As part of a June 2020 study in Clinical Obesity, people with obesity filled out online surveys about how COVID‐19 stay‐at‐home orders have been influencing their health. Among the 123 people who responded, nearly 70 percent reported finding it more difficult to achieve their weight-loss goals than before widespread lockdowns went into effect.
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But just because you're temporarily cooped up doesn't mean all your efforts to drop unwanted pounds are doomed to fail.
Here, experts share 10 ways to stay healthy and stick to your weight-loss goals when you're shut in for the short term.
1. Stick to a Structure
"Working at home is a double whammy," Julia Dugas, RDN, a dietitian with Life Time, tells LIVESTRONG.com. "First, you have access to your fridge and pantry all day long. Second, even with good intentions and daily at-home workouts, you are still likely far less active than your typical day (and burning less calories)."
That's why it's important you stick to a schedule — eat exactly as you would if you were at the office. "Maintaining the same meal and snack structure can help you stay on track with the appropriate amount of food to continue towards your weight-loss goal," she says.
Preparing your meals ahead of time can help you do just that. With meal prep, you can "avoid getting sidetracked with unhealthy options or larger-than-intended portion sizes," Dugas explains.
2. Find Free Workouts Online
"If you're used to going to a gym or group fitness classes, working out at home isn't an easy transition," says Emily McLaughlin, in-house certified fitness trainer and nutrition expert at 8fit.
But you can still find quality workouts and fitness instruction online to help you lose weight at home. The best part? There are plenty that won't cost you a penny.
McLaughlin recommends taking advantage of free workout apps and streaming services or following credible and credentialed certified personal trainers on Instagram and YouTube.
With so much fitness-related content in the palm of your smartphone-holding hand, you won't have an excuse to avoid exercising at home.
3. Keep Your Workspace Out of the Kitchen
"If your workspace is right next to your kitchen, or you're working from your kitchen table, it's going to be extremely difficult to ignore all those snacks calling your name," Erika Fox, RDN, a registered dietitian and community manager for 310 Nutrition, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
The solution? Relocate! Find another spot to set up your workspace away from the temptations of the fridge and the pantry. "This will help keep you focused on your work and not so much on snacking," Fox says.
4. Get Creative With Common Household Items
No weights? No worries. You don't need expensive gym equipment to get a great workout and lose weight at home — just a little imagination and ingenuity.
"If you don't have weights, a bike or treadmill at home, you'll need to get creative," McLaughlin says. In other words, use what you have available. "Enlist the help of everyday objects like chairs for triceps dips, canned goods or wine bottles for weight and towels for sliding or extra resistance," she recommends.
5. Fill Up on Fruits and Veggies
Whatever the reason you're holed up at home, you might be feeling a little anxious and antsy without your regular routine in place.
"During times of high stress, our nutrient needs increase," Dugas says. "Getting a minimum of six (or more) servings of fruits and vegetables daily can ensure you're getting the vitamins and minerals you need for metabolic function, good energy levels and weight loss."
To keep you feeling fuller longer, Dugas recommends pairing fruits and veggies with foods that are high in protein and healthy fat. Think:
- Veggies with hummus or mixed nuts
- Fruit with nut butter
- Plain full-fat Greek yogurt with berries
6. Find a Virtual Gym Buddy
If you depend on a gym buddy to help you push through grueling exercise routines, you might find your stamina (and your motivation) lacking during solo workouts. But there's good news: You don't have to suffer through home sweat sessions alone.
By using video conferencing tools like FaceTime, Skype or Zoom, you can still connect with your gym partner from the comfort of your own home, McLaughlin says. Collaborate and plan your workouts ahead of time, then schedule your at-home "gym" sessions in your calendar.
This is a great way to hold yourself accountable and stay motivated while you're temporarily stuck in the house.
7. Hydrate With H2O
Don't forget to fill up your water bottle. Staying hydrated is a must-have for maintaining a healthy metabolism. That's because when you're not properly hydrated, your cells don't function efficiently, i.e., they slow down, Dugas says. And if this happens, your metabolism can grind to a halt.
Not being hydrated can also make you feel hungry. So, before you pop something in your mouth, try sipping some water first. Keeping hydrated can help you feel fuller and avoid the common pitfall of mistaking dehydration for hunger.
What's more, your water intake is also important for joint lubrication, muscle function and energy levels, Dugas explains. And you'll need healthy muscles, joints and strength to stay active and focused on your weight-loss goals.
8. Home in on Hunger Cues
Tuning into your hunger and fullness cues can help you avoid overeating and snacking unnecessarily, Dugas says. "When you make a trip to the fridge, check in with yourself: Are you feeling hungry or are you just bored, stressed, anxious or sad?"
In reality, you might just need a quick breather. "When you're at the office and feel like you need a brain break, it's easy to get up, walk around and chat with others, but at home, these brain breaks usually turn into snacking," Fox says. "Oftentimes, people aren't even hungry, but rather just need something to do so they can refocus."
Instead of resorting to snacks, try incorporating a different activity into your routine, says Fox who recommends going for a walk, taking a quick journal break, stretching or exercise.
Dugas agrees: Focusing on doing things you like (reading a book, calling a friend, running a bath, etc.) is a "good way to not only distract yourself, but to engage in an activity that can help you develop coping skills for reducing stress and anxiety in the long run."
9. Squeeze in Squats
Is all that time at home making you a couch potato? Unfortunately, spending countless hours on the sofa isn't good for your glutes.
"Our glute muscles get sleepy when we sit too much," McLaughlin says. And when our movement is limited, these muscles essentially go into hibernation.
Though leg and butt-focused workouts are a great way to combat this problem, you can also incorporate more movement throughout your day. McLaughlin recommends adding squats to your daily activities like washing your hands, emptying the dishwasher, brushing your teeth and waiting for water to boil.
A functional, compound exercise, squats not only activate the glutes but will also help you burn more calories and stay the course for your weight-loss efforts.
10. Lay Off the Laptop Snacking
"Many people snack while working from home because they're either bored or need something to do while they work," Fox says. Just like when we watch TV, it's easy to engage in mindless eating when we keep a box of cookies next to the computer.
And with easy access to the fridge and pantry, this situation can quickly become a recipe for overindulging.
Again, heed your hunger cues and "when you are hungry, step away from the computer," Fox says. "Take the extra time to sit down and eat a snack or meal, and don't get back to work until you feel fully satisfied."
Bottom line: When your belly is happy, you're less likely to graze on greasy chips all day.