When stress strikes and stay-at-home orders turn worlds and fitness goals upside down, it can become far too easy to loosen our normal standards of nutrition and exercise. We are more likely to buy more food with each grocery store order and visit to cut down on the frequency of leaving the house and probably are making food choices we wouldn’t have made two months ago. The result? Possibly packing on an undesired “quarantine 15”.

Opening the door to Quarantine 15

How many of you stockpiled food? I admit I’m guilty!

BUT, I swear, I did not hoard. I strategically “squirreled away” once I heard that our state was headed into quarantine about a month ago. I live in Arizona, so we were a few weeks “behind,” so to speak, from states such as California and New York that experienced a steeper surge sooner. My state, therefore, followed suit with sheltering in place a little bit later, so I had some time (albeit not much) to prepare.

Think of a squirrel collecting acorns or a bear foraging and collecting goodies for the winter. Or one more to drive the point home– a bird making a nest, flitting about, and collecting just the right material to suit its needs. You get it!  They don’t just grab anything they see and any amount they feel they need. They are strategic about it.

This is what I did and what I’m coaching my clients to do (within my scope). I think this method of so-called stockpiling is one of the BEST methods to start your prevention of Quarantine 15-tactics! BE STRATEGIC ABOUT WHAT YOU PURCHASE AND ‘STOCKPILE’ IN YOUR HOME.

If it’s not there, then we can’t gorge on it. Now, I’m not saying don’t get treats and goodies. This is a time that requires tact, comfort, patience, and self-care. But there’s no need to go completely in the other direction and purchase a freezer full of your favorite ice cream or a cupboard full of your favorite cookies. It’s understandable with grocery stores limiting hours to accommodate the times and in some areas, shelves going bare (but the majority of it seems to be paper goods and toilet paper), it’s tempting to fill the pantry.

Here are some helpful tips to balance indulging and over-indulging:

1) Use your power of choice wisely! Be selective on what food items you’re choosing to stock up on. Staples are wise along with non-perishables. Buying unprocessed foods is highly recommended such as fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains and lean protein. It’s understandable that there’s only so many fresh foods we can stockpile so frozen fruits and veggies can be a viable option. Make sure to read the ingredient labels because sugars and other ingredients sometimes sneak into frozen foods.

2) Look up ways to preserve and can fresh foods. Some methods are healthier than others such as pickling veggies, although this tends to diminish its nutrition value. Yet, snacking on pickled beets or carrots is probably much safer than some other preserved and packaged foods.

3) Check your pantry and cabinets before purchasing foods. I myself was amazed at how many packages of flax seeds I accidentally amassed! Somehow my stash got buried in my pantry and I ended up buying two more packages….It happens to everyone!

4) Create a schedule as best as possible where you have a scheduled time to go to the grocery store. In this way, you’re preventing excessive trips and lowering risks of over-stocking.

5) Keep a blank piece of paper or a magnetic grocery list on the fridge and compile a list of items you plan on buying in between grocery store visits. The written list is preferable to an app or electronic list so that when the temptation occurs to make impulse purchases, you’ll have a physical reminder in front of you to stick to the list! Keeping a running list also allows a pause before quickly ‘running out of the house’ to pick something up. Also, if you’re using delivery services, it creates a pause and intermediary step prior to making the purchase by writing what you want to purchase on paper first.

6) Head into the grocery store with realistic expectations. If you weren’t eating 3 salads a day pre-quarantine, chances are this brand new habit isn’t automatically going to form by staying at home and buying enough produce to eat 3 salads a day! Go slow. It’s no different than if you were trying to change nutritional habits if we weren’t in quarantine. Focus on making gradual changes in a way that’s enough to motivate you and get you results but not shock the body because of too many changes too fast.

7) Navigate the grocery store selectively, knowing that the most calorie-dense, eye-grabbing, quick to eat goodies are scattered around grocery aisle end caps and check out lines. Walking and shopping the perimeters first can be helpful because that’s where you can usually find the produce and other fresh, nutrient-dense items.

8) Work with a fit pro virtually. Many businesses and fit pro’s have pivoted their businesses to a virtual platform and can support you.

Those are some ‘pre-steps’ towards preventing the stockpiling that can lead to QUARANTINE 15

If you’ve already stocked up on tempting foods (or eventually do), we’ve got tips for that too. These tips could apply to tempting foods and staples alike because chances are, there’s more food at home than usual regardless given the current situation.

1) Create a schedule for yourself. There’s memes all over social media and running jokes with people struggling to keep track of days since many are furloughed or working from home for the first time ever. By planning what time you’ll eat and scheduling it (in whatever scheduler works for you, app, paper and pen, etc), you’ll be creating structure around your day and eating. This can curb impulse eating in between meals because your body will come to adapt and rely on gaining calories and foods at specific times during the day. It also helps to maintain a consistent metabolism

2) Plan snacks and splurges. Seriously. If you’re going to snack and splurge, when you plan and give yourself permission for them, the chances of entering some guilt-shame-eating spiral will be less.  A planned splurge is a planned splurge. With less guilt attached to it, you’re free to carry on the next day back on course. In fact, if the snack and splurge is planned, congratulations…you NEVER veered off course!

3) Keep a food journal, tracking the time of day, the food and the amount. If you aren’t so excited to schedule meals and eating times, writing down everything you eat during the day can raise your awareness to what’s entering your gullet. This would be helpful with or without quarantine. I can’t tell you how many times clients tell me they don’t do big splurges and can’t figure out why they’re gaining weight. Keep a food journal for a few days to a week tends to be an eye opening experience how little munchies here and there during the day add up at the end of the and over several days at a time.
Once the habit of keeping a food journal is created, it also makes a situation where writing down what you eat serves as accountability.

4) Limit snacking on highly processed foods. If you’re a snacker, pre-cut and pre-wash fruits and veggies (or just buy them that way) and keep them up front in the fridge so you see them first when opening the door and peering in for something to chew on.

5) Portion out snacks and meal prep! One positive about quarantine is most people tend to have some extra time on their hands. Maybe time is being saved because there’s no commute or less available places to go to during time off. So filling empty spaces of time with productive things like meal prep and portioning snacks is a double-dipping winner! Firstly, you are filling time in a healthy, productive way. Secondly, you’re preventing opening up an entire package of an item (healthy or not) when you want to eat.

6) Make sure you’re adequately hydrated. Despite being quarantined, we’re losing water just from daily functioning. This is referred to as insensible perspiration (because we aren’t aware it’s happening). On average, a person loses 0.5 liters of water a day from this. More, if you are working with a fit pro’ online or taking virtual classes or doing other types of physical activity (parks, hikes, walking the dog, jogging, running, etc).

7) Practice Mindful Eating:   Ask yourself why are you seeking to eat. Is it boredom? Is it some emotion that’s happening as a result of quarantine? Is it missing socializing? Is it actually hunger? Am I reacting from stress and now ‘stress eating?’ If you’re able to identify the reason behind wanting to eat and snack outside of planned eating times, you can tend to it with alternative behaviors. For example, if it’s boredom, find an alternative solution such as reading a book, taking a walk, watching a movie, etc.  If it’s missing socializing, reach out to family and friends via virtual platforms. There are many. While this obviously isn’t the same as in-person contact, identifying this and ‘spending time’ with people in your social circle is helpful.

8) Stay active! Most of this blog’s been about managing food but staying active is also is an obvious deterrent from gaining the Quarantieen 15! Calisthenics and body weight exercises are great way to stay fit right now.

9) Create physical reminders to remind you of your fitness and health goals and place them in prominent places in your kitchen, dining area, or wherever else you feel they would help. For example, if you have a picture or vision of your goal, print it out! Put it on the refrigerator door!
Affirmations are great too. Write a couple out and tape them on your panty cabinet doors (of course minding making sure you don’t ruin the finish or pain on the doors)!

10) Build in accountability by asking friends and family for help If you’re quarantined with kids, a spouse, roommate, etc, ask for their support. Maybe you all can join in and make it a game. “How we won and prevented the Quarantine 15!”

11) Find reasons to stay away from your stockpile rather than finding reasons to eat extra and walk towards it.

12) Work with a fit pro!!! Many are teaching virtual group fitness classes, small group training, offering virtual personal training sessions, etc.

13) Read blogs about this topic and stockpile tips!!

14) Eat slowly. There’s no rush, we aren’t really going anywhere these days. How many times have you read or heard to chew your food X amount of times before swallowing. Try that or try just timing yourself and taking longer to eat. This helps with the digestion and nutrient utilization anyways and tends to lead to a feeling of fullness. Also, if you spend MORE time eating the SAME amount of food, you’ll spend LESS time eating MORE food!

You are not alone in this, and are perfectly capable of preventing the QUARANTINE 15!  Make like a STRATEGIC SQUIRREL…be selective, and take your time!

*This blog is for educational purposes only.*

Shay Vasudeva

Shaweta “Shay” Vasudeva, MA (Psychology), MS (Kinesiology), NFPT-CPT, NASM-CPT-CES, THSA-CNT, and Tai Chi & Black Belt Karate Instructor is a teaching professional, speaker, author, coach, and cat lover! Her passion is to help people become the best version of themselves by using an interdisciplinary and holistic approach, bringing 10+ years of experience in Psychology, Personal Fitness Training, Corrective Exercise, Nutritional Coaching, Cranial Sacral Work, and teaching Karate & Tai Chi classes to her business, ShayTheCoach. Shay teaches classes at Maricopa Community College District as an Adjunct Professor. For more information visit her personal webpage: www.shaythecoach.com