3 Ways to Overcome Pandemic Weight Gain
As a high school English teacher, I am on my feet all day. Moving around the classroom, running to the copy room, and just the general responsibilities of teaching kept me active. But when Coronavirus shut down our school in March of 2020 and I became one of the many people worldwide who found themselves in a remote working environment, suddenly my life became very sedentary.
I wasn't worried about it, in truth. With all of the anxiety and fear of a world pandemic, it didn't seem important to worry about my waistline anymore--plus, leggings make it easy to forget about the scale. So I continued on for months working from my desk in the corner of my living room and eating all sorts of comfort foods. This sedentary lifestyle and constant snacking, however, led to some unwanted consequences I'd face in 2021.
When life started to somewhat return to normal this spring in my area and schools opened back up, though, I found that one of the side effects of the pandemic was an unexpected one: my work pants no longer fit. And suddenly, all of the anxiety and fear from the past year turned into something else--frustration at myself for letting my health take a backseat to everything else.
If you, too, are feeling frustrated that your pants no longer fit like they used to and you've found that, like so many Americans, you've gained weight during the pandemic, I want you to know two things.
1. You are NOT alone. According to Market Watch, 40% of Americans gained significant weight during the pandemic.
2. Cut yourself some slack. You lived through a pandemic, for goodness sake. No one has been through anything like this in our lifetime.
I've always been a proponent for loving yourself no matter what. You are so much more than a number on the scale or a size on your clothing tag, truly. And especially in 2020 when so many of faced seemingly insurmountable hurdles in our relationships, workplaces, and health, you need to give yourself grace.
However, I also know that to be happy and confident, we have to feel our best. For me, the extra pounds not only meant a hit to my confidence level but also a hit to my energy levels. Losing my pandemic weight gain in 2021 is not about feeling sexy; it is about feeling good.
If you, too, are looking to shed not only the anxiety of 2020 but also the pounds that came with it, here are three quick tips I've found to be helpful as I navigate the newfound optimism I've found for 2021.
1. Get active again
Even if you are still working remotely, find a way to bring activity back into your life. It doesn't have to be a gym membership that gets you back into a routine of being physically active, and you don't have to run a marathon each day. Thirty minutes a day keeps me feeling alive and healthy and has definitely helped me shed some of the weight gain from those sedentary days early in the pandemic.
Go for a walk with your dog. Find a fitness channel on Youtube that offers free workouts, or even try some free weights. Just getting back into the routine of doing some exercise every day can help you feel more confident in yourself. Don't be afraid to get your children involved, either. Studies have shown that the pandemic has also led to more sedentary behaviors in our children due to remote learning, so take the kids out to the backyard for a game of catch or soccer. Moving your body helps alleviate stress and also helps you feel more energetic, allowing you to accomplish more of your goals in general.
For me, the addition of a three-month-old Great Dane puppy has been a huge motivator to get moving from my desk and get outside. He has definitely helped me shed some of the pounds gained during 2020--although he has also wreaked havoc on my sleep schedule, but that's another post entirely.
2. Keep track of your eating habits
When every single day felt the same, it was easy to fall out of healthy eating patterns. For me, food during the pandemic was a comfort and something to do. Furthermore, while I was working from home, it was much easier to grab all sorts of food during the work day. More accessible food led to more frequent snacking. This combined with my days spent in front of the computer was a toxic combination for my health.
Thus, in 2021, I'm getting a better handle on my nutrition. I know there are so many diets and fads out there, but I've found the best solutions to getting your eating under control are:
1. Eat plenty of foods that are good for your body, like vegetables.
2. Keep track of what you're eating.
For many of us, working on the "honor system" of just eating what you want can be problematic. So many of us use food as a way to soothe our emotions. By actually keeping track of what you consume, you can keep better track of what you are consuming, when, and how it is affecting your body.
I do not believe in starving yourself. I do not believe in restricting yourself. However, I do believe that my knowing what you are consuming and keeping track of your eating habits, you can better finetune your patterns to give you the best energy and best version of yourself.
One of the places you can start is by figuring out how many calories you need to fuel your body. So many times when we find we've gained weight, our tendency is to go into starvation mode and cut as many calories as we can. However, this can backfire and lead to all sorts of negative consequences as well. Thus, start by figuring out how many calories you need to fuel your body. A calorie calculator can help you analyze just how many calories you need to be your best self.
Once you know how many calories you should consume, keep track! Use a food diary, or find an app you love that you can input your food into. Don't forget to adjust your numbers for any exercise you are doing as well from tip one. It's helpful to know how many calories your activity is burning so you can adjust your diet to account for calories burned.
3. Be kind to yourself.
It has been such a hard year in so many ways. We've all dealt with fear, anxiety, health issues, and financial insecurity. Most of us have lost something, whether it be a loved one, a job, or our peace of mind.
So many of my friends have been so hard on themselves lately for letting their health slide this past year. However, I encourage you to be kind to yourself. You've lived through so much upheaval and turmoil. You are still living through it.
I love the Lewis Carroll quote: "I can't go back to yesterday because I was a different person then." The person you were at the beginning of 2020 isn't the same person you are now. You have grown and changed. You have weathered storms. You have survived.
A few pounds on the scale or some tight pants may seem like the end of the world. It is not. If we've learned anything this past year or so, it's that life is never certain. You have to enjoy the present, and you can't take anything for granted.
You are still here. You are strong. You are a warrior.
In 2021, my hope for you is that you find a way to be kind to yourself and to stop seeing your changes as a failure. Do what you can to find your confidence again. Take charge of your body and your health. However, know this: No matter what the scale says after 2020, you are beautiful, amazing, and worthy.
I want to know: Have you struggled with weight gain through the pandemic? And if so, what have you done to take control?
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