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Maintaining Your Weight During Quarantine

Eating well, managing your stress levels, and getting in a good home workout is key — especially if you’re living with an endocrine disorder

With Lisa Richards RD

YouTube and other free online workouts abound.If you’re living with an endocrine disorder such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, PCOS, Cushing’s Syndrome, Addison’s Disease, or diabetes, you may have dealt with the frustration of weight gain and weight management issues. That extra weight can be especially hard to handle when it impacts your mobility, increases any joint pain you may have, or affects your self-esteem. 

As the COVID-19 crisis sweeps across the globe, you might find yourself in the house under strict orders of quarantine, unable to visit the gyms or recreational places you frequented before. Not being able to hit up your local dance class or swim at the nearby YMCA can be life-altering! After all, these places are major parts of your self-care regimens and me-time, since exercise can also help manage anxiety and feelings of sadness.

On top of that, spending all of your time at home around snacks, without a proper routine, can lead to not-so-great eating habits. The good news? It’s totally doable to manage your weight and wellness at home. It might be a bit challenging (need help moving the sofa?) but it can be done. And it starts in the kitchen.

Practice healthy eating habits 

According to nutritionist and author Lisa Richards, being at home — all day, every day, especially if you’re sick or looking for a little extra comfort during a time of chaos — can trigger bad choices in the eating department. Every one of us have been there, so you’re not alone. That extra bag of chips or those sugary treats staring up at us from the counter can seem very tempting, especially when we’re watching the news. 

Richards says you’ll first want to fill your day with small (and smart) scheduled eating breaks. “If you aren't taking breaks, you risk overeating during meal times, or snacking mindlessly on calorie-dense foods,” she says. “This will help you stay on track with your health and nutrition while being stuck at home.”

Richards recommends stocking the fridge and pantry with healthy, nutrient-dense foods — and getting rid of foods that offer empty calories. 

“Remove any refined carbohydrate-rich snacks as they turn to sugar, which can cause inflammation and lead to poor gut health. Get rid of any sodas or sugar-filled beverages,” she says. “Instead, opt for fruit-infused waters for electrolytes to keep yourself hydrated. This will prevent any potential sugar-crash and weight gain from empty calories.” If you’re diabetic, for example, you’ll want to drink extra water anyway, since it won’t raise your blood sugar levels and helps your body rid itself of excess glucose.

Fruits and veggies should be your go-to foods, since they will fuel your body with essential nutrients and offer up focus and mental clarity. Plus, colorful, nutrient-dense foods will give you more energy for your workouts. 

The foods you eat can also help boost your immune system — which is critical at this time. According to functional nutritionist Kara Keels, you’ll want to incorporate plenty of fruits and vegetables that are high in pre-biotic fiber, such as garlic, onions, asparagus, apples, berries, avocado, and root vegetables.

“These will feed the healthy bacteria in your intestines, which is where roughly 80 percent of our immune system lives.”

You’ll also want to look into taking vitamins B, D, calcium, iron, and magnesium, all of which can support a healthy metabolism. Fish oil, Keels says, has also been shown to reduce cortisol levels. Of course, if you are under quarantine and have diabetes or another disorder that can be affected by specific foods or vitamins, just make sure you’re in contact with your healthcare provider. 

Exercising at home under quarantine

While each state will have a different ruling on quarantine practices, many people are still allowed outside for exercise purposes — so long as they practice social distancing. You may want to go out for a walk or a jog, but if you’re quarantined to your home for health purposes or sheltering-in-place, you’ve still got plenty of options. YouTube workout tutorials abound, while some local exercise studios have begun live-streaming digital workouts for their members. 

For example, Blink Fitness is making quarantine life a bit easier by serving up free Facebook Live morning workouts ahead of working hours, if you’re a morning person. If you’re more of a yoga person, Yoga With Adriene is offering up “Yoga for Uncertain Times,” a series of yoga workout videos that help you manage stress and anxiety. 

If you’re looking for a little more fire, you can find that in simple but effective bodyweight moves, says personal trainer Nicolle Harwood Nash. She recommends doing a circuit of basic body-weight moves (which you can do with kids since they’re stuck at home, too). “It’s important to keep yourself productive and healthy during this time of pandemic,” she says. “These exercises are perfect for those who just want to stay at home but still sweat it out like spending hours in the gym.” 

Nash first recommends jumping jacks, which target all of your muscles as well as your heart health. “They are great for toning your body all over and have the added benefit of increasing your cardiovascular fitness at the same time!” So when should you do them? “Jumping jacks can be done on their own, or scattered throughout your workout to keep your overall heart rate high throughout and invite maximum calorie burn.” 

For another high-intensity move, try doing high knees. These are a great form of cardio and can target various muscles. Keep your spine intact, start slowly, and increase speed and duration over time as you get stronger. The great news? High knees require very, very little space. 

To keep your abs strong, there's always planking. It’s a hard move, but its benefits are great. “This exercise works your whole mid-section, as well as the rest of your body,” Nash says.  Just make sure you maintain your spine’s neutral line when you are in plank position to protect your lower back.  Do a plank for 30-60 seconds. 

You can cycle through these moves a few times or scatter them throughout your day to get movement in where and when you can. You’ll want to aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week according to the Mayo Clinic. 

Thinking creatively during quarantine is also key. According to Kaley Hatfield, Certified Fitness Instructor, you’ll want to use what you have around you as weights: “Your bodyweight, water jugs, wine bottles, canned food, stairs, and chairs.”

If you don’t want to do a full workout, think about getting movement in all day long. According to certified running coach Andrew Lee, being homebound all day means losing out on the valuable metabolic activity you get when you walk to work or run to the store.

Schedule home workouts

The fix? Schedule time in your day to get that movement in: “You need to add blocks on your calendar to remind yourself to move and increase your metabolic rate,” he says. He recommends doing air squats, lunges, and incline pushups on a chair or table throughout the day. Think about taking the stairs up and down as much as you can, and getting some workout moves in during commercials or while cooking.

Don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re finding it hard to get up and moving. Starting a new routine can be daunting, even in the best of times. According to the Endocrine Society, start small: “To keep the weight off, you will need to make any changes in diet and activity a part of your routine for the rest of your life. Modifying your daily habits can be difficult at first. Start with small and measurable weekly goals to reach.”


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