That is exactly what my panicked brain was screaming when Covid first hit and all the gyms closed. I was an avid spinner and in pretty good shape before the pandemic hit. I went at least 3 times per week. I LOVED it! However, the rapid spread of Covid-19 in my state forced the one and only spin studio in my community to shut down along with all the other gyms in the area. This left me without a way to do my favorite exercise, and as a result, I lost my muscle tone and gained some weight. I felt out of control because of no longer having my exercise routine. I started snacking more, drinking more alcohol, and getting depressed. I wasn’t burning any extra calories because I wasn’t exercising, and I was taking in way more calories than before. It was a terrible combination of bad habits replacing good ones.
It took me a while to get my bearings and get healthy again, and I’m still a work in progress. The first thing I did to get myself back on track was stop drinking (best decision ever!), and then I started adding more healthy habits to my routine like taking walks when I felt stressed, drinking more water and herbal tea, and being more mindful about what I ate. It’s not always easy, and I am not always perfect, but the small changes I have made have helped me so much. I’ve compiled some of the strategies I use below. I hope you’ll find them helpful, too!
Optimize your diet. Like it or not, your diet is what has the biggest impact on your ability to lose weight, not how much you exercise. I have had to learn to prioritize my diet over the past several months. It hasn’t always been easy, especially since giving up alcohol actually made me want to eat more in the beginning, and I still have a couple of days each month where I’m really stressed and I feel like I could just eat non-stop. Some of the things that have really helped me to cut calories while still feeling satisfied include:
- Load up your plate with non-starchy veggies at every meal. Cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, spinach, kale, peppers, and eggplant are some of my favorites. I generally have a veggie omelet for breakfast, an enormous salad for lunch, and steamed or roasted veggies and a serving of lean protein for dinner.
- Choose lean protein as the centerpiece of your meals. This is a really common diet recommendation, probably because it is actually very helpful for most people. Skinless chicken breast, canned tuna (in water) and salmon (without the skin) are my favorite protein sources. They’re low in calories, but high in protein so they help me to feel full for longer. Steer clear of fatty, high-calorie protein sources, like fried chicken, burgers, and hot dogs.
- Limit your daily carbohydrate intake to 100 grams per day. I find that I lose weight much more easily when I do this. Staying under 100 grams provides enough carbohydrates so that I don’t feel deprived, but it cuts them enough so that my calories are reduced as a side effect. I try to avoid sugar and simple carbohydrates. If I am craving something sweet, I usually have a cup of herbal tea and one of my low-fat/low carb peanut butter cups.
Look for other little ways to cut calories. There are so many calorie cutting “tricks” out there, but these are the ones that I find to be most helpful:
- Make simple swaps throughout the day to reduce your overall caloric intake. Use stevia instead of sugar in your morning coffee or tea, switch from whole milk to 1% milk, or try using ground turkey instead of ground beef in your chili. These little swaps add up and can help you to lose weight without missing a thing.
- Cut out empty calories in the form of alcohol and sugary drinks. Obviously, I am all for going alcohol-free for many reasons, but ditching the booze may also help you to lose weight for a variety of reasons. If you’re a fan of sugary sodas, try drinking sparkling water or even plain instead. I like to add lemon or lime juice to my water for a bit of extra flavor.
- Use tiny plates and bowls instead of big ones. This is kind of a weird one that multiple studies have investigated. Although it seems that this may not work for everyone, I find that I eat less if I put my food on a smaller plate. I still load it up with as many veggies as I can fit on it, but there’s less space for other extras that would add empty calories.
- Turn off the TV, put away your phone, and sit down at a table to eat. Watching TV or browsing the internet while you eat distracts you from how much you’re actually eating, and according to some studies this can cause you to eat more. On the other hand, eating more attentively may help you to eat less. Put away the devices during meal times and try to focus all of your attention on your food instead.
- Stop eating 2-3 hours before bedtime. This helps to ensure that your body has time to process what you’ve eaten for dinner before bedtime and I find it prevents mindless evening snacking if you have a set cutoff for eating at the end of each day. I go to bed at about 11pm each night, so my usual food cutoff is 8pm. Some people like to make the cutoff earlier so that they have a longer stretch between their evening meal and their morning meal. This is also known as intermittent fasting and research indicates that it may help with weight loss.
Find ways to burn extra calories that don’t require a gym membership. There are some gyms open in my area again, but still no spin studio, so I am continuing to exercise on my own for now. That has been an adjustment, but here are some suggestions that may be helpful:
- Look for a type of exercise that you enjoy doing and find a way to do it at home. For me, that’s spinning, so I knew I needed to get a bike sooner or later. I couldn’t find a spin bike that was within my price range, but I was able to find a gently used stationary bike and that has been perfect so far. I can’t do the exact same workouts that I used to do in spin classes because it’s not stable enough to stand up on, but I can get a pretty good burn on it. Consider investing in a gently used treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical machine if those are things you like to do.
- Go on walks whenever you can. I live in an area where walking outdoors is really not an option in the winter, but during the spring, summer, and fall, I walk a lot! I love to go on long walks with my husband and son, especially in the evening. It’s a great way to burn some extra calories and enjoy some quality time together.
- Park further away from the entrance at the grocery store. This is a common tip, but it really is a great way to get some extra steps in. I don’t do this as much as I used to because of my little one. I usually park as close to the cart return as I can to make it easier to get the groceries and him into the car. But if I am alone, I like to park further away.
- Wear a fitness tracker and aim for 10,000 steps per day. For most fitness trackers, this is the default goal and if you hit it each day, possibly because reaching this steps goal each day has been shown to produce weight loss in overweight adults. I wear my fitness tracker non-stop in the warmer months and always try to hit that goal each day. If I come up a little short, knowing that I am so close to my step goal gives me the extra push I need to do just a little more!
- Work in small amounts of extra activity throughout the day. Do squats during commercials if you’re watching a TV show, do jumping jacks while you microwave your lunch, or take the stairs instead of the elevator! Basically, look for any opportunity you can find to get a little more activity throughout the day. All these little bits will add up and increase your daily calorie burn.
I hope these suggestions were helpful to you! I am 5 lbs down now, so I’m already 10% of the way to my weight loss goal for 2021 only 2.5 weeks into the new year! Who knows?! Maybe I will even hit my goal early and I can set a new goal for the remainder of the year.
Got more tips? Please share them!
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