Ready to lose that extra quarantine weight? Here’s a few tips before beginning your weight loss journey.
Raise your hand if in the past year you found yourself snacking more often or consuming more sodas, coffee or alcohol than water in a day.
Raise your hand if you checked your smartwatch at the end of a day and had less than 100 steps counted.
Raise your hand if the first time you put on your favorite jeans in a month you found they didn’t zip up quite as easily.
Well, guess what? You’re not alone.
During the past year, as many of us shifted our everyday lives to inside the four walls of our homes and our favorite restaurants and gyms closed, our health, unfortunately, took the brunt of the consequences.
According to an 8,000-person global survey conducted by Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, about 27 percent said they gained weight after the initial lockdowns went into effect. It found that most people became more sedentary, and that even when they did exercise, it was at lower intensity levels than compared to before the pandemic.
A social media survey conducted by the University of Missouri found that 54 percent of people say they have gained weight since the start of the pandemic and 68 percent said they have been snacking more.
What’s all that to say? Many of us are starting 2021 at a higher weight than we may like. But, before you turn to the latest fad diet or eliminate all of your favorite foods, there are a few things you should consider in planning your weight loss journey this year.
The biggest tip of all though – nothing beats eating a balanced, nutrient rich diet, drinking plenty of water and getting enough exercise and sleep each week.
A few insights to consider:
Can you stick to your plan long term? Most diets that promise quick results don’t work in the long run and many people end up gaining the weight back. Pick a plan that is sustainable and still allows you to eat the things you enjoy while also promoting weight loss.
Do you have any other health factors to take into consideration? Some diets can actually be harmful if you have a nutrient deficiency like anemia or other health considerations such as diabetes or high blood pressure, or if you are trying to become pregnant. Talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian for the best weight loss options that are safe for your health status.
What are your goals and how will you track your progress? Setting realistic goals and planning how and when you will track progress plays a big role in your success. Saying “I want to lose weight” can be daunting and have a detrimental impact compared to “I want to lose 10 pounds by the end of the year.” Instead, set a SMART goal! A SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. A set goal and plan to track it provides motivation, accountability and a feeling of achievement when you reach it.
How do you plan on incorporating exercise and sleep? Getting your body up and moving helps digest your food, burn fat and increase your metabolism. If you’re new to exercise or if it’s been a while, aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic activity five times a week. Sleep is also crucial in your weight loss journey by recharging your brain to make healthier choices, reducing the levels of hunger causing hormones, helping sustain higher metabolism rates and enhancing your physical activity. The National Sleep Foundation advises adults aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night.
Diets to consider:
Mediterranean Diet – Based on traditional Mediterranean cuisine where the rate of coronary heart disease is historically low, this diet is high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds, and olive oil. Meals are built around plant-based foods but do include moderate amounts of dairy, poultry and eggs, as well as seafood. Red meat is eaten only occasionally.
Flexitarian diets are based almost entirely on the vegetarian diet but allow some animal products in moderation. It encourages protein sources from plants rather than animals. There is also a large focus on eating the least processed foods and limiting added sugars and sweets.
Vegetarian diets are very similar to flexitarian but eliminate animal products. It includes fruits, vegetables, grains, pulses (dried peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas), nuts and seeds. Some vegetarians will eat dairy and eggs depending on their preference.
Vegan diets are the strictest and eliminate all animal products and byproducts. It excludes animal meat, dairy, eggs and animal-derived ingredients such as honey, gelatin, carmine, whey and more.
WW – If you’re up for joining a paid diet program, WW (formerly Weight Watchers) guides you through an assessment of your current health status and goals, selects the most appropriate meal plan based on those results and helps you track your progress through the use of a points-based meal system, recipes and support.
Diets to approach with caution:
Keto – This diet focuses on low carb, high fat intake, which can lead you to “ketosis” – a metabolic state in which your body relies primarily on fat instead of carbs for energy. The potential risks of this method include the “keto flu” by the shock to your body, stress to the kidneys, digestive issues, nutrient deficiencies and/or low blood sugar.
Paleo – This basic premise of the Paleolithic diet is to focus on foods that were consumed by the “hunter-gatherers.” The primary objective is to avoid carb-calorie dense foods. The diet has the risk for deficiencies in Calcium and vitamin D and provoke an overconsumption of protein and saturated fat, which increases the risk of heart and kidney disease.
Common misconceptions and mistakes:
You don’t have to cut out carbs, such as bread and pasta, entirely to lose weight. A balanced, healthy diet is key and carbohydrates are part of that equation. Focus more on which carbs you are eating. Try including more high-carb foods that pack a load of other benefits like quinoa, sweet potatoes, bananas, oats, blueberries, chickpeas. Limit foods loaded with simple sugars like white bread, ice cream and cake. Aiming for foods high in fiber can help you stay fuller longer.
Less food isn’t better. Your body needs a filling, balanced diet to sustain itself, especially if you’re physically active. “Crash-dieting” may give you instant results but is not healthy or sustainable in the long run.
What you drink matters too. Have you ever looked at how much sugar is in your coffee stand order or that happy hour cocktail? While our drinks may not fill us up the same way as food, they are still a key part of a balanced and healthy diet. And don’t forget the water! The average adult is recommended to drink at least a half-gallon of water a day (or eight 8-ounce glasses).
Exercise can’t undo a bad diet. We hear the saying a lot “I workout to eat what I want,” but no number of miles or squats can compensate for a consistently unhealthy diet.
Not tracking what you eat in any way. You don’t have to track every single meal down to the teaspoon, but keeping a daily or weekly log to track what you’re eating, how you felt after those meals and their nutritional values is a good way to see how what you eat impacts your weight loss goals. Apps like “My Fitness Pal” or “Cronometer” make it easy to plan your meals, track your calories and make sure you’re eating a balance of fat, protein and carbs.
About The Author
Samantha Malott is the internal communications specialist for the MultiCare Inland Northwest's marketing team. She brings her love for storytelling from her 5 years of experience in the newspaper industry as a reporter, editor and page designer. She is a proud Washington State University Cougar and an Eatonville native. More stories by this author