Depending on where you live, it’s been about a month since North America virtually shut down. Outside of “essential” workers, many people have been directed inside and might be starting to notice some weight gain.
Some people I’ve talked to have put on eight pounds. Others have put on half that, while some have stayed steady or lost. The people that have gained the most, however, are shocked by the number.
You see, even if you don’t consider yourself particularly active, you may not realize how much movement you were getting each day before the stay-at-home orders. But those trips to the grocery store, pharmacy, and bathroom breaks at work really add up.
With those out of the picture, you’re not expending the same kind of energy you usually would. To compound the drop in movement, you might be eating the same way you did prior to the lockdown, so calories you’d typically burn are hanging around as unwanted fat.
Although your diet hasn’t changed, your caloric demands have. So, what can you do?
If you’re following the same eating patterns as you were two months ago, look at how your activity may have changed. If you’re no longer working out or running the errands you normally did, you’ve probably entered a caloric surplus.
You can combat a caloric surplus by adjusting food intake. For most, this will be a very slight adjustment. If you’re used to a half-cup of oats for breakfast, take it down to a third of a cup. Eat one egg instead of two, or use one slice of bread for a sandwich.
Shaving 250–500 calories per day should be enough for most people. Easy ways to do this are to pay attention to hunger and make sure it’s not thirst, and eat nutrient-dense, low-calorie foods such as vegetables, whole grains, fruits with fiber, and protein-rich foods to help you stay fuller for longer.
You can also create a caloric deficit, or maintain a balance, by dedicating time to move your body. Try to figure out about how long you spend moving per week, and try to replicate it at home.
Three hours of shopping, an hour for bathroom breaks at work, plus any other movement must be considered. Walking around your house or neighborhood can help replace that lost activity to help flatten the curve on weight gain.
You aren’t likely to have to make major adjustments to mitigate COVID-related weight gain, but it’s important to start now. The longer you put it off, the higher risk you are for conditions such as high blood pressure, and the harder you’ll have to work to lose it.
Mohan Garikiparithi holds a degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade. During a three-year communications program in Germany, he developed an interest in German medicine (homeopathy) and other alternative systems of medicine. This article was originally published on Bel Marra Health.