The good news is that more Americans have become more comfortable in their kitchens through the past year. Many have learned to cook and enjoy their own food. The not-so-good news? About 61 percent of Americans have gained weight, with many putting on as much as two pounds per month in quarantine.
As we begin to emerge from the pandemic, it’s time to think about a reset. But, first, according to Dr. Stacie J. Stephenson, author of the new book VIBRANT: A Groundbreaking Program to Get Energized, Reverse Aging, and Glow, let’s address the reason. Not surprisingly, it’s stress.
“People may be exercising less with gyms being closed all winter, and may be eating more out of boredom, but the primary reason that most people lapse into poor health habits is stress,” she says. “People who are worried, anxious, sad, lonely, or isolated are going to have higher levels of stress hormones like cortisol, which can make people feel anxious, and they may overeat comfort foods to self-soothe. Unless they ramp up physical activity to match that added calorie intake (which is also unlikely due to stress), weight gain is the inevitable result.”
But, Dr. Stephenson says, fad diets and juice cleanses are NOT necessarily the way to go. Here are her Top 10 Tips for whipping that body into shape and restoring it to good health. Drink more water Aim for half your body weight in ounces of water per day, but you don’t have to start there. Work up from where you are, adding a cup of water a week. Set a “drink your water” reminder on your phone, if that helps! Water helps our body’s natural detoxification system work better.
Work within your existing household budget to swap in organic foods and natural products where possible, to reduce your toxic load. This doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavor, and you don’t have to switch to all organic, all the time to feel the benefits.
Focus your food
Focus on wild-caught seafood, pastured poultry, and organic meat. With produce, focus your organic purchases on those veggies and fruits with thin skin, which absorbs more pesticides.
Choose natural products
From personal care to household cleaners, try to go natural, to further reduce your toxic load. There is no reason to expose yourself to chemicals unnecessarily in your own home. Perhaps start your swapping with those you use most frequently and try affordable DIY options.
Eat a fiber-rich diet
Avoid constipation by eating fiber-rich foods like vegetables and berries. Flax, chia or psyllium seed can also keep things moving, as can a nightly dose of magnesium (especially magnesium citrate). Staying regular is incredibly important for detoxification. You want to keep everything moving so waste material isn’t lingering in your digestive tract.
Overeating puts a significant burden on your digestive tract, adds unnecessarily calories that will be stored as fat if you don’t burn them off and can keep your body from more important tasks like detoxification and energy production. You don’t have to undereat. Just reacquaint yourself with what a regular portion size is: 4 ounces of meat, 4-6 ounces of fish, 1 cup vegetables, 1 piece or 1 cup of fruit, and just 1 or 2 tablespoons of healthy fats like olive oil or almond butter.
Go easy on carbs
We all need carbohydrates for energy and to feed the microbiome, but they are easy to overeat. I recommend getting most of your carbs from vegetables. If you want to include grain in your diet, stick to fiber-rich organic whole grains in small portions: ½ cup cooked. I prefer varieties that are free of inflammatory gluten, such as quinoa and brown rice.
Many people are intolerant to either the lactose or casein in dairy products, and dairy is a significant source of saturated fat in the American diet. Even if you tolerate it, there is definitely such a thing as too much cheese! I recommend limiting or eliminating it for easier weight loss and better health. If you really want some, dairy products made from organic goat or sheep milk contain smaller, more digestible protein molecules and may be less irritating and inflammatory. Just keep portions small: one ounce of cheese or cream is a serving.
Increase your exercise dose
Exercise is dose-dependent. Any amount is better than none, but more is better than less (to a point). Many of us are having trouble getting back into the exercise habit after a long winter indoors, but it’s time to get out there and get moving again. Exercise not only burns fat but also increases circulation so your body is better able to purge waste, toxins, and excess fat.
Get (nature) therapy
Humans evolved outside, and at the instinctual level, we still respond positively to time in nature. Even if you do nothing more than take a short walk through a park, get out there, breathe the fresh air, get some sunshine on your skin for vitamin D production, and look at the emerging green. Studies show that just looking at the color green is calming and reduces blood pressure and cortisol, which can make sticking with your health goals much easier.