We’re halfway through our circuit-breaker. Are you feeling pudgier going into the second month of hunkering down at home? You’re not alone.
For many people in isolation, eating out of stress or boredom is a common coping mechanism. Plus, it’s never been more convenient to raid your fridge between work calls and Netflix binges. Let’s not forget all the #procrastibaking that’s flooding your Instagram feed too.
It doesn’t help that we’re probably exercising less than before too (home calisthenics just isn’t everyone’s cup of tea). Unsurprisingly, this can lead to steady weight gain. It’s what experts are terming “Quarantine 15”. This is a play on the term “Freshman 15”, which refers to the 15 pounds (6.8kg) that university students often pile on.
Want to undo some of the damage before circuit-breaker is lifted? Here are some simple strategies.
Follow an eating schedule and plan your meals
We know all the days and hours are starting to become a blur, but it wasn’t so long ago that we observed a routine of three meals a day and a light bite in between.
Reclaim some structure this circuit-breaker (you might feel more purposeful, less stressed and happier for it too) by setting aside time for all your meals without compromise. This will help you stay on top of your portions – the science agrees with this, too. One study found that indulging more than three full meals a day led to a wider waistline while another study found that eating smaller meals had no impact on appetite control.
Planning helps. On a day to day basis, use a food journal to list down what you’re in the mood for. Not only will this make grocery shopping a breeze, it’s also an opportunity for you to identify nutritional gaps. It’ll probably even do a favor for your food and delivery expenses!
When was the last time you had a glass of water? It’s possible to mistake a growling tummy for a sign of the munchies when it is in fact thirst. Research published in journal PLoS One shows that having a high-fat and high-sugar diet might make you less receptive to internal cues of thirst, causing you to confuse it for hunger.
If you’ve ever unintentionally worked your way through a whole bag of Doritos over Netflix, this is for you. For times when you’re craving a bite, pouring out a sensible serving onto a plate or your hand goes a long way.
You should never gorge from the bag as it makes it hard to estimate your portions – especially if you’re absent-mindedly eating while multitasking.
If you need snack ideas to get you through this circuit-breaker, our blog is full of tips to help you eat well. Get familiar with the nuts that are most weight-friendly or the guilt-free dips you can prepare in 30 minutes or less. Learn which are the best snacks to prevent overeating and find out how to shrink your appetite naturally.
Go easy on comfort foods and watch out for liquid calories
At the start of the circuit-breaker, it probably felt fine to pamper ourselves with some day drinking and junk food. After all, it’s a stressful period and we could all use a little self-care!
But this hedonistic way of eating can’t go on forever. And while it’s important to exercise some self-restraint with your comfort foods, you should also watch out for the liquid calories. Sorry, bubble tea lovers! Coffee, alcohol and even fruit juices should be enjoyed in moderation. A glass of fresh juice can easily conceal as many calories as a can of Coke.
There’s nothing quite like mindful activity to make you forget that you’re peckish. On days when you don’t have to work, check in with your friends over Zoom or spring-clean your apartment. The Internet is replete with interactive apps, games and lessons that will keep your mind and body 100% engaged. Basically, choose an activity that isn’t about testing out yet another chocolate chip cookie recipe.
Make an effort to move more
Singapore’s Health Promotion Board recommends 150 minutes of activity a week to combat weight gain as well as serious illnesses like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression and stroke. To get the most out of your workouts, each session should last at least 10 minutes.
If you’re not motivated to devote time for indoor workouts, that’s fine. But don’t underestimate the power of tacking on simple movements to household activities.
For example, you could bargain with yourself to finish a set of sit-ups, squats or planks before heading for the fridge, or do some light stretching before or after visiting the bathroom. Get creative with items around the house to substitute for weights: Filled bottles or boxes are all fair game. Get out of your seat – walk while you talk on phone calls. Use the stairs when you leave your apartment to go to the supermarket.
Bottom line? Any activity is better than none. Make it your circuit-breaker goal to start a fitness journal if you want to keep yourself accountable.
Get enough sleep
Countless studies tout the benefits of clocking at least 7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. Not only does it work wonders for your mood and health, it also counters against the inexplicable cravings that come about when your mind is exhausted. The reason is simple: Fatigue can impair the part of your brain that’s responsible for making sensible eating choices. When you’re sleep-deprived, the reward centers of your brain – which is motivated by primal desires – shift into high gear, which means you’re more likely to hanker for sweet and salty food.
This recent American study found that having adequate sleep, as opposed to having snooze time cut by 33%, went a long way in helping participants manage their hunger pangs. The participants were also more likely to consume reasonable portions of food.
Can’t seem to keep your weight down during this circuit-breaker period?
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