Many of us are struggling with pandemic pounds—the extra weight we’ve gained throughout the pandemic that represents the lack of activity, boredom, or stress eating, and the psychological impact of rarely leaving the house—I know I certainly am. According to one CBC article, a recent report from the Agrifoods Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University found 42.3 per cent of Canadians said they had gained weight unintentionally during the pandemic. With vaccination rates going up and (hopefully) signalling the beginning of the return to “normal,” I for one am more than ready to return to my usual, healthy, self.
Changing your diet and sticking to your new healthy lifestyle can be incredibly difficult at first. Here are some tips and tricks to help.
Set Goals, Make a Plan
First, figure out what your goals are. Do you want to lose 10 pounds? 50 pounds? Do you want to be able to run in that marathon next summer? Feel better? Whatever your goals are, make sure they are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.
So, let’s say your goal is to fit into your favourite pair of denim shorts (that you can no longer get past your hips) this summer. Next, you need to plan how you will accomplish your goal. For me, this includes cutting out processed foods, sugar, and most carbs. Another aspect of planning I find helpful is meal-planning—which means prepping, or at least deciding beforehand, exactly what I will eat for the week.
Find Your Reason Why
Why do you want to lose weight? There are no wrong answers here, as long as you are being true to yourself. When I think about why I want to be healthier, I think of my children. I want to be around for as long as possible for them. I want to be able to keep up with them. I also know I am a better mother when I feel good physically.
Find your reason and put it out into the world. Write it in your journal, post it on your wall, tell someone about it—whatever you feel is best for you.
The biggest struggle I have when trying to stick to a diet is when life happens. Maybe both of my kids are sick, and I don’t have the energy to cook myself a healthy dinner. Maybe my errands are taking longer than expected and I’m beginning to get hangry. In our busy world, sometimes ordering a pizza or grabbing a burger from the drive-through seems like the only option. This is where your “if/then” comes into play.
Think of the things that commonly derail your healthy-eating train, and pre-emptively decide how you will stay on track. For instance, I almost always have a Lara Bar, nuts, or a piece of fruit with me when I leave the house, so I don’t feel the need to stop and grab an unhealthy snack. I have also found several options from various restaurants that are consistent with my diet, so getting take-out or ordering in when I have a busy day is still possible.
Example: If I am too tired to cook dinner, then I will go to Edo and get the chicken and vegetable stir-fry with cauliflower rice.
Listen to Your Body
I can’t stress this point enough—never starve yourself. Diets that make you feel constantly hungry, tired, or sick are not good. Take this time to become more in-tune with your body. What foods make you feel good/bad? What are your hunger cues? How do you know when you’re full? Our bodies know what they need, we just need to listen.
While diet is an integral part of our health, so is getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. Not only will exercise help you reach your health goals, but it also improves your mood and helps with digestion. I enjoy lifting weights at the gym and running, but you might prefer going for outdoor walks, participating in a sport, or doing yoga at home. Regardless of what kind of exercise you partake in, I find that consistent exercise encourages me to stay on track with my diet.
Give Yourself Grace
Most importantly, be kind to yourself! Accomplishing your goals will take time. There will be days when you don’t feel like continuing. There may even be days where you slip up—and that’s okay! Remember that there is always tomorrow, and you are worthy, valid, and deserving of love no matter what your physical body looks like.