The Covid-19 pandemic and stay/safer-at-home orders have had a significant impact on one variable that has a profound effect on body weight: our environment. This encompasses the people, places, situations, cultures and even emotions that affect food and physical activity choices. Regardless of what your opinion is regarding calories, carbs, fats, intervals, cardio, etc., etc., it is a fact that our environment since spring of 2020 has changed.
Working from home now with the fridge only 15 feet away?
Lost your job and find you are eating to manage stress?
Is the gym that you love and got into a solid routine at now closed?
Isolated from family and friends and finding comfort in food or alcohol?
This list goes on and on and it has caused many to gain weight, but this is not the case for everyone. Many clients we are working with are happy to have been able to maintain weight during this time by managing the elements of their environment they can control. Some individuals are losing weight because they are cooking at home and no longer going out for happy hour drinks and hors d’oeuvres.
A very interesting body of work called ‘The Blue Zones’ is an excellent example of how our environment affects our health. See the blog on ‘The Blue Zones’ for more detail, but the bottom-line observation was this: the reasons why certain groups of people have excellent health and a very long lifespan (100+) is directly due to their environment. Also, these individuals didn’t decide to make a healthy change as it was already part of their physical and cultural environment. There was no decision making – the health promoting choice was the only choice they had.
How can this insight help me?
First, recognize and accept that you can control your environment to a significant degree. Next, make a plan to create an environment where the healthy choice is the only choice or the easy choice. Here are some examples:
Pantry & fridge purge: remove the trigger foods like cookies, chips, processed snack food, ice cream. Replace with wiser choices like mixed nuts, soy-nuts, dried chickpeas, fresh fruit, yogurt.
Smaller plates, bowls, spoons: research has shown people eat more from big plates, bowls, etc.
Out of sight – out of mind: replace the candy jar with a bowl of fruit.
Bathroom visits: make a point to use the bathroom on a different floor at home and/or work to help increase steps.
Exercise buddy: set up a date to walk, run, bike, hike with a friend. Remember, your dog would love to get outside for a walk and it is essential for canine health too.
Stress solutions: ever notice that after over-eating due to stress you often feel even worse? The stressful situation is still there but it’s now coupled with guilt from eating all the cookies. Find a non-food solution: get outside, take a walk, get into nature, pet your dog, pet a shelter dog, try yoga or mediation, talk to a friend, take a warm bath.
If you need even more support, accountability, and structure, consider signing up for our customized meal planning membership that gets you support and accountability with your personal dietitian, a nutrition prescription and customized meal plans to help you reach your goals.