With the COVID-19 crisis disrupting the lives of billions of people around the world, it’s hard to maintain all of the healthy habits we know we should be following. Unfortunately, when our normal routines are interrupted, the habits that are often the first to go involve diet and exercise. Whether because gyms are closed or the grocery stores have a more limited selection, it can be hard to keep making the healthiest choices.
Maintaining good, healthy habits can be a challenge under “normal” circumstances, but the events of the past couple months have made it especially hard to pursue weight loss goals. The good news is that there are a wide variety of diet and exercise plans that are suitable for these times. And the secret to continuing to lose weight (or to avoid weight gain) is selecting the diet and exercise strategies that work best for you.
Diet Strategies for Weight Loss
Without a doubt, the quantity and quality of the foods we eat are critically important factors in the quest to lose weight. In trying times, such as the massive uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and the related stay-at-home orders, it can be tempting to binge on “comfort foods” like cookies and ice cream and other junk food. And while eating foods that make you happy can play a role in helping to get through tough times, there are some simple dietary improvements you can make that will go a long way toward helping you meet your goals.
Limit Your Intake of Added Sugar
Ultimately, one of the biggest obstacles to weight loss is added sugar in food. Sugar is a wonderful substance that makes things taste great, but the kinds of simple sugars that are often added to processed foods are actually very unhealthy. Indeed, too much sugar in one’s diet is linked to insulin problems and diabetes as well as obesity and heart disease.
Even besides the obvious sugar-rich dessert foods like cakes and cookies, there are many seemingly “healthy” foods that are still high in sugar. One classic example is yogurt; this generally healthy dairy product has a lot of protein, calcium, and probiotics, but many producers offer flavored versions that can have up to three times the natural sugar content. So what seems like a great choice can quickly become an unhealthy choice. Here are some other seemingly healthy foods to watch out for that may have added sugar:
- Granola or granola bars
- Protein bars
- Breakfast cereal
- Pasta sauce
- Canned soups
- Peanut butter
- Salad dressings
- Frozen dinners
- Sports drinks
- Fruit juice
Eat Whole, Single-Ingredient Foods
A great way to limit added sugar and other nutritionally questionable components is to turn to whole, single-ingredient foods. Think: whole fruits or vegetables, nuts, meats, fish, or eggs. The benefit of choosing these kinds of foods is always knowing for sure that there are no added sugars, but it also can make some meals more simple to prepare. It might take some mental retraining to think of a plate of fruits and vegetables as a “meal,” but the truth is that many of these options can be very filling and healthy.
Add Protein to Your Diet
Along the same lines as incorporating single-ingredient foods is the addition of protein to your meal plan. For those with weight loss goals, protein can be your best friend. Foods with high protein content are great for their nutritional value of course, but they also tend to be much more filling thanks to gut hormones that regulate satiety and the feelings of being full. Here are some easy ways to add protein to your diet:
- Snack on nuts instead of chips or other high carbohydrate foods
- Add beans to a meal
- Substitute quinoa for rice or pasta
- Incorporate eggs (hardboiled, scrambled, etc.) into meals
- Use protein powder in smoothies
- Pick hummus as a dip instead of ranch or other options
- Look for whole grain options when selecting breads and pastas
- Learn to love cottage cheese
- Exchange regular yogurt for Greek yogurt
- Add lentils to soup
Exercise Strategies to Lose Weight
Making changes to one’s diet is an important first step toward at-home weight loss, but to really see significant results, exercise is a necessary additional step. Beyond the health benefits related to heart health and burning more calories, exercise also can have a major positive impact on your emotional wellbeing. Without access to gym facilities, however, it can be a seemingly insurmountable challenge to keep regular workout routines while stuck at home. Below are some easy workouts to do at home that don’t require special equipment.
Best Cardio Workouts to Do at Home
The term “cardio” is really just another way of saying aerobic exercise, which refers to exercise that increases heart rate and the body’s use of oxygen. Through the process of participating in these kinds of exercises, the heart and lungs are strengthened and work more efficiently. In addition to increased fitness, cardio workouts, of course, also help you burn calories and improve your metabolism. When combined with a healthy diet, cardio can help a person lose weight and feel better.
Since cardio can really be any exercise that increases the heart rate, it doesn’t necessarily require any special equipment to get a great workout. This fact makes cardio a great choice for staying healthy during the COVID-19 quarantine. Below are some examples of workouts you can do at home or in your neighborhood:
- Running/jogging (on a treadmill or around the neighborhood)
- Jumping rope
- Step aerobics
- Jumping jacks
- Mountain climbers
Strength Exercises Without Equipment
As important and beneficial as cardio exercises are, they’re really only part of the story for maximum, long-term health and weight management. The other important element is strength training; since strength training is usually synonymous with weight training and the related equipment, it requires a little more creativity to prepare a good strength training home workout. Fortunately, by using resistance and your own bodyweight, you can get a great high-intensity workout that will build muscle and boost metabolism, leading to accelerated fat burning. The following are some easy exercises that can be done at home:
- Walking lunges
- Tricep dips
- Calf raises
Another important component of exercise related to strength training is working out your core. When people talk about “core,” they typically are referring to the abdominal and oblique muscles gathered around our midsection. A strong core is surprisingly important for everyday activities like standing and bending over to participating in sports to ensuring better balance and posture. Core exercises are also very easy to do from the comfort of your home without any equipment. The following are some examples:
- Sit-ups or crunches
- Leg raises
- Russian twists
Many Paths to Weight Loss
For now, while the current crisis persists, there are many different ways to continue on your weight loss journey even if the conditions aren’t ideal. You can make some adjustments to your diet and even maintain an exercise regimen. It might be hard to adapt, but the opportunity is there to keep making progress.
Weight loss truly is a journey, and everyone’s path is different. If you have tried diet and exercise plans in the past and repeatedly haven’t had success at losing weight, you may be a good candidate for other weight loss options. NEW You specializes in non-surgical weight loss solutions that are safe and effective. If you would like to talk to one of our weight loss experts, contact us today to make an appointment.