Some have dubbed the 15-pound weight gain during the coronavirus pandemic the “Quarantine 15”. If you have recently found yourself struggling with mindless snacking or overeating during self-isolation, here are three tips to help you avoid the dreaded Quarantine 15 and stay on track with your fitness and nutrition goals.
1. Keep Unhealthy Snacks Out Of The House
Precision Nutrition founder John Berardi calls it Berardi’s First Law and it goes like this:
“If a food is in your possession or located in your residence, either you, someone you love, or someone you marginally tolerate will eventually eat it.”
Now, I am all about flexible dieting and planned cheat meals. I strongly believe that the 80/20 Rule works well for most people who have a healthy relationship with food. With that said, there are definitely certain foods for me, that if kept in the house during the week, will get eaten. And since I’d rather save my energy for other more important things than constantly fighting off temptation, I don’t even try, I just don’t buy those foods.
If you know there are certain snacks or foods you simply cannot resist, keeping them out of the house, at least during the week is a good strategy. Then on the weekend, if you choose to, you can indulge yourself.
It goes without saying that this should be within reason. Don’t hold off on double stuffed Oreos all week only to devour an entire package on Saturday. Everything within moderation. When you do indulge, savor it. Eat slowly and enjoy.
2. Plan Your Meals And Snacks Ahead Of Time
Knowing exactly what you’ll be eating reduces the number of decisions you have to make throughout the day, which takes up energy that could be used elsewhere. This is known as “decision fatigue” and is precisely the reason why people like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Mark Cuban, and even President Barack Obama wore the same clothes every day to work.
As President Obama put it:
“I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”
Plan ahead and save your energy for when and where you need it most!
Also, by doing this you can plan your less healthy snacks into your day so that they fit within your daily calories and macronutrients (if you are tracking your food). This helps to stave off cravings throughout the day when you know you have your snack coming at a later time.
3. When Hunger Strikes, Wait 15 Minutes
Most of us are uncomfortable with the feeling of hunger and at the first sign of it, we reach for something to munch on. However, you may think you are hungry when in reality, you are reacting to something else such as stress or boredom.
There is a big difference between physical and non-physical hunger.
Physical hunger occurs over time, usually several hours after your last meal. Symptoms include stomach growling, hunger pangs, and lower energy.
Non-physical hunger typically occurs suddenly, regardless of when you ate last. If you suspect your hunger to be non-physical, ask yourself:
“Does it make sense for me to be hungry right now based on when I ate my last meal?”
“Does it make sense for me to be hungry right now based on how much I’ve eaten so far today?”
“Does it make sense for me to be hungry right now based on my physical activity today?”
Asking yourself these three questions will help you to determine the likelihood that your body actually needs energy. If you don’t think it makes sense to be hungry at the moment, try distracting yourself with an activity for 15 minutes, and the urge to eat or snack will most likely subside.
Here are a few ideas:
- Do some yoga, stretching, foam rolling, or other mobility work.
- Go for a walk.
- Write in a journal.
- Keep your hands busy. If you are musical, pick up an instrument and practice. If you’re artistic, pick up a pad and pencil and draw something. If you’re crafty, knit something or crotchet!
- Drink some decaf herbal tea.
Each time you break the link between non-physical hunger and eating, you reinforce the new habit and strengthen neural pathways in your brain that make it easier each time to manage cravings.
Give these strategies a try the next time you feel the urge to snack or overeat!
Brian Donovan is a certified fitness and nutrition coach, and the founder of Online Fitness Coach – an online fitness program where clients get direct coaching and personalized training and nutrition plans. Coach Brian was voted Chicago’s “Best Personal Trainer” by Chicago Reader magazine, Best Of Chicago 2014 edition. He has been featured in publications and websites such as Muscle & Fitness, Chicago Reader, Voyage Chicago, Bach Performance, and The Personal Trainer Development Center (PTDC).
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