How to Achieve Your Weight Goals & Improve Your Health During the COVID-19 Era
We know you may be getting tired of staying home. You may feel stressed, lonely, or depressed. Feeling uncertain about how things will turn out can lead to emotional eating. While being at home more, you may find yourself grazing on comfort foods and snacks.
Yet there may be a positive way to look at this situation: staying home during COVID-19 can be a good time to reassess your weight management goals, learn more about your dietary patterns and habits, and put your goals into action to help manage your weight. When you are home, you have more control over your food choices. When you cook your own meals, you're more likely to eat appropriate portions (versus restaurant-sized portions) and you know exactly what went into your dish. And by not commuting to work, you have more time to prepare healthy foods and exercise.
Creating a new and realistic (but not overly rigid) routine that maps out your meals, activities, work, and chores each day can help you feel more in control of your life during a time when we often feel things are out of our control. We've assembled some tips to help you get started. Try not to feel overwhelmed by all of them—consider picking one or two new ones to try each week.
To help you take the first steps in achieving your weight loss goals, our physicians and dietitians want to share some simple and delicious recipes which you can request below.
Choose Foods Wisely
Whether you do your own grocery shopping or order groceries to be delivered, you can select healthy low-fat, high-fiber foods that boost your mood and raise your energy level. With a well-stocked kitchen, you'll be more likely to have what you need to cook for yourself.
- Power your pantry. Fill your pantry with nutritious, long-lasting foods such as beans, lentils, quinoa, whole-grain pasta, brown rice, canned tomatoes, low-salt soups, whole-grain crackers and cereals, and canned vegetables and fish (tuna, salmon, sardines).
- Fill your freezer. Stock up on frozen fruits and vegetables, lean proteins such as chicken and fish, and sliced breads and grains.
- Replenish your refrigerator. Eggs, fat-free plain Greek yogurt, potatoes, apples, onions, winter squash, and low-fat cheeses can last for at least a month in your fridge.
Get Cooking and Eat Mindfully
There are hundreds of websites and apps that provide healthy recipes at your fingertips, many of which are easy and fast. A registered dietitian can help you plan a healthy diet with foods you enjoy that are also good for you. Online weight loss programs also provide guidance and most have their own apps to track what you’re eating, in addition to virtual meetings.
- Plan your meals. You may find it is easier to stick to a healthy dietary plan when you map out your meals and snacks for the day. Try to choose dinners that work for the whole family so you can share them together and reconnect each evening.
- Double up. Make extra portions when you cook that can be refrigerated for another meal in the coming days or frozen for another time. Stews, soups, chili, whole-grain pasta dishes, chicken breasts, and baked falafel are just some of the many foods that can easily be frozen.
- Practice mindful eating. Try to eat when you're hungry or at set times each day, rather than when you're feeling bored or upset.
- Take notes. Think about keeping a food journal to write down what you're eating each day and how you feel when you're eating each meal or snack. You might notice some trends, such as eating cookies when you're feeling stressed.
Regular physical activity is helpful for weight management, with the added benefits of being great for your heart and lungs, muscles, bones, joints, and overall health. Even though gyms are closed, there are many physical activities you can do from the comfort of your home, or in or near your neighborhood.
- Go virtual. There are scores of online videos and apps with classes and activities you can try from home. Yoga? Pilates? Zumba? Fitness classes? They're all online for the taking, and many are free. Choose something you might enjoy or always wanted to try and start moving!
- Start slowly. If you haven't exercised in a while or you're trying a new activity, start slowly. Set a small goal such as 10 minutes of movement 5 days a week and work your way up to longer sessions as you gain strength, mobility, and stamina.
- Make time to move. Be sure to add exercise to your weekly schedule. You don't have to do the same thing each day. Shake it up, trying different activities on different days to stay engaged and motivated.
- Connect with nature. If you have a park, walkway, or hiking trails in or near your community where you can walk outside while practicing social distancing, take a stroll. Walking is a great form of exercise, and being in nature and breathing fresh air can help you clear your head, relax, and re-center./li>
Take Care of YOU
Building some other activities into your day to nourish your mind and support your emotional health is just as important as taking care of your physical body, especially during this age of COVID-19.
- Be realistic. Consider creating goals for each day or week that are achievable and realistic. For example, "I'm going to exercise for 15 minutes each day" or "I'm going to avoid sugary snacks for a whole day." When it comes to weight loss, slow and steady is best—losing 1-2 pounds each week is an excellent goal.
- Don't judge. Goals are great, but don't beat yourself up if you don't meet a goal. This is unchartered territory for all of us. If you don't meet a goal, forgive yourself, reset it for another day, or make new goals that are more realistic. Celebrate your progress rather than dwelling on what didn't work.
- Nurture your mind. What settles your heart and mind? Do you relax when reading, knitting, listening to music, or meditating? Find what works for you and make time for yourself each day. If you're new to any of these activities, there are online tutorials and apps that can guide you.
- Get enough shut-eye. Sufficient sleep is important for good health. While sleep needs differ from person to person, 7-9 hours a night is generally recommended.
- Take your meds. If you take daily medications, be sure to take them as prescribed. Many pharmacies are now offering delivery to your home so you don't need to go out for refills. See if your insurance covers a 90-day supply so you'll always have enough on hand.
- Stay connected with the people you care about. Reach out to loved ones by phone or video chat for support and connection. Set up virtual hangouts such as a book club, recipe-swapping group, or just a weekly check-in. Stay-at-home orders can feel isolating, so it's more important than ever that we use the tools we have to stay emotionally connected with family members and friends.
Connect with a Weight Management Specialist
Even though life right now is anything but usual, it's actually a great time to take control of your weight. Whether you are a new patient or an existing NewYork-Presbyterian patient, our weight management experts are available to help and are either in-person or virtual visits to start you on your way.
ICHANGE (Innovative Center for Health and Nutrition in Gastroenterology)
NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center
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