As soon as this quarantine began, the posts on social media about fears of gaining weight, eating all of the “bad” foods, or lack of exercise began to flood my feeds. While I can certainly empathize and understand these fears I am here to tell you that this is not the time to worry about this. Your body has a physiological reaction to any stressor and we all have enough to worry about as it is. For instance, lack of income, homeschooling, and our overall health and well-being. Adding weight gain and food fears to this list does us no good. Instead of telling you to take a walk, do yoga, or mediate, all of which are amazing things to do to help with overall stress, I am going to outline three things you can do to destress around food, exercise, and weight gain during this quarantine.
Eat the Damn Ice Cream
Just like I tell you to eat the banana, I am telling you to relax and eat the ice cream or whatever you are craving that you think is bad for you. One of the first images I saw on instagram after we were told to stay home as much as possible was a picture of ice cream and a picture of “healthier” options being compared to each other. The message was, “you don’t have to let this be an excuse to eat nothing but ice cream while under quarantine….here are healthier options to keep in the house”. While I understand the value of eating nutrient dense foods most of the time, diet culture is rearing its ugly head at an even more alarming frequency due to the quarantine. Posts like this perpetuate the fear around gaining weight during this time, thus increasing our stress levels.
As I have explained numerous times, restriction and deprivation lead to an increase in stress and pre-occupation with food, and can inadvertently lead to excess weight due to higher cortisol and of course the inevitable binge cycle. As Christy Harrison, author of Anti-Diet, explains, restriction and dieting is like a pendulum. Basically, you restrict restrict restrict and when the pendulum starts to drop because you can no longer resist your cravings it does not stop in the middle. It naturally sways to the complete opposite side; in this case bingeing. There is no way you can go right from restriction to a healthy relationship with food in other words.
Add to that, as I outlined in my blog on why diets don’t work, diets are not a long term fix. They increase your obsession with food, lead to rebound weight gain, disconnect you with your body’s natural ability to experience hunger and fullness, and wreak havoc on our mental well-being. So I will say it again, eat the damn ice cream and enjoy it!
Get Rid of Your Scale
Being stuck at home for days on end can certainly cause us to go off the rails on our road to intuitive eating or eating disorder recovery. We aren’t as distracted by every day life so it is easy to fall back into the habit of obsessively weighing ourselves. Especially because we all feel a little bit out of control in relation to this virus and quarantine.
If you cannot stop weighing yourself or are obsessed with the number you see on your scale, try to just get rid of it. Our weight fluctuates so much day to day and even hour to hour and as outlined in my blog on weight set-point ranges, there is not a whole lot we can do to permanently control our biological set-point. In addition, weight can fluctuate up to 2-4 pounds throughout the day depending on what we eat, drink, do for exercise, our stress levels, and even sleep, so weighing yourself every day or even multiple times in a day is futile and ends up being mentally harmful. Not only is the scale not accurate, it can trigger eating disorder behaviors and is not an indicator of overall health. Try to replace weighing yourself with a more beneficial activity. For instance, when you feel the need to weigh yourself, mediate, journal about it, or go on a walk. Slowly you will start to remove this habit from your life and I promise you will be much happier!
Give Yourself Permission to Chill
It is challenging not to compare ourselves to others when our social media feeds are filled with people doing workouts, cooking healthy meals, and homeschooling their kids as if it were their full time job. If you struggle with comparing yourself to what others are doing and it makes you feel less than, get off of social media or limit your time. Social media can be beneficial in replacing the much needed social time we are all not getting at the moment but it can also be very detrimental to your overall happiness. Pick and choose what you want to follow and go from there.
In regards to learning how to chill, it is challenging to lose our normal workout routine but it is also ok to do different things to move our bodies and stay active. In fact, our bodies need a break from high intensity training and this time in quarantine is the perfect time to try a new activity or skill. This is the time to relax and do things you do not normally do. Read books, take naps, go on walks, play games with the family, or get some much needed yard work done. Do whatever makes you happy and don’t feel the need to go balls to the wall every day to be the most productive quarantine family in America. There are no awards or medals for this. We are all in this together.
If CrossFit, OrangeTheory, or some other form of high intensity interval training is normally your thing and you don’t have access to it, try going on some outdoor runs or get a few pairs of dumbbells or kettlebells and make up your own lower key routine to move each day just a little bit. It is not about how high intensity your workouts are, it is about simply continuing to move your body and stay active. These weeks off will go a long way to help you when you return to normal activity so take advantage of it.
Not only does this give your body a chance to recover, but it allows you to be more creative with your exercise routine. Who knows, maybe you will discover something you will learn to love and incorporate into your routine permanently. Try a Zoom Yoga class, download the Peloton app, and try some guided bootcamps or meditations or simply google “at home workouts”. Give yourself permission to chill and do what feels right RIGHT NOW.
In summary, there is no wrong way to do this quarantine thing but I do know that you do not have to stress over food, weight gain, or your exercise routine changing. This too shall pass, and there are more important things to worry about like spending time with family, catching up on sleep, and finding toilet paper, so let’s all just eat what our bodies tell us to eat and move forward people!