In a recent blog post we explored the concept of maintaining (or regaining) some self-control during lockdown. It’s all too easy at the moment to use food as an emotional support for the ups and downs of daily life, and whilst that in itself isn’t a problem, the foods we tend to gravitate towards in those stressful times are the highly processed, high sugar high fat foods that can have a negative impact on our health overall.
As a Nutritional Therapist I’ve never liked the word ‘lean.’ In fact, I prefer not to talk about weight loss or body image at all, since it can be an incredibly triggering and negative thing for so many of us. Not only that but the micronutrient and nutritional density of foods often gets disregarded in favour of their macronutrient breakdown: i.e. “how many calories does this have?” in comparison to “how good is this for me?” To me, ‘lean’ suggests a lack of something, rather than an abundance of good health, love, happiness and health.
The truth of the matter is though that for most of us piling on a few extra pounds can come with negative side effects for our mental health. Of course, I believe that everyone should be happy with the size they are, but if you’ve gained weight in lock down and it’s making you feel resentful towards our body, giving you a negative mindset and making you fear food then that’s not a good place to be.
So what do we do about it?
1. Regain a sense of self-determination
Having the confidence and positivity to make sensible food choices is key. Give yourself the unadulterated permission to eat good, healthy, nutrient dense foods irrespective of their macronutrient breakdown. It’s okay to snack if you’re hungry, but choose veggies, fruit, nuts and seeds in favour of anything packaged, processed and devoid of nutrients.
2. Only eat when you’re hungry
Last week I had to challenge myself to this! I’d be the first to admit that I’ve found lockdown tough and, living with my parents for the foreseeable, I’ve certainly been found at the cookie jar occasionally. In my own house it would be highly unlikely that you’d find a packet of chocolate Hobnobs in the store cupboard, but my Dad is rather partial to them and I was finding it tough to resist - yep, Nutritionists aren’t saints either! So I said to myself that for the next couple of days I would only eat when I was hungry. If that means breakfast at 11am or even 1pm then so be it - tune into your body’s own unique hunger signals to regain some self-control around food.
3. Try intermittent fasting
If there’s one thing that instantly reconnects me back to my body and what nutrients it needs, it’s fasting. If you’ve eaten supper at 7pm and then waited 16 hours before eating again the chances are that you’ll want to put something really nutritious into your body - eggs, green veggies, avocado and sauerkraut, for example, rather than sugary pancakes laden with maple syrup and nut butter. Moreover, the simple act of changing when you eat (not necessarily what you eat) can have really beneficial effects on weight loss without you needing to change anything major in terms of diet. Having a longer gap between meals helps your body get into fat burning mode.
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- Joanne A.
4. Exercise to change your mindset
One of the most positive benefits of exercise, aside from the beneficial impact on gut microbiome, the endorphin release and increased cardiovascular function, is that it helps to reframe your mindset around food. Getting up and exercising first thing means that you’re far more likely, I think, to make healthy food choices. If you’ve just run 5k and done a short HIIT workout do you really want to cancel out all your efforts with a dirty burger for lunch? No, you’ll more likely go for some nutrient dense foods and lots of leafy greens. If you’re in the mindset of “I’ve exercised therefore I can eat cake,” then it’s time to turn that around! Look at every meal as a chance to make progress towards your health goals, not an opportunity to take a step backwards.
Ultimately it’s a tough time for all of us but taking these few simple steps will help to get you feeling positive, in control and on top of your game again!