We’ve all heard of the “Freshman 15.”  Now, we’ve got the “Quarantine 15” lurking on the horizon.

Jokes and memes about the spike in food consumption are flying around, highlighting the need to put locks on the kitchen cabinets, or wearing a mask at home just to avoid the eating. 

While the jokes about how eating has become a part-time job can be funny, if we don’t get a handle on this now, the weight gain that follows is going to be no laughing matter.

The good news is that there are practices you can incorporate into your lifestyle to keep those extra pounds at bay.

This article will give you seven practical ways to ensure that you maintain a healthy weight during the quarantine.

Before we become hyper-obsessed about weight though, meet yourself with compassion and grace, and remember that the conditions we are living under right now are temporary.

1 Go back to the basics

When it comes to managing your weight, the biggest piece of the pie (indulgent food reference intended!) is food… 80% is diet, and 20% is food.  

Here’s an excerpt from my book SOAR where I talk about simplifying our approach to health:

“Like anything else in life worth having, maintaining your physical health takes commitment and consistency and a ton of hard work.  The issue is that we have created a society that over-complicates this health stuff. We overthink it, and we want results fast. We jump from one diet trend to the next, picking up this exercise gadget or that weight-loss gizmo along the way. We have become inundated with options for weight loss programs and we barely even know where to start. People really just need to step away and go “back to the basics.” The awareness and application of just a few fundamentals is all that’s really necessary.  

Pamela Savino, SOAR

We live in a society where instant gratification is the expectation. Every direction we turn, we are faced with things that fuel this mentality. It permeates every area of our lives, including communication, technology, food and service to name a few. Weight loss programs guarantee you’ll lose “x” pounds in “y” weeks or your money back.”

Barring any major health concerns that require special considerations or modifications, here’s my coveted secret recipe that has worked quite well for me:

  • Go to the grocery store and hang out in the produce section. Toss in some proteins and healthy grains and good fats.
  • Full-body strength training and cardio a few times per week.

Note that this description is an extremely simplified explanation of the approach and each area can and should be colored in with more detail and tailored to the specific needs, goals and desires of each individual, and sometimes the guidance of a professional is warranted.  

2 Eat Mindfully

Make eating a conscious endeavor. Plan your meals in advance. Grocery shop with intentionality. Focus on nutrition, not only on satisfying hunger. Eat at regular times during the day, not as a time-filler. Eat a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and healthy sources of fats and proteins.

A great way to shift into eating mindfully is to start asking yourself questions, such as, “Am I really hungry?,”  “Am I eating in response to stress?,” “Does this nourish my body?”

When you start asking yourself questions like this, your relationship with food starts to shift.

3 Indulge Mindfully

In my book SOAR, I talk about how to incorporate “mindful indulgences” in your daily food regimen:  

“The key is to keep a positive narrative around these indulgences. Life is meant to be enjoyed. We aren’t supposed to walk around with limitations 100 percent of the time and with a cloud of guilt hovering over us any time we have the slightest deviation from a healthy diet. I don’t like calling them “cheat” meals because that creates a negative association in my mind and suggests that I am doing something I am not supposed to be doing. Instead, I reframe it by creating a positive narrative and call them “mindful indulgences.” I consciously choose what I will enjoy in advance within my 5-10 percent and find the best food that I can. For example, if I’m going to eat chocolate, I don’t pick it from the Halloween candy bowl. I seek out and find the best chocolate I can. I don’t feel guilty about it because I know that I have allotted some of my calories for this purpose.”

Pamela Savino, SOAR

Ditch the black and white thinking, as the beauty of life is often found in the grey.  Enjoy your mindful indulgences from time to time!

4 Track your calories

Never has it been easier to fall victim to “calorie creep” than in a prolonged stretch of days running into weeks, and weeks running into months, of spending time at home, and close to the kitchen! 

It’s easy to eat out of boredom, or as an emotional response to stress. A handful of this, and a handful of that, throughout the day, can stack up the calories pretty fast without us even realizing it.

I usually advocate for “intuitive eating” (an approach to eating that relies on your inner wisdom to nourish your body), and while that approach is a great long-term strategy, during the quarantine I suggest that people consider tracking their calories.

Counting your calories during the day will heighten your awareness of the quantities and types of food you eat, which will pave the way for intuitive eating after the quarantine has ended.  There are several online calorie tracking tools and apps, so find one that feels right for you and give it a try.

5 Wear your street clothes

While we may not have access to the usual tools we use to monitor certain metrics around managing our weight, the way our clothes fit can be a great barometer for measuring our weight gain “status.” 

While lounging around in sweatpants and baggy T-shirts may sound appealing at first, don’t let them become your best friend during the quarantine.

Your less-forgiving favorite pair of jeans will give you earlier feedback than those not-so-forgiving sweatpants.

6 Focus on movement

Getting your body up and moving is important under normal circumstances, but it’s especially important now, when lifestyles are generally more sedentary than usual. 

Any activity that gets you up and moving fits the bill here…. walking, running, biking, playing sports, yoga…the possibilities are endless.

Pick your favorite and have fun!

7 Increase lean mass

Lean muscle mass plays a huge role in weight management. The more lean mass you have, the more calories you burn, even at rest. 

While gyms are closed and we don’t have access to the usual weight-lifting equipment, there are other ways to accomplish strength training, such as body weight exercises, resistance bands, and even some household items can double as weights if used carefully.

In addition to the above, maintain a healthy holistic lifestyle including proper hydration, adequate sleep, and stress management modalities, as they all play a vital role in maintaining a healthy weight.

Keep the focus on how you feel, not only on how you look, and remember to take the long-view. 

This too shall pass, and before we know it, we’ll be on to sunnier skies and more active lifestyles.