Each person has his or her own weight story to tell that encompasses one’s personal journey and struggles managing weight.
I am a big believer in the value of helping people reflect on their journey and more specifically on the life events that impact it, as it can bring new awareness to the experience.
Whether you gained, maintained or lost weight during the pandemic, most likely there are lessons you can learn and benefit from.
Looking back can help you move forward!
Here are some tips I hope you find helpful:
1 – If you gained weight
Gaining weight is not a time to disparage yourself. Instead, self-reflection and compassion are in order.
Know that stressful times can lead to stress eating and changes in one’s daily routines can quickly upend health habits that kept your weight under control.
For my patients who have gained weight during this time, we discuss their personal stressors that may include working from home or job loss, financial concerns, caring for children or social isolation, to name some.
Then, I highlight ways they can start taking back control and setting themselves up for success.
If this sounds like you, first, you need a ‘healthy home.’
This begins with planning ahead and shopping from a list to get healthy foods in the home (and keep less healthful, tempting foods out of the home).
Instead of meals and snacks happening as the day goes on, I encourage you to schedule your daily meals and snacks – including when and what you plan to eat. This will help you manage stress eating.
Scheduling applies to improving your physical activity program as well as I recommend getting in 30 minutes of physical activity daily; this can be a combination of walking outside, using home equipment or doing virtual classes or going for a bike ride.
Getting physical activity will improve your mood and ability to handle stress and may even help you sleep better.
Asking for help and delegating tasks at home like cleaning or cooking or giving you time to de-stress will help you feel better also.
You may have lost your normal work and daytime schedules, but once you can prioritize your physical and mental health into a new daily routine, you will be on your way to better managing your weight.
2 – If you maintained weight
Being able to maintain weight during a pandemic is an absolute victory.
Whether it’s during the holidays, a vacation or a particularly stressful time of life like a job loss or death in the family, I always recommend changing the goal from weight loss to weight maintenance.
Maintaining weight doesn’t require as much effort as losing weight, which makes it a more manageable goal.
If, however, you’re at a point in the pandemic where you’re ready to up your game and give an even bigger boost to your health, then I recommend you start following the tips I listed above that include ways to start taking back control.
As long as you feel mentally ready and able to put forth more effort, then now is a great time to create your own healthier ‘new normal’.
3 – If you lost weight
For my patients who have lost weight during the pandemic (and I do have many of them!), I give them kudos and then we discuss what the pandemic has taught them about their health habits.
Losing weight during this time may be due to eating out less, preparing healthier meals themselves and if working remotely, they may also have more time for self-care due to less travel time to and from work.
If this is also you, this is the time to reflect on your new cooking, physical activity or de-stressing skills that you would like to continue – even once the pandemic is over.
Think about ways you will be able to reproduce these new habits which may include eating out less, bringing lunch from home or making physical activity and de-stressing activities a part of your daily routine.
The pandemic has certainly tested us all. No matter where you were pre-pandemic in terms of managing your heath and stress levels, the pandemic most likely made things harder.
Whereas some people have been able to adapt and cope healthfully, others have not and some may even require help from a mental health professional to help them through this difficult time.
Healthy weight management is a journey in self-discovery.
To learn more about yourself and specifically, your lifestyle, habits and mindset that affect your weight, you can take my short, research-based Six Factor Quiz.
Taking the time to reflect on your journey towards better health and managing weight is a valuable exercise as it helps you progress and move forward.
Stay safe and be well!
Robert Kushner, MD