Going by contemporary social media humour, urban Indian society, though jokingly, appears to be quite concerned about the chances of weight gain during the period of lockdown. This is particularly true for otherwise active working individuals, who now face a double whammy of not being able to exercise along with unfettered access to food at home. This coupled with a rather urban concept of endless munching, clearly predisposes us to weight gain – with all its attendant medical and social problems.
Given below are a few tips to prevent, or at least reduce the chances of weight gain during this period of restricted activity.
Eat healthy, eat wisely, eat timely!
While it is right to assume that being home-bound leads to easy access to food and snacks, there is also a latent advantage in this, which is often ignored. With no options of eating out, we are restricted to home food – which tends to be healthier, low calorie and low trans-fat. To gain further advantage from this, we can resort to lower calorie snacks and food items such as sprouts or salads as a replacement for the usual fried (pakoda, samosa, vada) options.
Since most of us are not burning off calories during this period of lockdown, it is natural that our fuel foods intake should be lesser in this period. Carbohydrates (fuel foods) include food items such as bread, chapatis, rice, potato, etc. Intake of these should be curtailed during this period. Additionally, since the body does not need any energy during sleep, carbohydrates can be completely avoided at dinner. If satiety (satisfaction) is an issue with a curtailed intake of carbohydrates, we could increase the intake of low/non-carbohydrate food items such as pulses (dals), freshly cooked vegetables, fruits, etc.
Decide on your meal plan
If you’re working from home then you may have lost your daily routine, and also noticed that your eating habits have gone for a toss. This can lead to two major factors – Firstly, you may end up snacking unhealthy food through the day and secondly, you may binge eat whenever you feel bored or stressed. To avoid unhealthy snacking and binge eating you need to stick to a regular schedule that will help get your habits back on track. You can start by having breakfast at the same time, daily. Plan your lunch and afternoon snack, and this will eliminate any mid-day cravings. This will also ensure that you don’t have a heavy dinner, and you don’t stuff yourself with food before heading to bed. Scheduling and deciding your meal plans will train your mind to be hungry and regular intervals.
The importance of timely and regular meals cannot be over-emphasized. Body metabolism works best when nutritious food is ingested at regular intervals, rather than erratically. It is particularly important to avoid eating dinner very late and sleeping soon thereafter. This habit of regular meals should ideally be followed even when there is no lockdown. Finally, this habit is particularly relevant to diabetics, as it avoids erratic blood sugar levels.
Meal prep everyday
Rather than being impulsive and spontaneous with your diet during the lockdown, and figuring out what to eat on the spot, meal prep in advance. For instance, you can go grocery shopping for meals that you can prepare through the week like oatmeal for breakfast, stir fry for lunch and dinner, and some fruits you can enjoy as snacks. This way you will enjoy a high-quality diet and you will consume less processed food. This way you will avoid gaining weight during quarantine as well. If you are short on time or you don’t want to spend too much time whipping up a meal then you can purchase frozen options like frozen vegetable and precooked rice, with some canned beans. Plant-based meals are great options because they cook faster and are quite delicious when prepared well.
Be mindful of how much you consume
Mindless eating is the worst because you are consuming way too many calories without paying much attention, and before you know it you have gained a lot of weight. Boredom can trick your mind into thinking that you are hungry. It’s very easy to mindlessly grab a packet of chips from the cabinet and munch on it without thinking twice; but you need to be aware that all these frequent, mindless, snacking times do add up. So, you must keep that yourself busy and find joy in activities that don’t involve food. Maybe you can go for a walk with your dog (ensure that you practice social distancing), read a book, work out, or call a friend.
You are under social lockdown, not exercise lockdown!
The physical and medical benefits of exercise are well known. There are two additional but lesser-known benefits of exercise, which are particularly relevant in crisis periods. First, exercise is a very good immunity booster – which may be needed should one, unfortunately, get infected with the coronavirus. Secondly, exercise is a mood elevator and has anti-anxiety effects. Exercise, due to the release of chemicals called endorphins, leads to a feeling of happiness and reduces feelings of anxiety and depression.
Now for some specific recommendations. Since we are completely homebound, we need to adopt exercises suitable for restricted areas. These could include simpler and less aggressive forms such as static running, skipping, etc., or more aggressive forms such as crunches Pilates, or yoga. Needless to say, your exercise schedule must include all forms including stretching, muscle building/toning, and cardiorespiratory exercises. Regarding timing, exercise can be performed at any time of the day – though I recommend adhering to a fixed time and duration. About duration, generally, 45 minutes to a 1-hour of daily exercise is adequate. Exercise should be performed most days in a week – if possible, every day. Different exercise schedules may be followed in order to avoid monotony and boredom, as
well, as to exercise different muscle groups.
Various sites on the internet offer a range of information on age-appropriate exercise advice and schedules.
It’s all in the mind!
Like many other modern-day diseases, obesity also has a strong ‘mind’ component. While the country needs us to stay indoors at this time, it does not require us to eat more, become inactive and gain weight. In fact, to the contrary, this is the time for us to evolve as individuals and make amends for whatever may be wrong in our lifestyles. To that extent, winning over this tendency to eat more and exercise less, is also a mind game. Winning over our temptations seems daunting and unachievable at first, but gets easier and achievable with the passage of time.
Human beings are result-oriented species. We like to objectively assess and evaluate responses to lifestyle choices. Fortunately, in the case of weight gain, measuring this benefit is very easy. Just use a weighing scale! How often? Once a week should be enough. Measuring body weight will give us a clear idea of where our body weight is headed. To conclude, it is possible to maintain our weight with a few lifestyle choices during this period of lockdown. After all, what we gain in these 3 weeks, may take years to lose! Moreover, as one of the social media jokes goes, no one would like to be addressed as “mere pyare hathiyon “ (my dear elephants) at the end of this period. After all, what we gain in these 3 weeks, may take years to lose!