One Way to Get Back on Track
I have been hearing a lot from patients who have put on additional weight in the past 6 months. It is no surprise. Many of us turn to our favorite foods for comfort in times of stress, and a pandemic is about the most stressful thing that can happen. At the same time, many of the things that motivated us to maintain a healthy weight—wearing a special outfit to a fun event, for instance, or even just getting dressed for work—have all but evaporated.
A pound here or there is nothing to worry about, but measurable weight gain is serious. Even a gain of 5 percent of your body weight can increase your risk for life-limiting diseases, like diabetes. So, just as I do for my patients, I would like to make some recommendations you can use to resume (or start) a healthy eating pattern.
Keep your internal monolog positive. In order to make a change, we must compare our actions to behavior we know contributes to good health. But, don’t beat yourself up. No matter how far off track you have gone, find a thing or two you can be proud of. Did you try a new healthy food or a new type of exercise since the start of the pandemic? Great. Celebrate that, and expand on it. With the lessons you’ve learned, you’ve never been further ahead in your pursuit of a healthy lifestyle than you are at this very moment.
Plan your week. If you are the one who does the shopping for your household, plan your meals in advance. Include plenty of fruits and vegetables, some favorite foods, and foods that are best at the particular time of year. Be sure to include lean protein and plenty of fiber, which make foods both healthy and satisfying.
Try to limit processed and packaged foods, sugary drinks, and anything you find it difficult to resist eating too much of in the moment. Whether it’s potato chips or macaroni and cheese or chocolate chip cookies, put these things in your menu and on your shopping list only once in a while. They are so much easier to resist when you don’t bring them home!
For many, this alone—making a plan and shopping for healthy meals—is a huge and life-changing step. If that’s the case, take your time and get it right. It may be all you need to lose the weight you have gained. Plus, meal planning will help you save money, unnecessary trips to the store, and often unhealthy spur-of-the-moment meals out.)
Plan your day. When you wake up in the morning, take a few minutes to think about what you will eat that day. This is a great time to make a healthy breakfast and even prep or pack lunch. Think about your dinner plan, too. Take note of any special occasions like birthdays or holidays that might inspire you to eat something special. With an average smart phone, you can download a free app, like MyFitnessPal, where you can log what you intend to eat and make sure it includes a good balance of complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and heart-healthy fats.
That’s all there is to it. Of course, this isn’t the only way to lose weight. But it is one of the most “livable” and sustainable ways I have encountered. Practicing and making mistakes, over and over, will help you determine which foods satisfy you and which you should avoid. All of your life experience to this point and all that you will learn will give you a great shot at developing a healthy eating pattern for life.
Kristin Irace, RD, is a registered dietitian serving outpatient practices at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington.