Wondering how to lose the quarantine 15 you have gained by staying at home? Read on to find some effective weight loss strategies to shed those stubborn pounds.
When the pandemic first hit back in 2020, we all took shelter in our homes to brace ourselves against the pandemic. We were naively thinking we would hunker down at home just a few days for all the ruckus about the pandemic to die down, and then be back on track to lead our normal lives.
But fast forward one year and, despite the vaccination and tons of precautions in place, we are still left fighting the same battle.
But what’s more worrying is that you never know when this ordeal is going to end; your optimism might be just on the verge of running out. Besides, the whole lockdown or pandemic didn’t just take its toll on your psyche, it also manifested itself in the few inches on your waistline (aka ‘quarantine 15’). We look down and gasp, “That was never there before the pandemic!”.
It’s no wonder people coined the term “quarantine 15” to address the issue. When you are cooped up at home with your life stripped of all the daily outdoor activities, and all the food and pandemic supplies right at your fridge, you have little incentive to eat healthily. And the stress of the pandemic might have just added to your need to eat (or maybe drink) your worries away.
Now that the pandemic restriction is somewhat easing off and we are starting to get back some semblance of normalcy in our lives, you might start to notice you are no longer that fit or agile person you were before. When you were laughing at those quarantine 15 memes, you yourself might have unwittingly turned into a meme by binge eating.
If you think this is the perfect time to break free from that cycle of stress eating, you should start controlling what goes into your system. To aid your journey to lose quarantine 15, we have come up with some weight loss strategies that you can follow. Give it a read before you start your quest.
How to Lose Your Quarantine 15 by Dieting
When you think of weight loss, exercise might be the first thing that comes to your mind. But the thing is, as long as you don’t control what you are eating, all types of exercise will be futile for weight loss. Besides, when it comes to exercise vs diet, you can never outrun your fork; the calories you gain by eating will be much harder to lose with exercise.
For instance, if you consume 2,000 calories a day and want to burn those 2,000 by exercise, you might never get to leave the gym. It’s that impossible, risky, and rather inhuman if you are not a pro athlete.
So, unless you want to physically exhaust yourself, controlling what you eat will be far more effective for weight loss than exercise. To lose the quarantine 15 through dieting, here are some simple strategies that you can follow.
Take Small Steps
Most of our weight loss attempts fail because we aim too high and get quickly burnt out. Failing to meet that high expectation sets us up for even more failure; we get demotivated and quit our weight loss project altogether. It’s like a domino effect.
You push one little piece in the wrong direction and the whole system of your routine crumbles. But this also has a reverse benefit, because when you start to move in the right direction, even an inch, all the other positive aspects are set in motion.
Understanding your limit and taking small steps to achieve that can make a world of difference in your weight loss outcome. Besides, a gradual shifting to weight loss is much more effective than a radical change. For instance, instead of drastically cutting your calories you can try these baby steps at first:
- Get more fluids in your body
- Avoid processed foods
- Start preparing your own lunch
Encourage Homemade Meals
To control what you eat, preparing your own foods at home is the best option. Besides the endless perks of homemade food, for one, you know what’s going into your system. You create an attachment with your food as you carefully prepare it. and that appeals more to you than the store-bought meal lying in your freezer.
Don’t worry if you don’t know much about cooking. You don’t have to be Guy Fieri to whip up some homemade meal just for your survival.
Here are some pro tips for making your home cooking a breeze:
- Get some simple recipes at hand
- Make a list of ingredients you need and shop accordingly
- Use basic ingredients that are easy to prep and can be used for several different recipes
- Stock your pantry with different spices and condiments. Spices not only boost the taste of your meals but also help you lose fat and improve your metabolism.
Maintain an Eating Schedule
The pandemic has thrown us all off of our routine, and our eating schedule might be the most affected part. When your 9-to-5 job turns into a whole day job (thanks to the ‘work from home’ practice) you may opt for unhealthy snacks when you get a little break from work, skipping the hassle of preparing a full meal.
However, scheduling a fixed mealtime can ensure you are not overeating, undereating, or even living on snacks all day. Here’s what you can do to schedule a mealtime:
- Try eating breakfast within the first two hours of waking up
- Schedule your lunchtime after 5-6 hours of breakfast
- Try eating dinner at least three hours before bed
- Don’t leave more than 4-5 hours of intervals between meals; it will reduce the chance of overeating during mealtime
Try Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that you follow throughout the day or even week. Your day or week is divided into two different periods: the eating period and the fasting period. The fasting period doesn’t restrict your water consumption. As you might have guessed, to have any effect on your body weight the fasting period needs to be longer than the eating period.
Intermittent fasting is not restrictive as it might sound at first. The limitation is only for your eating period but you have complete freedom to choose what you eat during that time. Having said that, as you have a small window of eating time, you should make the best use of it by eating healthy foods that can provide you energy for the fasting period.
There are several ways to pull off an intermittent fasting routine. Here are some common ways of dividing your time into fasting and eating periods.
The 16:8 Pattern or Lean Gains
In this schedule, you fast for 14-16 hours a day and are allowed to eat during the remaining 10-8 hours. For instance, you can limit your eating period to 1 pm – 9 pm and fast the remaining hours.
The 5:2 Pattern or the Fast Diet
In this pattern, you fast for two days and eat for five days a week. It is less strict than the lean gain patterns as you can eat 500-600 calories during the two days you fast. You can resume your regular eating habit for the remaining five days.
The Eat Stop Eat Method
In this method, you fast for 24 hours once or twice a week. Unlike the 5:2 pattern, you are not allowed to consume any food during that fasting period.
Alternate Day Fasting
Alternate day fasting is the method where you fast every other day. You can opt for a complete fasting or restricted calorie intake of 500-600 calories during your fasting days; it’s completely optional.
The Benefits From Intermittent Fasting
You get the following benefits from intermittent fasting:
- An automatic reduction in calorie intake
- A change in hormone level to promote weight loss
- An increased metabolic rate
- Fewer hassles of preparing extra meals during your fasting period
As your body is wired to consume at least three meals throughout the day, it might seem difficult at first to function without one or two of those meals. However, as your body is trained to function that way, you might find intermittent fasting is rather beneficial and convenient compared to eating three meals a day.
Try a Plant-Based Diet
For a lifelong carnivore, it might sound daunting to go into full-on vegan mode. But don’t worry, it might not be as intimidating once you get used to it. If being a full-on vegan seems like a tough job, try being a vegetarian first. That way you can still get some animal protein from eggs or milk.
Simply moving to plant-based foods, such as veggies and grains to the center of your plate, can significantly affect your weight loss. Plant-based foods are rich in fiber and packed with nutrients; they keep you full for longer while not being calorie-dense. These foods are perfect for those who want to lose weight without starving themselves.
Say No to Liquor
There are many adults who have tried to drink their pandemic worries away by turning to their liquor cabinet. And if you have made it a habit of savoring an evening glass of wine during the pandemic, you need to let go of that habit.
For one, alcohol contains empty calories, meaning it doesn’t provide any nutritional value other than filling you up with calories. Just like added sugar and solid fats they just stay as a reserve in your body, adding a few inches to your waistline. Besides, when you drink alcohol, your body craves more calorie-dense food, throwing your entire weight loss diet into turmoil. If you are serious about losing that quarantine 15, you should quit drinking.
Dress Sensibly To Encourage Going Out
As you didn’t need to go out during the pandemic, you might have paid little to no attention to your appearance or how you dressed. And, to some extent, how you are dressed can affect your mindset. If you are dressed for home, you will hardly have any incentive for going out or doing some light walking or a workout.
Instead of lounging around in your sweats, dress accordingly so that your mind gets the signal that you are ready to go out if you wish. It will make it easier for you to get out of a slump and go out and breathe some fresh air.
Make Full Use Of Your Commute Time by Exercising
Have you ever wished how much you could have accomplished if you didn’t have to spend hours commuting? Well, this pandemic has granted your wish! Now is your time to make the best use of that commute time that was never productive.
Depending on your work destination, it can be an extra 40 minutes to an hour that you can add to your schedule. This is the right amount of time to squeeze in some light exercise in your work-from-home schedule. If you don’t have any gym equipment at home, you can still get some exercise done. Try these exercises:
- Run up and down the stairs several times at a fast pace; it is a good form of makeshift cardio
- Try yoga at home. You can join some online yoga club to keep you motivated
- Try exercising by using your body weight
- Play with your kids or pets
Seek Out Support If You Need It
Sometimes we lack the willpower or the drive to propel ourselves in the right direction. A little encouragement and incentive from the outside might be the push we need to jumpstart ourselves. If you don’t find that drive within yourself to start your weight loss journey, you might need some outside help.
Depending on your condition you might even need some consultation from the experts. But before you reach out for that help, consider these factors:
What is Suitable For Your Living Condition And Lifestyle
Unless you are living alone, the other members of your family or your housemates’ lifestyles are bound to impact the way you live or even your diet. In group-living it is harder to maintain a certain diet pattern when you have the temptation of food that is not in your diet plan.
To tackle that, you can ask for support from your housemates. And if you are a busy parent taking care of your family, you can opt for a meal delivery system.
Do You Prefer A One-to-One Consultation Or An App
A tracking app or a diet plan can go a long way to keep you motivated for your weight loss. But, some of us might need an extra push and not just an automated reminder, to keep us on track.
In that case, you can seek out virtual help from consultants. If it’s the motivation you need, try joining a weight watchers program where fellow weight loss dieters can help you navigate.
What Type Of Support Do You Need
Having a support group is a necessary catalyst in long-term weight loss. The support group can be your family, friends, neighbors, or even online acquaintances that are going through the same journey as you are.
Due to the pandemic, it might be harder for you to get that one-to-one interaction or practical support from your support group. However, you can still manage that by keeping in touch with your support online, organizing a healthy cooking session via a zoom call, or planning a socially distanced walk with your neighbor.
The Bottom Line
We all know maintaining a strict routine in this uncertain and stressful time is quite a challenge. Stress has a massive impact on our appetite and eating habits. You can either cave into that stress by eating your worries away or you can fight back. But the thing is, eating doesn’t reduce stress, rather it creates more wrinkles of worry in your face as your waistline keeps growing. So, that leaves you with the second option, to curb your stress and weight gain. Follow these tips mentioned above and get back to your fit and agile pre-pandemic self!
My name is Deborah Foster and I am a Weight Loss Coach with a background in Nutrition Coaching and Personal Training. I specialize in helping women and men break through the yo-yo diet cycle and lose weight for good, without being miserable in the process.