If you’re like the 80% of us (and growing) who are home-bound with a movable finish line—you know that there are no truer words right now than this: THERE IS NO BUSINESS AS USUAL! What does that mean? Well, something different for everyone, but suffice it to say that our personal and professional routines are largely out of whack. You may be working from home (alone or with others). You may be overseeing “distance learning” (read: homeschooling) your kids. Or both in some cases (as in our home)! What effects does this have? Major ones. On what and when we choose to eat; on the physical activity we are able to do; and on our mental state (which affects all of the above).
Confession: I don’t know anything about teaching, but I do have a specialty in nutrition. And, I’m used to working from home (granted not with so many “assistants”). Here’s my PSA for those who are feeling a bit out of control and concerned about the weight creeping up. It’s a menu (so to speak) of my top 20 ideas. Try some or all and share your own!
Food-related tips and tricks!
- As much as possible, keep a “normal” eating schedule; be mindful of your food choices so that you are intentional about having meals and snacks and not haphazardly eating/mindlessly grazing.
- If you find #1 difficult to do, now’s the perfect time to try intermittent fasting. Basically, this gives you windows of time in which to consolidate eating. There are two main types of intermittent fasting (day-long fasting and time-restricted eating). You can fast for 24-hour periods at a time—a couple of times per week, alternate days, however you choose. You can also choose a daily schedule where you fast for 16 hours and eat for 8 hours (for instance, 12pm-8pm).
- Regardless of when you eat, nutrient density is your friend. You can’t go wrong leading with fruits and veggies. They are not only full of nutrients, but most importantly, they provide water and fiber that fill you up with relatively few calories!
- Fiber isn’t only found in produce, so make sure you are eating a variety of foods that are rich in this satisfying nutrient. Whole grains, nuts, and seeds are good examples of other sources.
- Smart meals—plan ahead to have healthy meals and snacks (and a lack of tempting ones) on hand that are easy to whip out when (actual vs. perceived) hunger strikes! Get a mix of food groups in each snack (a mix of protein, complex carbs, and produce is a recipe for success—think hard-boiled egg, slice of tomato, and avocado on a piece of whole grain toast).
Drink-related tips and tricks!
- Go easy drinking your calories (do I still have your attention?). I know, we have all seen the memes. This crazy period is not the time to go all overboard and become a teetotaler. We just need to be cognitive of the calories we are consuming via beverages. Now would be a great time to limit, or eliminate, sugar-sweetened beverages. Maybe conserve your beverage calories for the nights after those rough days when you decide to have an adult beverage or two or…
- Save on cocktail calories. As I alluded to above, I wouldn’t even think of trying to convince people not to drink at all during this stressful time. The goal here is to be deliberate about what and how much you are drinking because that’s how the calories add up!
- How much. Measure your alcohol (in ounces)—if it’s beer, cider, or single serve wine, it will be right on the container—easy! Otherwise, you can measure with a shot glass or fluid measuring cup.
- Cheat sheet. On average, a 12 oz beer = ~95-175 kcals; 5 oz wine = ~115-120 kcals; 1.5 oz liquor (80 proof) = ~96 kcals. Some real-life examples: light beers have less calories, IPAs more (of course those beers with less calories also have a lower % alcohol); prosecco is a bit lower in calories compared with champagne; dry wines have fewer calories than sweet wines.
- What else. Mixers—bottom line, don’t add extra calories with mixers if you can help it!
- Timing. Not that any of us have been there, but you know how sometimes people drink alcohol and then late night get hungry?! When trying to manage weight, we want to limit this (Captain Obvious). Further, calorie consumption is directly related to drinking duration. The earlier you start drinking, the more you may drink. So, start later, set an end time, drink a bunch of water, and go to bed before you get the munchies!
Physical activity-related tips and tricks!
- Start the day with family physical activity. Most days, we try to do a family walk. Sometimes it’s just a couple of us, sometimes it’s all of us. I’m not going to lie—sometimes there’s complaining (during, but rarely after). We also have home PE built into our distance learning schedule (that should actually be a separate blog, as there are a bunch of options currently available!)
- Keep up your own physical activity—make sure that you are getting a mix of all the different types including aerobic exercise, flexibility, and strength training. HIIT (there are a bunch of apps that provide guided routines—many with no equipment needed) is great to combine 2 out of 3 (aerobic and strength). Yoga is amazing for flexibility and strength. Aim for a certain number of minutes (I go for 300+) weekly and then break it up by day, based on your schedule. Remember that working out and social distancing can be compatible!
- Try standing while working. When standing desks emerged back in the day, I had a colleague (Hi Brent!) who calculated the difference in calorie burning between sitting during the work day and standing during the work day. It was relatively few, but his model showed that those calories saved add up over time. Stand at your counter, at your ping pong table, at a dresser, your deck, or wherever and burn some extra calories while you work!
- Do household chores…vigorously! Picture the Tasmanian Devil (some youngins may have to look that one up) tearing through the house cleaning, car washing, and/or gardening and how much energy you could expend by doing the same.
Other tips and tricks!
- Keep up some sort of routine, whether it’s what you eat when or when you are physically active. Tip—morning exercisers are the most consistent because there’s less time to lose motivation and for life/work to interfere.
- Embrace irregularity. While it’s great to have a schedule, we need to be flexible in these times. Sometimes you just see the sun shining on an unseasonably warm day and seize the time between calls to get out on your bike for some cardio (yes, I’m speaking from experience).
- Keep a food journal. We know that keeping a food journal not only helps create mindfulness, it also influences behavior from an accountability standpoint. True story, the first time my husband started logging his food, the pounds started falling off of him due to the increased awareness alone!
- Engage your family! Since you are with each other all the time, that’s A LOT of opportunity for accountability—perhaps the best we will ever have! Share your goals and your plans with your family members so that they can join in, when appropriate, and call you out, when necessary.
- Wear real clothes at least sometimes. I’ve saved it for last—my best tip! At least once per week, put on a pair of jeans or dress pants and see how they fit. I tried on a pair of dress pants last Saturday morning. They were a big snug. Back to #1 on this list!
And, that’s all folks. We are in this together…share your best advice and experiences here!