The COVID-19 pandemic turned our lives upside down in many ways, but fitness was one of the areas most affected for many people. Suddenly, your yoga or Zumba class was a potential superspreader and your gym was germ central. The farmers market was closed, but takeout restaurants were doing a brisk business. Many people had to make serious changes in their diets and fitness routines, and the result was often some extra pounds, the so-called “quarantine 15.”
As pandemic restrictions begin to lift throughout the Western world, people are gearing up for a renewed push on diet and fitness. Some are signing up for a gym membership or Mediterranean diet meal delivery service, while others are cultivating new social groups that will help them bust pandemic blues and pounds simultaneously. Let’s dive in on five awesome ways to start living our healthiest lives in the new world we’re entering.
- Get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Huh? How can getting your COVID vaccine help you lose weight? While the vaccine itself has no fat-burning properties, becoming fully vaccinated is the first step to getting your health routine back on track. A fully vaccinated person can visit the grocery store or the gym without fear of getting COVID, and this ability to get back out into the world and access all of its resources will be essential for many people.
In the U.S., the initial vaccine shortages are now a thing of the past. A hospital, pharmacy, doctor’s office or community health center near you will almost always have the vaccine in stock no matter where you live. Getting vaccinated is an important investment in the future of your health, from preventing the lung scarring associated with COVID to protecting your ability to taste delicious, healthy food. So, make it your first stop if you haven’t done it yet.
- Work with your doctor to find a weight loss diet that’s right for you and backed by science.
We don’t know everything about how people lose weight, but science now has a pretty good grasp on which diets work. Almost all of them have at least a few things in common. They reduce or eliminate processed foods and added sugars while emphasizing whole foods (particularly fruit and vegetables). However, some of the best diet plans for post-COVID weight loss, such as the Mediterranean diet, shine because of their flexibility.
What is the Mediterranean diet, you might wonder? It’s a well-studied and science-backed diet that’s based on whole, fresh foods and healthy fats like olive oil. The Mediterranean diet is also incredibly popular, probably because it’s full of delicious recipes! For those who need convenience, it’s also now easy to get Mediterranean meals delivered to your house through a Mediterranean diet meal delivery service. They’ll arrive pre-portioned and ready to cook.
- Investigate whether intermittent fasting might be a good choice for you.
Intermittent fasting (IF) offers a different approach to weight loss that some people find more effective. In this model, a person eats a basically normal diet during certain periods of the day or week, while restricting their intake to a very small number of calories in others. Many people like intermittent fasting’s clear-cut rules, and while it’s certainly a lifestyle that definitely takes some adjusting, the post-pandemic “Great Reset” is a great time to develop new habits.
The “5:2 diet” is a popular example of intermittent fasting. Someone following this diet eats only 500 to 600 calories on two days of the week, while eating normal on the others. The 5:2 diet is backed by promising scientific studies that have demonstrated its efficacy, so long as you’re not gorging on junk food on non-fast days. However, anyone considering an IF routine needs to work closely with a doctor or registered nutritionist to make sure they’re not putting themselves at risk from a lack of sufficient calories or nutrients.
- Think about cutting back on alcoholic drinks.
Months of pandemic isolation also led to a lot of heavy drinking for some people. Now is the perfect time to cut back on this calorie-heavy habit that also has negative effects on mental health and numerous other body systems. A single beer often packs 100-200 calories and a glass of wine 120 to 130. A handful of drinks in a day can approach a full meal in terms of calories, and heavier drinking can easily eat up half your daily calorie budget or more.
Not sure where to begin? An easy starting point is to cut out alcohol for a week or a month – or limit yourself to one drink a day – and see how you feel. Chances are you’ll experience more energy and find it easier to stay under a daily calorie limit. If you’re concerned that you might have a drinking problem, use an alcohol abuse self-screener or talk to your doctor about options for alcohol treatment.
- Get together with others to enjoy healthy activities.
Even after the end of lockdowns, lots of people are still struggling with feelings of loneliness and disconnection. Those feelings can harm our health in many ways, but one especially insidious one is how they encourage us to consume unhealthy food and beverages. Thus, fighting isolation is actually an essential tool for many folks as they work to control their weight.
There are tons of ways to enjoy socialization while improving your health. Getting involved in a rec league sport or a fitness class is an excellent one, as you’ll often have opportunities to meet up with people. Activities like hiking are great, too, as they give you a prime opportunity to experience the outdoors with friends. Or explore the intersection of great diet and great connections by visiting a farmers market and getting to know some of the vendors.
An essential part of recovering from the pandemic is getting our health in order and making sure we’re on the right track. Adopting the habits we’ve discussed here is a great way to do it.