The need for social distancing to reduce the spread of coronavirus imposes a drastic reduction in physical activity for most individuals and this can lead to unwanted weight gain. Combine low activity with increased food intake and empty calories and we have the perform storm for weight gain.
It is estimated that due to the COVID-19 pandemic adults are walking 4000 fewer steps daily, this is equivalent to walking approximately 2 miles less each day.
Now more than ever it is important to maintain a healthy weight due to the relationship between obesity and COVID related deaths. The good news is that with the right habits and behaviors COVID-19 does not have to guarantee weight gain for you!
Tips for Avoiding Weight Gain While Working from Home:
1. Avoid Excess Sugar
Sugar is the foundation of “SAD” -the Standard American Diet and the reason that 75% of adults in the United States are overweight. Sugar is ingested in excess and can lead to addiction. Sugar instantly improves mood and provides a short-term energy boost; however, it is the stimulation of the fat storing hormone insulin in response to sugar that leads to weight gain. When sugar intake is coupled with low physical activity, it becomes easier to store fat because the muscles which usually uptake sugar are less stimulated, allowing sugar to remain in the bloodstream. Therefore, on low activity days limit or avoid added sugar.
Reduce sugar by:
- Eliminating Sugar Sweetened Beverages
- Reducing white flour containing foods
- Avoiding candy, ice cream, cakes, jam, pies, and other sugary foods
2. Avoid high-processed or fake foods
Packaged and processed foods offer convenience and satisfy cravings, but also interfere with the body’s natural ability to recognize fullness and therefore lead to excess calorie intake. Processed foods are easy to overeat because they are low in fiber and nutrients and have added sugars, salt, and chemicals that make it hard for the brain to reduce inappropriate feeding behavior.
Processed foods increase cravings for more unhealthy foods and increase the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer (i.e. colon cancer), and diabetes.
When choosing foods, opt for whole foods high in nutrients, they will be more filling and less likely to cause weight gain or cravings.
3. Eat smaller portions and more home prepared meals
Although the occasional bar or restaurant outing may be limited, meal delivery use has increased significantly during COVID quarantine. In comparison to home prepared foods, restaurant meals are typically higher in calories, larger portioned, and high in added sugar and salt. For example, a home prepared cheeseburger averages 260 calories where the same hamburger at a restaurant averages upwards of 800-1000 calories!
Preparing meals at home is healthier, more cost effective, and can be a fun way to explore new cooking ideas.
4. Avoid excess alcohol
Alcohol is calorically “empty” meaning that it provides calories in exchange for limited to no nutrient value. This leads to weight gain in several ways but most notably due to increasing food intake by reducing dietary discretion and self-control. The body will also halt fat breakdown to detoxify alcohol when necessary, so this means if you are drinking alcohol, you are likely not breaking down fat.
While sedentary, limit or avoid alcoholic beverages mixed with syrups and sugar.
5. Increase daily steps
As gyms temporarily closed it became much more challenging to find ways to stay in shape. Luckily, you do not need a gym to get daily steps. Steps count toward daily activity and can also help to increase basal metabolic rate. The adult recommendation for physical activity is 150 minutes a week. this is equivalent to 30 minutes 5 days a week (or as an alternative 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity a week).
There are a variety of ways to increase steps including walking indoors or outdoors, jogging, dancing, using a step or stair master, or a combination of HIIT exercises. Simply turning on music and dancing in place is a great way to increase steps while reducing stress and anxiety.
Here are a few easy ways to get more steps at home:
- Walking the dog
- Walking in place during commercials or during virtual meetings
- Join virtual workout
- Enter daily or weekly step challenges with friends
Need more help getting daily steps?
Have you gained weight due to COVID-19? Do you need help getting back on track?
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