds of extra calories a day to your intake. These foods also fail to provide the health benefits of more nutritious foods.

The good news is that making small changes to your diet and reducing portion sizes can make a big difference in terms of weight loss. Plus, research has found that long-term weight loss maintenance is associated with consuming foods with higher nutrient density.

Cutting back on sugar may even help to quell anxiety. What you eat directly affects the structure and function of your brain and, ultimately, your mood.

Rather than attempt to go on a restrictive diet during a time of crisis, are there areas where you can cut back on high-calorie food and drinks? Instead, can you increase your nutrition with a healthier choice? Your body—and mind—will thank you.

Read: How to quit sugar without going crazy

3. Rest

Did you know there is a connection between sleep and weight? Insufficient sleep has been linked to the development and management of a number of chronic diseases and conditions. The list includes obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and depression (CDC).

Poor sleep can increase your appetite, causing you to eat more calories. Sleep impacts two important hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin. Without enough sleep, the body makes more ghrelin and less leptin, which leaves you feeling hungry. When your appetite increases, it makes it difficult to watch your portions and resist temptations.

A study found that the brain’s reward centers are stimulated by food when you are sleep deprived, and concluded that reduced sleep may lead to overeating.

And of course, being tired from a lack of sleep can make you less motivated to exercise.

Adults should aim to get seven or more hours of sleep per night. So turn off the late night TV and get some shut-eye.

Get support if you need it

If you are struggling on your own, consider seeking the help of a qualified health and fitness professional. Many offer online services and can work with you remotely.

  • A certified personal trainer can create a personalized plan and work with you one-on-one to help you reach your goals and avoid injury.
  • A registered dietitian can develop a nutrition program that uniquely fits you.
  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina offers health coaching with certain plans. Log on to Blue Connect to find out if your plan offers health coaching.
  • Access nutrition counseling or mental health care services by calling the number on the back of your member ID card or use Find A Doctor to locate a provider.

Exercise, nutrition and rest all work together to help you maintain a healthy weight and good health in general. And that is a winning recipe!