Though the coronavirus pandemic has impacted each of our lives differently, many of us can attest that it’s thrown a serious curveball at our health and fitness routines, and progress towards our weight goals.
Whether you were striving to build muscle or shed fat, the pandemic likely challenged everything from your healthy eating habits to your workout plan. (Reminder: It’s okay.)
As safety restrictions begin to loosen, you may be itching to get back on course. While this transitional time still requires extra caution—and extra self-compassion—these expert-backed tips will help you fast-track your progress towards your weight goals.
1. Focus On Your Sleep Health
You can’t achieve optimal physical health—or lose weight healthfully—if you don’t get enough sleep, according to Jeanette Kimszal, R.D., dietitian for Root Nutrition. “Studies suggest that getting adequate sleep helps with weight loss because the body is rejuvenated during sleep,” she says.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults generally sleep for seven to nine hours per night. While the stress of the pandemic has made quality sleep (and proper sleep hygiene) a challenge for many of us, these tactics can help you get the rest you need.
2. Continue to cook at home
One of the upsides of hunkering down at home? Most of us have been cooking more than ever—and that can have long-term benefits.
“Take advantage of what you learned during quarantine by cooking at home more often,” says dietitian Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., author of Read It Before You Eat It. Doing so will save you time, money, and calories, since you’re in charge of everything that goes into your food.
You don’t have to be an Iron Chef to throw together meals that taste delicious and support your weight goals, either. With a little creativity, you can turn grains into hearty meals and sneak more greens into your snacks.
3. Have A Game Plan When You Eat Out
There’s much excitement about the gradual reopening of restaurants and bars, yet you want to return to your favorite spots strategically. “We’ve all missed dinners at restaurants, but restaurant meals tend to be high in calories—and alcohol can load on several hundreds of calories per meal,” notes Amanda Kostro Miller, R.D., L.D.N., nutrition advisor for Fitter Living.
To keep your goals on track, follow these guidelines when dining out, Kostro Miller recommends:
- Have half of your meal at the restaurant and take the rest home. (Box half your portion before chowing down or consider splitting an entrée with your dining mate.)
- If dining out for lunch, opt for a hearty appetizer instead of a large entrée.
- Skip alcohol and dessert.
4. Establish a kitchen closing time
Though the coronavirus pandemic understandably threw off our eating schedules, it’s important to shift back to normal mealtimes as we inch back towards some semblance of normal life.
“Sometimes access to our kitchen (and the food in it) is enough to make us eat, even when we are not hungry,” says The Weight Loss Therapist Dr. Candice Seti, Psy.D., C.P.T., C.N.C. “This is especially true at night, when we are more likely to be hanging around at home with no real agenda or meaningful distraction.”
Read More: The 5 Best Nighttime Snacks If You’re Trying To Lose Weight
To minimize mindless late-night snacking, create a kitchen closure time (nine o’clock is a good place to start). Heck, make a sign if you need to.
5. Strive towards one goal at a time
As parks, gyms, yoga studios, and the like reopen, you may feel like you need to go all-out and hit up spin class every day, eat all the vegetables, and start training for a 5k.
Not so fast, though. Setting a slew of goals just sets you up for feeling overwhelmed—and may inhibit you from ultimately achieving your objectives, says Kimszal.
Instead, focus on just one goal until it is completed, she says. “For example, if someone wants to eat more vegetables, they should start with adding a vegetable to one meal each day,” she suggests. Once you’ve made that stick and feel confident with it, choose another goal to tackle.
6. Guzzle That H2O
Water is essential for almost every bodily function, but most of us don’t drink nearly enough, says Seti. That’s bad news for our overall health—and any weight goals we’re working towards.
“For starters, most of us can’t distinguish the initial feelings of thirst from hunger,” she says. “As such, we often end up eating when a glass of water would have done the trick.” Since water takes up real estate in our stomach, it also contributes to feeling full.
Read More: I Tracked My Water Intake For Two Weeks—Here’s What Happened
If you find plain water boring, jazz it up with herbs like mint or basil and/or fruits and veggies like lemon, lime, cucumber, watermelon, or berries.
However you like your H2O, drink a full glass of water before you sit down for every meal, Seti recommends.
7. Keep a food diary
To feel more accountable for what you eat and drink, consider keeping a food diary, recommends Taub-Dix.
In addition to writing down everything you consume, list out the emotions you felt (or simply what you were thinking about) during each meal, she suggests. Doing so allows you to track how your mood influences your diet—and helps you avoid emotional eating.
“You don’t even have to show it to anyone,” Taub-Dix says. “You are the best judge of when you’re hungry or full.”
If you don’t want to use old-fashioned pen and paper, try an app like MyFitnessPal or MyFoodDiary. Input any vitamins or supplements you take, too, so you can keep close tabs on your overall nutrition.
8. Double Down On Protein
If you want to lose weight without sacrificing metabolism-boosting muscle mass, make sure your plate always prioritizes protein. Your goal: to consume three to 3.5 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight every single day. (That’s 144 to 168 grams per day for a 130-pound person.)
Not only will this extra protein support your lean muscle, but it’ll also help keep you satiated—especially if you’re watching your overall calories.
To get there, include at least 30 grams of protein in every snack and meal. If you’re having trouble hitting your number, incorporate a simple protein shake (made with either whey protein or a plant-based alternative) or protein bars into your snacks.
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