By Daphne Baldwin Kornrich, MS, CSOWM, RDN, CDN
Quarantining in our homes with food all around us, combined with feeling stress, worry and uncertainty can be a recipe for emotional eating and weight gain. We may crave comfort foods such as sweets, starches or our favorite meals to console us and bring us back to a time when life was not so stressful. We may also be spending more time watching TV or on the computer, which can increase mindless snacking. Limited access to food in the grocery stores may lead us to eat take-out more often. In addition, our exercise routines have been disrupted, gyms are closed and we’re likely not taking as many daily steps. So, what can we do to reduce the risk of weight gain?
- Aim for three meals per day every 4-5 hours to avoid long periods without food.
- Take inventory of your kitchen to see what you have on hand, noticing if you have enough nutrient dense food
- Keep nutrient poor snacks and “trigger” foods out of site. Availability can lead to increased consumption, and calories can add up quickly, bite by bite.
- Use a list at the grocery store to stock up on nutrient dense foods such as lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, nuts, beans and veggies. Focus on what you need rather than what you want in the moment.
- Use this opportunity to cook more. Try incorporating different colors, flavors and textures and get the family involved. It will not only be a learning experience but also a bonding opportunity. You may even enjoy your cooking more than take-out!
- Limit distractions (TV, phone, reading, etc.) while eating and focus on appreciating the food.
- Limit alcohol – it provides empty calories and weakens the immune system.
- Keep hydrated with water, seltzer, teas and other no-calorie beverages.
- Wear real pants rather than sweats, at least some of the time. If your clothes feel like they’re becoming tighter, it could become the gentle reminder you need to keep on track.
- If you’re spending most of the day sitting, get up every hour to stretch and move your body.
- Take a daily walk around your neighborhood. It’s amazing how many people are out walking and riding bikes!
- Consider virtual exercise classes online. There are a variety of options available and many are now free to help people through this time.
- Make fitness part or your new routine. The endorphins will help you feel great.
- Include deep breathing or meditation to help alleviate stress and promote clarity. There are many free meditation programs and apps available as well.
- Lack of sleep effects our hormones and can make us feel hungrier. In addition, staying up later increases the opportunity to eat.
- If your sleep routine has been disrupted, try setting a bedtime for yourself and stick to it.
- If stress is affecting your ability to fall asleep, consider following a guided meditation lying down.
- Prioritize getting quality sleep. Sleep provides many benefits including improved concentration, enhanced immune function and decreased risk of weight gain.
It’s important to recognize and accept that we’re not perfect and sometimes those cravings will win. Slip-ups will happen and the occasional indulgence is okay. Beating ourselves up afterwards will only increase stress. The key is to stay mindful and continue to move forward and stay focused. Weight gain does not have to be inevitable during the COVID-19 crisis. By focusing on nutrient dense food, movement, hydration, sleep and mindfulness we can support the health of our bodies and our immune system!
Daphne Baldwin Kornrich, MS, CSOWM, RDN, CDN has been a registered dietitian nutritionist for 30 years, working in a wide variety of clinical and outpatient settings. She currently specializes in bariatrics and weight management.