It’s no secret that weight gain is one of the most obvious drawbacks to being stuck at home over the past few months, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s not really our fault, though, because the only places we’ve been able to visit since mid-March have been supermarkets, and restaurants offering take-out options.

Theaters, nightclubs, bars, malls, concert halls, and even neighbors’ homes have been off limits, leaving us with only the aisles of the local food marts to entertain us. As a result, we’ve now become overly obsessed with food — planning our grocery trips with the same anticipation as an overseas vacation, and our daily meals as if we’re mapping out our career for the next five years.

Those of us who were used to reporting to an office every day are now faced with working at home, knowing that the refrigerator and pantry are lurking just a few feet beyond our new makeshift “office,” in our living room, bedroom, or, God forbid, kitchen!

Because our lives have changed so drastically, we’ve all felt the need to surround ourselves with comfort food, particularly in the form of breads, sweets, and fast food. Sure, it feels good going down, but now our scales are screaming at us, and our clothes have somehow become way too snug.

While we can still enjoy walks in the neighborhood or to nearby parks that haven’t been closed, unfortunately, that’s not going to be quite enough to get us into pre-COVID shape.

As an author of a humorous “how to lose weight” fitness book, I was almost certain that I would not succumb to the COVID weight gain phenomenon. After all, I managed to lose 50 pounds and keep if off for the past two years. Well, the scale begs to differ! After recently finding an extra 11 pounds, I decided that the time had come to take some serious action — especially before returning to see my cardiologist or my colleagues at work.

While I had been doing my fair share of walking and “You Tubing” with various cardio workouts, I knew I had to bid farewell to my quarantine cuisine and get serious again about heathy eating.

So, without further interruption, I offer my top five tips for getting fit following the COVID pandemic:

1. Banish the Booze. Ok, you don’t have to completely banish alcohol, just limit to the weekends, and no more than two drinks. Sad but true — alcohol does pack on the pounds, so stay away from sugary cocktails and beer, and trade them in for some dry red wine. (The resveratrol is also said to help keep your cholesterol in check!)

2. Say Bye-Bye to Bread. I’ve never been a big “bread” person, but during the pandemic, I’ve been eating it like it was the last morsel left on the planet. And by breads, I mean everything in the donut, muffin, and bagel family as well. Like alcohol, limit breads to the weekend. During the week, plan on being a “salad girl” or “salad guy” for lunch, but be sure to add some lean proteins like chicken, shrimp, or tofu to keep the tummy satisfied.

3. Ease into Exercise and Eating Healthy. Like I said, we’ve all been on hiatus, so don’t start out trying to run the marathon or lift 50-pound weights. Take it easy on yourself. Just commit to walking at least 30 minutes a day, and then you can add onto that in the new few weeks. Later, you can add a few ab crunches and free weights every other day. You’ll get back into your routine soon enough.

4. Skip the Scale for a Week. The scale can be your best friend or your worst energy. Lately, I’ve been going to war with mine. My best advice is to pick one day of the week to weigh yourself and then forget it until the following week. Your weight will fluctuate daily, so to avoid disappointments, I avoid the scale during the week. I like Fridays as my “weigh day”, because technically, if I’m “good” all week with my eating and exercising, I can lose a couple of pounds before the weekend, when I typically add my wine back into the mix.

5. Think Positive. I know this is difficult, but thinking positive is the key to success. Of course at this very moment, I’m thinking that I’m positively a beast, but that attitude will change as soon as I start my daily walk. If you begin your day with some type of exercise — even stretching — you’ll find it will set the stage for the rest of your day, putting you in a more positive mood and one in which you’ll make healthier eating choices