Did you gain the Covid-19 extra weight? You’re not alone. After months of not going out, shielding and not moving as much as we used to, the pandemic has created the perfect storm for midlife women who struggle to keep off the pounds.
According to a poll by the American Psychological Association, 61% of U.S. adults reported undesired weight change since the pandemic began, mainly because of prolonged stress. If you are one of them, there are small steps you can take to improve your health: developing simple habits that support your wellbeing will help you get rid of that unwanted pandemic luggage.
Here are some top tips from experts to encourage and inspire you to get back on track.
Stop buying snacks and eat proper portions
Unwanted weight gain has been a big problem for Dr Heather Sine’s patients over the past two years, especially women over 40. Track calories, avoid junk food and decrease alcohol consumption is what she often recommends.
“First, I ask why they think they gained weight,” says Dr Sine who practices medicine at Capital Women’s Care in the Washington, D.C. area. “Most know why and they admit to moving less and eating more. I will often ask them to keep track of everything they eat for a few days just to see how many calories are being consumed. There are many free apps that will assist in tracking calories. Most women are working from home, so access to their pantry is much easier, and they have not felt comfortable going back to the gym. I tell them to stop buying snacks except for fruit, vegetables and lower-calorie options, including hummus and plain yoghurt. I also advise to watch portion sizes and decrease alcohol consumption.”
Be committed to an exercise program
New York certified trainer and nutrition coach, Judy Arazoza, points out that: “If losing weight were easy, then there would be no weight loss industry.” But that does not mean we cannot do anything about our extra pounds.
“Midlife women have the added issue of continually losing muscle that is vital to maintaining a healthy metabolism,” Judy observes. “They need to eat enough mostly whole foods to fuel workouts that will build strength. So a quick fix, very low-calorie diet, is not going to work. A midlife woman might lose weight initially – she explains- but she will also have cravings and gain the weight back. Worse, she will have lost precious muscle and the fast regaining of weight will be fat, not muscle. This is why a resistance training program for midlife women specifically is a necessary part of this process. The best method is to be committed to one that builds strength and to have a consistent nutrition plan that is only a slight calorie deficit.”
Be focused on fun
Kelly Howard, a fitness consistency coach based in Houston, Texas, emphasizes that midlife women need to focus on fun to see results.
“If it’s not fun, it’s not sustainable,” she advises. “Find something that gets you excited, not the scale, not another fitness app, something that gets you outside and moving. Consider trying a rowing class or hiking a new trail. Rent or buy a bike. Think outside of the inside and do something that makes you smile. And then do it again. The more fun you have, the more weight you will lose.”
Opt for the Mediterranean Diet
The word diet comes with certain assumptions–a set of rigid rules to follow that may have you counting calories and avoiding food groups that your body needs. Thankfully, that is not what you’ll find when eating the Mediterranean way. It’s a more sensible way to eat.
“The Mediterranean Diet has withstood the test of time as a solid tool for weight loss,” says Dr Donna Hanes, from the University of Maryland Medical Center, in Baltimore, Maryland. “It focuses on heart-healthy foods, including healthy fats, fruits, vegetables and grains that are safe to employ in every person, whether they have underlying conditions or just have additional pounds after the pandemic.”
Get consistent nightly sleep
As well as eating healthy food, exercising and limiting alcohol consumption, Dr Gabrielle Virgo, of Silver Spring, Maryland, recommends that women over 50 get also enough sleep.
“First, eat most of your calories earlier in the day, and try to start the day with protein, not sugar. This has actually been shown to reduce hunger sensations; a sugary breakfast will increase hunger as the day progresses. Try not to eat heavy meals or snacks later in the evening, which can be disruptive to sleep”, she explains.
“Second, getting consistent nightly sleep, ideally no less than seven to eight hours nightly, has been shown to help control your weight; poor sleep has been shown to increase appetite. Third, limit alcohol consumption or avoid it completely. Not only does alcohol add calories, but it increases hunger sensations as well. Finally, there is no way to avoid it: exercise consistently”, she recommends.
It doesn’t have to be an intense boot camp, just find an exercise that you will enjoy and can do consistently, at least four times a week for 30+ minutes, and make it part of your routine.
For me, having an exercise partner is key to my keeping on a regular exercise schedule. If a friend is meeting me for a walk, I will be there. I also sometimes meet them online to do exercise videos. YouTube has many free workouts for all fitness levels. Also, instead of snacking when I am not really hungry, I try to call a friend, play with my dog or distract myself in some other way.
Of course, there are additional tips to keep in mind when on a weight loss journey: drink water with every meal and throughout the day, avoid fast food, cook with olive oil and eat your veggies every day, which are all the things we know but sometimes aren’t so good at doing!