When our local area went to shelter in place the third week of March, I quit weighing myself. It may not have been entirely prudent, but I felt enough negative emotions welling up without facing the number on the scale. So a few weeks ago, when I decided to weigh the damage (pun intended), I was a bit horrified to discover — well, I’d gained a few.
Apart from that one friend who managed to begin her healthier lifestyle and slim down during quarantine, the rest of us are identifying with those memes that say something like, “How’s your summer body looking? Mine’s looking like I’ve got a great personality.”
Joking aside, if you feel like you’ve gained a “quaran-ton” during lockdown, you’re not alone. Even celebrities have been complaining about putting on pounds during the pandemic. If, like me, you’re finally ready to move in a healthier direction, here are a few ideas to get started:
Dieting during stressful times can actually be counterproductive, as this article describes:
In one study, monitoring food intake was linked with an increase in stress levels and cutting calories was linked with an increase in the stress hormone, cortisol. While this may not be true for everyone, it’s good evidence that worrying about your weight can make you more miserable during an already difficult time.
My own experience has shown me that I never make much progress on my health goals when I’m stressed out. All the curveballs flying my way during quarantine made it nearly impossible to concentrate on eating right. A few weeks ago, when life finally started to feel a little more normal, I knew I could handle a more restrictive diet because I had the mental space to plan healthy meals.
A friend recently told me that she has sometimes sabotaged her health goals by starting out with too much intensity. Working out for hours each day while pounding celery juice can lead to burnout — and a relapse into unhealthy habits. Instead of expecting immediate results, try making small changes that make a big difference over time. Take a 15-minute walk each day or replace the nightly bowl of ice cream with apples and peanut butter.
At one point in my 20s, I was getting a sugary latte almost every day. Not only was my wallet suffering, I’d also put on a few extra pounds. I switched to making my coffee at home (and adding just a little of my favorite creamer), and a few months later I was surprised to discover the extra pounds were gone.
Go back to your go-tos.
Think back to the times in your life where you felt your healthiest. Was it while eating a low-sugar diet? Was it when you did a workout video several times a week? Was it while avoiding fast food and preparing healthy meals at home? Whatever health hacks have worked for you in the past, reinstate them. Not only can they work for you again, the sweet associations will likely conjure up positive emotions.
Managing weight is just one part of a healthy lifestyle. Sleep, stress management, hydration, diet, exercise and even your spiritual life all contribute to your overall health. Chances are some of those pieces have taken a hit during this season. If, like me, you’ve developed a passion for baking while the gym was closed (and watched more Netflix than you care to admit), maybe you need to rebalance. Rein in the bad habits and expand on the good. For example, take an evening walk instead of bingeing Netflix, or go to bed an hour earlier instead of scrolling through social media on your phone.
Be kind to yourself.
As I looked at that number on the scale, my first inclination was to mentally beat myself up and feel like a failure. But then I had a moment of gratefulness for my body — the body that kept me healthy and serving my family through three months of a global pandemic. Honestly, a few (bags of) Oreos and a tighter waistband was a small price to pay for weathering such a storm.
Psalm 139 says that I am “fearfully and wonderfully made.” God loves me and accepts me fully regardless of the shape or size of my body. In her article, “7 Easy Steps to Losing 75 Pounds,” Brandy Campbell shares similar thoughts:
I no longer look at that person with disgust. Even before the weight loss really took hold, back when people were still asking, “Did you do something different with your hair?” I would stare in the mirror, into those familiar blue eyes, and think, You can do this. It’s hard, but you are worth it. You are worth more than greasy food and feeling out of breath and sad all the time. You are worth it.
If you’ve gained the “Quarantine 15,” don’t panic. Like most things we’ve experienced over these past three months, we’re all in this together. Take a deep breath, recalibrate, and begin taking small steps in a healthier direction.
Today, I’m celebrating three weeks of sugar-free eating. I feel healthier and more energetic, and my clothes fit better. I also plan to celebrate World Chocolate Day with some of my favorite dark chocolate. Because in the words of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” I think that’s excellent advice.
Copyright 2020 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.