Why you shouldn't feel pressure to lose weight in isolation

Marni Dixit
Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer

While many people have been worried about their constant snacking while in isolation during the coronavirus pandemic, others are also attempting to use this time to lose weight, but an expert claims this might not be the best idea.

Amelia Phillips, accredited nutritionist and exercise scientist, spoke to Yahoo Lifestyle and said she believes we don't need the "added stress" of trying to lose weight during this pandemic.

A nutritionist has revealed the reasons we shouldn't be trying to lose weight during isolation. Photo: Getty

"Everyone is worried about what impact self-isolation will have on their health and their waistline. There is so much attention on trying to lose weight in isolation instead of focusing on how to stay healthy throughout this time,” she said.

"We are in the middle of a pandemic therefore we don’t need added stress and negative emotions. Between home schooling children along with trying to work from home and just general anxiety about health, there is enough to stress about! The focus needs to shift to 'maintain not gain'.

"Most people often forget that it is even harder to lose weight in isolation. Incidental exercise dramatically drops. Think about it; You are stuck at home with your basic steps consisting of moving from your bed to your desk to the fridge.

"This affects our NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis). We often underestimate the impact that has on our daily calorie expenditure. If you don’t believe me, compare the number of steps you take on a 'go into the office' workday compared to working from home."

Nutritionist Amelia Phillips says we often underestimate how much we walk when we are going about our daily lives, and that would have lessened significantly during the pandemic. Photo: Getty

Some people have decided to do whatever they want in order to get through this time and that includes not worrying so much about how healthily they're eating, however, Amelia says we need to find balance.

"I believe this time has caused us all to reconsider what is ‘essential’ to us, such as valued relationships and kindness,” she said.

“That kindness should begin with being kind to ourselves. This means finding a balance between strict dieting (not kind) and big food blowouts (also not kind).

“I don’t believe this is the time to add more pressure through strict eating hence my ‘maintain not gain’ motto. But don’t blow the bank because what takes weeks to put on, takes months to take off."

Amelia's tips for 'maintaining and not gaining' include practising intermittent fasting, eating 'liquid foods' and finding healthy swaps.

"In terms of maintaining and not gaining, if we have come out the other side having maintained and not gained that is a big win,” she said.

“Maintaining and not gaining is simple. All we have to do is make sure to not eat more calories than we have burned each day."

Amelia's tips for maintaining not gaining

Protein shakes, like these ones from Eimele, are a great way to keep yourself full and deliver complete nutrition. Photo: Eimele

Practice intermittent fasting for 12h-14/day

According to Amelia, this is one of the easiest ways to curb your appetite and trigger fat burning. If you stop eating at 9pm, she recommends not eating again until 9am. What that does is narrow the window when you do eat, so breakkie, lunch and dinner are closer, preventing sugar spikes and snacking.

Eat liquid foods:

For example, porridge, soups and shakes. Amelia’s favourites are the Eimele range of products as they deliver complete nutrition whilst giving you that satisfied feeling, are full of fibre and protein and are delicious.

Find healthy swaps

If you have a sweet tooth, don’t kid yourself that you can go cold turkey all the time. Find a much healthier alternative that satisfies the craving without breaking the calories bank. For example, if you’re craving chocolate, Amelia recommends having a powdered hot chocolate. If you’re craving chips, have some air popped popcorn.

Amelia says having mindful moments every day is very important for your mental and physical health. Photo: Getty

Take your ‘MEDS’ every day

Amelia also revealed that there are other factors that affect our physical and mental health, these include loneliness, worry, relationship and family issues, plus a lack of sunlight.

"Instead of focusing on physical weight focus on the below instead which I like to call taking your MEDS everyday," she said.

And no, this isn't medicine, what Amelia is referring to is:

Mindfulness: Be it meditation, relaxation or spirituality, having mindful moments everyday is important.

Exercise: 150 minutes per week (21 min per day) of moderate to intense activity is the recommendation.

Diet: following a predominantly whole food, plant-first diet, not overeating, in a social enjoyable way.

Sleep: 7 – 9 hours per night, 20 minute power naps (if you need), deep breathing before sleep and a tip; have a hot shower before bed (the body goes into a deeper sleep on a falling body temperature)

If you stick to your regular workday structure, you'll find it easier to stop snacking so much during the day. Photo: Getty

“You're not there to eat around the clock”

Nutritionist and Exercise Physiologist Kathleen Alleaume also believes planning will help you get through this strange time.

"I think it just comes down to planning a little bit and you're not there to eat around the clock, if you kind of stick to that structure as you would during work, have regular breaks and just being mindful of what you're doing, it's going to prevent that overeating, that mindless snacking and going a bit crazy,” she said.

"It's a very sensitive issue for a lot of people, because a lot of people are probably suffering financial loss or grieving and things like that, being anxious or stressed can lead to that mindless eating as well.

“So, it's important to be sensitive to those eating triggers. And again, having a good healthy stocked kitchen is going to help and not filling it with 'junk', but creating an environment that's going to be conducive to better eating habits."

Kathleen added while you might not be trying to lose weight during this time, you should be using it to create good habits.

"It's always good to try and make healthy changes and with people spending more time at home, let's not forget the opportunity to cook family meals together and eat at home and know what's going in your food. But you've also got lots of time to get outdoors and get active, so there's no real excuse to overeat and be under-active,” she said.

“We've got to kind of think of it as any other time. It's about building habits."

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