Coronavirus & weight loss: How to stay on track and avoid pandemic weight gain
By: Dr. Kim Feinstein, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist and Weight Loss Specialist
You are now dealing with an ever-changing environment and massive disruptions to your daily life:
You are quarantined, isolated from friends, and worried about your health, finances, and food supply. You are either working from home or temporarily unemployed. Your children are home from school and you have become their new teacher. Plus, if that is not enough, you are gravely concerned about the fast-spreading coronavirus. Talk about stress!
At this time, it is important to remember that you are not alone! This unprecedented reality is impacting many people’s lives, not to mention their health and diet regimes.
If you are like 27% of Americans, you seek comfort in food. In stressful times, food can be one of the easiest and fastest ways to self soothe. However, emotional eating causes rapid weight gain & erodes self-esteem by perpetuating feelings of guilt, shame, and inadequacy. Furthermore, it can weaken your immune system and worsen your mood. None of these outcomes are ideal at a time when trying to stay positive and optimistic is critical.
While you are quarantined and practicing social distancing, there are many ways to stay on track and continue achieving your goals. Here are some tips for keeping you on track when you and your loved ones are trapped at home:
Create structure and routines
Stick to your normal eating schedule and continue to follow your RM meal plan, even if your daily routine has changed. Also, make a commitment to schedule some form of exercise every day. Finding ways to stay active is beneficial for your mental and physical health in addition to your weight loss goals.
Much of emotional eating is unconscious and occurs automatically & mindlessly. Are you physically hungry or emotionally hungry? Always ask yourself this question before eating.
Hold yourself accountable
Always keep track of what you’re eating! A recent study actually suggests that self-monitoring what foods you consume is the most effective way to lose weight. The participants who lost the most weight in said 6-month study spent just under 15 minutes per day recording what they ate and drank.
Prevent emotional eating
In order to stop emotionally eating, you have to put something in its place. Write down a concrete list of all the healthy, non-food related activities that give you the relief you are seeking. Below are several strategies to help you end emotional eating!
- Try a short meditation. If you are overwhelmed with your new reality, put in your air pods and listen to a quick-guided meditation. Meditation has been proven to help curb binge eating, as well as reduce anxiety and depression.
- Work on a puzzle. Not only does this serve as an alternative to food, but it’s also a fun family activity to do while you are stuck at home.
- Call someone who always makes you feel better, play with your cat or dog, or ask a family member for a hug.
- Release your nervous energy by dancing to your favorite song, squeezing a stress ball, or taking a brisk walk.
- Pamper yourself with a warm cup of tea, take a bath, light some scented candles, or wrap yourself in a warm blanket.
- Read a book, watch a comedy show, or turn to another activity you enjoy.
The coronavirus pandemic is a very upsetting situation; however, we all have things for which to be grateful. Are you are grateful that your family remains healthy, or that you have a comfortable home or place where you can stay safe? Research indicates that a practicing gratitude impacts the neurological pathways that promote positivity. Thus, having a positive mindset is linked to healthier eating habits!
Maintain a positive attitude
Now more than ever it is important to maintain a positive attitude. If you stop and purposefully think positive thoughts and self-talk phrases, you can have a significant impact on your weight loss behaviors.
- This too will pass
- I can survive my feelings without eating
- I can and will continue to follow my RM meal plan
- Just because I want it, doesn’t mean I have to have it
- I can do this
For more helpful tips and resources on how to navigate COVID-19 while staying on track with your health, read these related stories:
- What to do when food supply is limited because of the coronavirus
- 3 ways to make canned vegetables taste fresh
- How to shop for food during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Things to do when you’re stuck at home during the COVID-19 outbreak
- Coping with emotional eating triggers