COVID-19, aka the Coronavirus, is really rocking everyone's world (says Mr. Obvious). Your gym is closed, you are working from home, and you can't find toilet paper anywhere. On top of all of this, you're being tagged in 14 push up challenges on Instagram and you have the constant desire - and ability - to raid your fridge and pantry at all hours of the day. The push up challenges are not going to keep you from gaining weight if all you do is snack. You know this...but the siren song of your favorite flavor of Gold Fish is sometimes way too strong to resist. So, how do we maintain a healthy lifestyle while being confined to our homes 24/7? With a few simple - but not easy - strategies.
This comes from one of our coaches, Katie, who admits she loves to snack. To quote her exactly, "I'm one of those people that will open their fridge at least twenty times each day." This leads to twenty opportunities to grab some little bite - a cheese stick, a yogurt, a piece of fruit - and while none of these options are unhealthy, the calories do add up over time.
Instead of banking on your will power to simply not think about food or to be busy enough to not constantly be tempted by your pantry or fridge, set aside exact times to eat. If you know that you have an afternoon snack break coming up in thirty minutes, you are significantly less likely to be drawn away from your work and into the minefield of snack heaven which is your quarantine bomb shelter - I mean pantry.
This also allows you to have micro breaks throughout the day. When you're spending eight working hours staring at a computer screen, you will need those regularly to keep your health and sanity. One challenge from working from home every day is the lowering of your NEAT - basically all the calories you burn while not exercising. This has an even larger impact on weight gain than does your exercise routine. To increase this, provide a needed mental health break, and even support your eyes from all that screen time, combine your snack break with a ten minute walk.
Deload weeks and recovery periods are absolutely needed, especially when you're lifting heavy weights and training with super high intensity. The fact is, unfortunately, most people are not going to be doing much weight lifting during the COVID-19 quarantine. This means your muscles are not going to be as taxed as usual, and you can handle a bit more volume.
Rather than thinking, "I got my workout in - I can just sit around all day," think about how to increase movement throughout the rest of your day. A few simple ideas:
It doesn't have to be an entire workout on top your regular workout - just something to keep the blood moving, calories burning, and activity level high.
At the end of the day, if it isn't in your house you won't eat it. I say it all the time, but in this time it probably extends more to your grocery or Amazon cart than just your house. It is so, so easy to tell yourself how you deserve the box of cookies because it's such a stressful time. On one hand, you're not wrong. Stress is high right now. We're dealing with the first pandemic in over 100 years. But how we address that stress is so important. There is nothing wrong with giving yourself a treat of your favorite cookie, ice cream, beverage, or food. But doing so to mask feelings of stress and anxiety will lead to a relationship with food in which you're using it as medication, and not in the sense of healthy food to keep you away from chronic disease.
As someone who really struggled with the binge-purge cycle in college (I would cut my carbs all week and then eat an entire box of cereal on Saturday night...among other "treats") and still has moments where I feel like I need to restrict food due to whatever I chose to eat the day before, this is not a spot you want to be in. It creates such a feeling of dependency, and ironically more stress, on everything food related that you lose the feeling of relaxation and connection that is normally related to food (interested in improving your nutrition? Here are three things to get you started).
The advice here is to be extremely mindful of what treats you purchase, and how you're shaping your mindset around having those treats. If you have a treat with your significant other, or with your friends over FaceTime as a treat to yourself for having a good day that is completely fine. If you're stuffing your face with Oreo's because you are stressed out about the Coronavirus, you're only causing yourself harm.
Everyone, myself included, is going to be stressed in some way by this quarantine situation. If you have friends or family working in hospitals, you're understandably thinking of their safety - and potentially yours as well. Not to mention the economic impact COVID-19 is having across the world. The problem with both of these concerns is you have no power over them. You don't control the stock markets. You don't control how or when your family and friends may come into contact with that virus. You only can control your actions and how you allow this to permeate throughout your life. You have the power to choose to stay active, eat healthy, and benefit from this period of extra time at home. Or you can choose to be scared, turn to food for stress management, and spend the next two to four weeks on your couch forgetting about your health. I know you want the first one - so focus on making that a reality.