Let's go over a few lessons learned during self-isolation: how to bake banana bread five different ways, which household objects can double as makeshift dumbbells and the fact that being cooped up at home can equal unwanted weight gain.
While you've been busy adapting to this new home-centered reality, you may have learned that it's hard to stay motivated to stick with a healthy routine when your new office is the living room and your daily walk is to the refrigerator. And if you've gained a little extra weight, you're definitely not the only person looking for a reset.
So, how do you lose weight if you still can't quite return to life as you knew it? According to Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN and head of nutrition and wellness at WW (formerly Weight Watchers), restricting your food intake is not the answer. While that might seem like the logical thing to do based on Instagram trends, London reiterates that "restriction for life is honestly just antithetical to actually living." Preach.
"Attempting to restrict or eliminate foods or food groups can result in temporary, short-lived weight loss," London says. "It's that cycle of losing and gaining weight that keeps us beholden to any trend or fad and makes it seem as though in order to lose weight or become healthier, you have to change your entire life — and that's not realistic for most people."
That's why she's an advocate for WW's holistic approach to weight loss, which favors small, attainable steps and behavior adjustments over dramatic life changes. "We're far more interested in cultivating progress — not some unrealistic, unattainable standard of perfection," London says. "That's why we focus on controlling what you actually can control, which cultivates a more sustainable approach to making any type of change in your life."
Keep reading for London's five tips for losing weight after months of being stuck at home — that don't involve cutting out any of your favorite foods.
1. Enjoy More Produce, More Often
London says the more you can make your meals and snacks produce-based, the more inclined you will be to crave these all-natural favorites over the not-as-nutritious foods. To help encourage eating more produce, fruits and vegetables are "ZeroPoints" on all of WW's plans — so you don't even have to track them.
"These foods are high in water-volume (so they can also help you meet your fluid needs) and loaded with vitamins and minerals we all need, plus fiber," London says. "To stay satisfied throughout the day, pair some staples with a source of protein like cheese, nut butter, hummus or a hard-boiled egg or two." It's not about restricting, just simply adding in the good-for-you stuff to the mix.
2. Stay Consistent
Consistency is key, but that doesn't equal perfection. All London means here is to stay consistent in the ways you can. Nail down your eating and workout habits, then start to figure out how you can improve them.
"A big component of the WW app is tracking, which builds awareness about your habits, meal patterns, preferences (what you like and dislike), and what activities, foods and general patterns make you feel your best," London says.
That way, you can stay in line with how your body likes to be taken care of instead of trying to force a new routine that won't work. For example, if you know you like to eat lunch at 12 in the afternoon, don't force your body to wait any longer for its next meal.
"Your personal schedule equals your strategy," London says. "I often recommend planning for a meal or snack about every few hours so that you're not starving going into your next meal."
3. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Set the scene: It's 8 p.m. and you head to the fridge for a snack, but realize after you eat it that you were actually just thirsty. It happens. "I find that in practice, many of us are confusing thirst with hunger — especially if we've skipped any earlier meals or snacks," London says. Odds are, you have personal experience to back this theory up, too.
She suggests keeping water (or any unsweetened beverage of choice, like tea) in sight during the day, so you'll be constantly reminded to take some swigs — and then a few more. WW even has a water tracker in the app to make sure you're meeting your daily recommended water intake.
4. Move More
Whether your gym is still closed or you just don't feel comfortable sweating next to strangers yet, working out in the traditional way might not be possible right now — but squeezing in movement wherever you can is key.
"Taking a 15-minute walk around the block when you have time between calls or using a break midday to stream a workout from your desk chair will help re-energize you," London says. "It also shows you how it's possible to get moving — even if you're not really going anywhere."
The WW app — which gives you access to workouts from FitOn and Aaptiv, and syncs with your fitness device or app to track your movement as "FitPoints" — works as a guide to help you incorporate more movement into your day in ways you may have never thought of before. "Using the app is like having an in-your-pocket partner in self-care," London says. "Through behavior-change science and practical application of acceptance-based therapy, positive psychology and cognitive behavioral therapy, you'll learn how to use, rely on and apply a framework for creating healthier patterns in any area of your life," she adds.
So, if you did gain a few pounds over the last few months, losing it doesn't have to be a fearful game of restriction. In fact, you can use this time to reconnect with yourself, build off of the healthy habits you've already created and set yourself on a path toward your new-new-normal.
5. Give Yourself a Break
Phew, right? The last thing London wants you to know is that it's totally normal to feel like some things are out of your control right now (which can be frustrating when you're trying to adhere to a healthy lifestyle!). So try to take some of the pressure off — you are human, after all.
"Remember that not everything about health can be measured," she says. "Simply giving yourself the space to acknowledge that we've had a collective rough time recently can help you reset and decide what choices feel right for you now." We are in the middle of a pandemic after all, so take a breath.
And don't forget what she said earlier about making weight-loss choices based on your personal situation, instead of forcing it. "Starting small and keeping it as simple as possible is your first step toward doing things that are repeatable," London says. But if you do get off track, WW's app makes it easy to recommit to your goals by simply tracking the food you eat.
If you want to try WW out for yourself, snag two months of the digital program for over 50 percent off here.