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We all did it. We all found ourselves in the middle of the pandemic, struggling to stay with a meal plan or diet when all we wanted to do was wrap ourselves in a blanket and binge on comfort food. 2020 was just that kind of year. If you gave in and ate junk food, ate more than normal, or just otherwise changed your eating habits for whatever reason, you’re not alone.
A recent Harris poll, taken in February 2021, showed that 61% of responding adults reported undesired weight changes. That’s 6 out of 10 people experiencing some kind of weight fluctuation! Roughly 42% gained weight, with the median amount being roughly 15 pounds. The other 18% lost weight. So, as lockdowns end or restrictions are at least loosened and life starts to sort of look normal, you might be in a place to think about losing the weight. So, what’s the best way to do it?
First, let me preface this by saying any quick diets will not magically help you. It probably took you most of the year to put the weight on, so don’t expect it to come off super-quickly. You’re going to have to make changes. And I know, that can be difficult when there is still so much uncertainty. But if you take these steps and do a little bit at a time, building up to a holistic program, you’ll create a plan that you can carry on with, no matter what else happens.
Being essentially locked in our houses gave us tacit permission to be lazy. We were so worried about everything we didn’t know that we forgot about what we did know. We were consumed by news. And to escape that, we binge-watched shows on Netflix we never would have watched in “normal” times (“Tiger King,” everyone?) While you may have started some new watching traditions, it’s time to reactivate your mind to focus on your health. Take the opportunity to stimulate your brain, look for new interests, build on or expand projects you started during the pandemic. The right mindset is key to everything else that follows. So, tell your brain it’s time to get motivated again.
Once you’ve got your mind on board, it’s time to get your body to follow. Don’t jump right back into the regimen you had before the pandemic. Your body won’t be ready for that. Start small and work back up to it. Walk around the block. Take the kids to the park (if they’re back open in your area). Play with the dog. Put on music and dance. Seriously, do anything you can to remind yourself to move around more.
Make it fun.
You may have a feeling of still not wanting to do much, as your brain may not want to cooperate. Find an activity that seems fun or interesting and go try it. Maybe you never had time to take a class before, or maybe you watched videos during the pandemic and saw things that looked intriguing. Now’s your chance to go big and try new things.
I know, seems the most obvious, right? But you may be underestimating just how much your eating habits changed during the pandemic. Think about it for a minute. Aside from the feelings I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, there were a lot of factors that changed the way we ate. It was more difficult to shop. Some items were in short supply. But it wasn’t just the food itself. Our schedules changed drastically. No more running the kids to practices or lessons. We worked from home and on no particular time schedule. For some, this change of pace meant more family dinners and better cooking opportunities, but for others it meant grazing all day because there was no structure.
Get back on track.
Even if you’re still working from home and schedules aren’t running at full speed, figure out a new schedule so that you have scheduled mealtimes. Make those times realistic so they can be maintained if the kids go back to in-person school, extracurricular activities restart, and offices reopen. Consistency will be a huge benefit moving forward.
It’s going to be difficult to get rid of the comfort food. Believe me, I understand. So, don’t go cold turkey. Maybe you start to phase it out. Finish the box of cookies you have, but don’t buy a new box the next time you go to the store. Stay away from the frozen stuff that was easier to have on hand. Get used to buying vegetables and fresh meats again. Just like with exercise, this could be a great time to experiment with new types of cuisine or spices.
Most importantly in all of this is to allow yourself some grace. As I said, you didn’t put the weight on instantly and it’s not going to come off in a snap. But regaining a sense of control by waking up your mind, exercising, and planning your eating can at least give you a start.
Then, when you feel that you have a firm grip on the beginnings of those things, expand on them…slowly. You’re probably going to slide, and that’s okay too. It’s been a rough year, and we’re not out of the woods yet.
But you have to start somewhere. So, take the time, make a plan, take baby steps, and you’ll soon be on your way to losing those pandemic pounds.
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