On average, Americans gained 1.5 pounds a month over the pandemic, which translates to almost 30 pounds in 18 months. Parents and essential workers gained 36 to 38 pounds over the pandemic, while 48% of millennials reported gaining-on average-over 40 lbs. More women gained weight compared to me, but women gained only 22 lbs to the mens' 39 pound average.
As a health and fitness coach, I totally get it. I was like everyone else. I didn't have a job to go to everyday, my kid didn't have school to go to. It felt like Spring Break...that never ended. I was acting like a Hobbit, heading into the kitchen for elevenses, then lunch, then tea, then dinner, then supper- you get the idea. If I had kept that up I would be writing a very different article right now.
The pandemic and lockdown left many of us without any structure. Our regular, normal, mundane, boring lives of taking the kids to school and going to work were turned completely upside down. Self-care blogs on how to avoid the Covid 15 popped up all over the place like zits on a hormonal teenager- painful reminders that we were dealing with elements out of our control. No one was interested in swapping zoodles for noodles.
How did we react to the fear of an uncertain future? We ATE! Like any red-blooded American, we ate, and we ate and drank C.R.A.A.P!
Why? We were in a pandemic! We ate to make ourselves feel better, we ate out of boredom, we ate to escape, we ate because food tastes good and we needed something- anything- to make us feel a little bit better. Yes, there's a name for this. It's called instant gratification and it gets us into a lot of trouble (hence the Pandemic 30 lb weight gain). However, we are not going to dwell on the why's. Instead we're going to focus on the "how", specifically "how do I fix this without driving myself nuts!"
There are all kinds of reasons why we eat- there always are. Now just to clarify, we are supposed to eat because we're hungry, but who really eats out of hunger these days? What are you, a monster? Of course not. We eat to celebrate, we eat when we're sad, and we eat because food tastes good. We eat because food gives us pleasure. Yes, I said it. Food is pleasurable! Food gives us pleasure and last year we needed a bit of pleasure. Food is probably the simplest, easiest, cheapest, most socially acceptable, and legal forms of pleasure we've got.
Guess what? If we eat for reasons other than hunger, we gain weight. If we're eating because we're anxious, or just plain bored, we're eating to meet our emotional needs, not our physical needs. Look, our bodies don't need Oreos, but our taste buds sure like them! With no structure to our days, plus the fear of getting sick or a family member getting sick, kids roaming around like caged animals in a zoo while we tried to do our jobs from inside a closet- I'm sorry, but when you're facing what seems like a never ending repeat of Ground Hog Day, suddenly a splash of vodka in our coffee seems totally reasonable.
For me, day drinking sounded like a great idea! However I quickly let go of that dream, realizing I will never be the Housewife of El Dorado Hills type. Seriously, the real reason I was able to stay (mostly) on track during Covid is that I stuck to my Healthy eating lifestyle.
I have become so accustomed to eating a healthy balanced diet that it's become second nature. I don't even think about it anymore. Now I can go off the rails for a few days, meaning wine every night, chips, desserts, acting like a Hobbit living in the Shire-"time for elevenses", but after about a week I'm craving my salad with a Salmon Burger. Why? Following this healthy eating plan is my habit- it's what I do. It feels weird when I don't, even during a pandemic.
Everyday I make sure to get plenty of the 6 macro and micro nutrients from whole food sources. Macronutrients: Water, Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fats
Micronutrients: Vitamins and Minerals
We need large amounts of the macronutrients and smaller amounts of the micronutrients. Ideally we would get all all of nutrients from whole foods.
Today we're going to dive in- pun intended- to the most important Nutrient: WATER! Let's talk about water; how much do you need and how to start swapping out some your favorite sugary beverages for that most famous of Macronutrients, WATER!!!
Water is the most important nutrient. Without it, we die. Women need close to 3 liters a day- that's almost 12 cups. It does vary from person to person, with the minimum being 8 cups a day.
Make your water taste good! Add lemon, mint, cucumber, even a splash of 100% cranberry juice to liven it up.
Creating a healthy habit. My friend Deanna recently had to give up wine- the horror! At first she was really mad, but she recently made a realization. It wasn't really the wine she was hooked on, it was the act of sitting down after dinner with her glass of wine. Now, she sits down after dinner and sips Perrier. Plus, she's lost 7 lbs from giving up the wine- nice added bonus! (The wine had been causing quite a bit of inflammation).
Soda, Alcohol, and Juice really need to go into the "treats" category, meaning we have them occasionally, not daily.
What is it about your favorite drink that's got you hooked? For soda people it's the bubbles. How about treating yourself to a soda stream? Make your own bubbly concoctions where you're in charge of the ingredients.
For me, during the week I keep my beverage choices G rated. On the weekends I drink a glass or two of red wine or have a Hard Kombucha (low sugar, nice bubbles). I keep my choices on the low sugar side and I keep the drinking to 2 nights. I've realized that what I'm looking for from the wine is that "aaahhh" feeling of relaxation, but the amount of wine I would need on a daily basis to achieve that would land me in rehab in about a week. What I REALLY need to do...and what works...is to stretch after dinner.
When I get out my foam roller and stretch out my neck and shoulders while watching Jeopardy, I don't need the wine. I like wine because it helps me relax...but...so does a cup of tea, some yoga, foam rolling- you get the idea.
This week swap out your not-so-healthy beverage for something low-sugar. Pay attention to WHY you like your favorite beverage and see if you can get close to same characteristics with your substitution.
Action Step: Write down what it is about your favorite beverage that you love so much.
For example: Wine
I love that it helps me relax after a long day. I like to sip a glass when I make dinner.
Substitute: Glass of water with a splash of 100% pure cranberry juice and a tsp of apple cider vinegar. Cup of chamomile tea after dinner and do a bit of stretching for my shoulders.