As we begin to emerge from our hovels amidst a nationwide pandemic, we find ourselves in the middle of June– yes, you read that right, it’s already June. The air is warm and fresh, and that summer breeze is practically begging us to dig our toes in hot sand or race to the nearest water park (provided they’re open). It’s time for us to break out the disease-free Coronas and show some skin.
But for those of us who haven’t looked in a mirror since quarantine started, we might be more or less surprised to find we’ve grown some extra skin to show. The sudden inability to go to a gym or workout in groups has left a lot of us farther from our beach-body goals than we’d initially planned. The good news is that the world is slowly but surely coming out of hibernation– we can start to get back on track together and reclaim the time we lost in lockdown.
So, as we venture into a version of “Summer 2020” that no one could have seen coming, here are some tips and tricks that will help you shed your COVID gullet– without compromising your safety.
Practical Tips for Good Sleep
Fatigue is counterproductive to a healthy lifestyle in nearly every way, and weight loss is no exception. In fact, studies have shown that having a consistently bad sleep schedule can mess up your digestive tract, muscle development, and fat expulsion– regardless of how hard you’ve been working out. Alternatively, proper sleep does wonders for lowering the numbers on your scale.
Here are some ways to maximize the benefits of a good night’s sleep:
- Get 7-9 hours every night. It might be challenging to keep that number consistent, but getting as close to 8 hours as possible will give your brain the dose of melatonin it needs to avoid feeling groggy or overtired.
- Get up when you wake up. Hitting the snooze can be tempting, but fighting for a few extra minutes of sleep can actually make you feel more tired than usual. Open your eyes fully when your alarm goes off, and make it a point to sit up less than a minute after you wake up (and the cool thing is that it only takes about a week for your body to start doing this on its own).
- Take the time to stretch. One of the first things your body does when it wakes up is stretch– so let it! Take sixty seconds to rotate your shoulders, arch your back, and roll your hips to get your blood pumping before you start your day.
- Have a bedtime routine. Your body will lull itself to sleep much faster if it has a scheduled bedtime, and you’re more likely to stay asleep when you go to bed at the same hour every night. Avoid bright lights and turn off electronics to help keep yourself consistent.
Helpful Workout Advice
Getting back in the workout groove can be really difficult, especially if you’ve grown a little attached to your couch lately. But exercise is an important aspect of healthy living that helps your body as well as your mind. And if you’re looking to lose an inch or two off of your waist, getting active is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
So how do you safely hop back on the wagon? Try these tricks to ease back into your workouts:
- Walk before you run. Overworking your muscles right after a long period of inactivity can really freak your body out. Instead of trying to match your pre-COVID 5-mile runs, try running half a mile at a time, then easing up for a minute or so.
- Find somewhere to swim. Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise for both muscle formation and calorie burn. So as beaches start to reopen, take advantage of any that are large enough to maintain social distancing. And if you’re lucky enough to have access to a pool, splash your way back into active living with some wet and wild fun!
- Lift lighter weights than usual. Let your body get used to supporting heavy objects again before you try to bench your max. It might be frustrating at first, but you’ll be grateful for taking your time once you feel that post-workout soreness.
- Dance the pudge away. Nope, not joking. Dancing can be done anywhere, and it’s so much fun that you don’t even notice how many calories you’re burning (side note: you burn a lot)! Grab your partner at home and impress them with some jazzy moves, or head to a friend’s place for a respectfully-distanced samba. No matter the genre, it can get your toes tapping and your heart racing!
- Stretch throughout the day. You don’t have to drop into a downward-dog every ten minutes, but take a break from your desk at least once an hour to stretch out your limbs for a few seconds. This will keep your energy up and your joints loose.
Dietary Do’s and Don’ts
Nutrition is perhaps the most vital part of a person’s health: it affects your sleep patterns, digestive tract, muscle growth, fat retention, energy level, and mental activity. So as restaurants slowly start to reopen their doors, the temptation to eat out may be stronger than ever.
Keep these tips in mind as you recommit to healthy eating:
- Take advantage of the season. Summer is when we get some of the tastiest, most vitamin-rich produce of the year– so stock up on collard greens, avocados, watermelons, squashes, strawberries, and chickpeas to give your fridge a healthy, colorful edge.
- Eat your sweets in moderation. With all the incoming heat, it’s deliciously easy to pull into a drive-thru and get a lemonade or an ice cream cone. But most frozen treats contain a staggering amount of sugar, and ingesting too much of it during the day can lead to energy crashes. Instead, freeze some mixed berries to keep cool and satisfy your sweet tooth without entering a sugar coma.
- Drink water– lots of it. Drinking eight, 8-ounce glasses a day is recommended for the average person, but this can change depending on how active you are, whether or not you’re pregnant, or what kind of climate you live in. It’s one of the best tools we have for filtering fat out of your system– so stay hydrated!
- Avoid “fake-out” foods. Read nutrition labels on snacks to make sure they’re as clean as they advertise. High-fructose corn syrup as well as high amounts of saturated fat and sodium are usually good indicators of a product that’s less healthy than they lead on.
- Stick to the serving size. You don’t necessarily have to weigh every gram of food you eat; just keep in mind that you’re only meant to eat a certain number of calories per day. Serving sizes are a pain to follow, but they’re there to inform you of what you’re putting in your body. Pay attention to them and you might start seeing results sooner than you think.
A Mental Breath Before You Go
Weight loss is a process that affects all facets of our wellbeing, and our mind is no exception. We need to understand what our relationship to food is, how to manage our cravings, and why we want to lose weight in the first place. And as the mayhem of COVID-19 begins to subside, we have to stand back and acknowledge that we’ve all taken a mental beating.
An important thing to remember as we venture into this Twilight-zone of summer is that you are not a failure for being heavier than you were before Covid-19. You’ve had a better reason for gaining a few pounds during the last few months than possibly ever in your life: this pandemic has brought you and everyone else in the world through physical, emotional, and mental challenges that no one else can understand (if you feel that you need help managing them beyond simple pep-talks, do not hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional). Only now are we slowly but surely making our way to the other side of the craziness.
So now is not the time to poke at yourself in the mirror and wallow about how you got here. It’s time to put down the Lucky Charms, pick up that medicine ball, and kiss that quarantine-gut goodbye.