Hopefully, we will soon put this pandemic in our collective rear-view mirror, put the pedal to the medal, and reclaim our lives. Three cliches aside, many of us have a little souvenir from our quarantine days. There’s a little bit more of us since this time last year. Some call it “the quarantine fifteen.” I confess stress eating is my M.O. Years ago, I would hold my son’s report card in one hand while I ate whatever was in sight with the other. And this has been a horrendous year, worse than any of his report cards.

I suggest we avoid the usual remedies that result in short term weight loss and make us feel deprived. You know the drill. Count calories, the less the better. Don’t eat any sweets and avoid fats and be sure to exercise. And for heaven’s sake, no cheating until the magic number appears on the scale, and then the “diet” finally will be over.

A Different Approach

  • Don’t count calories. Instead, eat more rather than less. Even a “meat and potatoes” or a “hasta have the pasta” person likes some fruits and vegetables. Eat more of them, so you will not fill up on empty calories full of fat, sugar, and salt.
  • Fats are not evil. In fact, our brain needs fat to keep it functioning well. Not all fats are created equal, though. Most of us know to avoid trans fats and saturated fats. Eat less meat, dairy, butter. Favor organic, cold-pressed, or non-processed, extra virgin olive oil. Sauté onions, celery, mushrooms, etc. in water or vegetable broth instead of oil or butter when you can.

If the only way you will eat veggies is with a bit of olive oil, go for it. I like roasted brussels sprouts only if I roast them in vegetable broth, add lots of vegetable seasoning and when done, add a little olive oil and toss. By the time I’ve eaten a large serving,  I don’t want as much of the calorie dense food on my plate.

  • Substitute a protein source like beans for your usual meat or cheese dinner when possible. I have developed a taste for Mexican food, with its creative use of beans and spices. You can wrap some terrific, tummy filling food in a tortilla!
  • Tub of ice cream calling you? Pop frozen bananas, with maybe some maple syrup or powdered chocolate in a blender and eat it all with no guilt.
  • Speaking of guilt, from the Queen of Guilt herself, consider adding a built-in cheat one day a week. I found that satisfied my cravings without setting me up for guilt eating. You know how that goes. “I ate a cookie, blew my diet, so I may as well eat the whole bag of cookies!”

I chose Sunday as the day I could scarf down as much as I wanted of the one thing I craved.  And it was no-guilt- delicious, because if I had not eaten what I wanted that day, I would have cheated on my diet plan.  (That’s the one diet rule I never broke, and it worked until I added more Sundays to my week).

Your definition of “cheating” can make a difference. My friend gave up eating between meals one Lent. We were talking on the phone halfway through those 40 days when she said, “Every time I eat something between meals, I call what I ate my next meal. Food wise, I’m up to Christmas.”

Little Steps Add Up to Big Steps

I loved that movie about the Groundhog Day that kept replaying in Bill Murray’s life. “Diet” should not be something we do again and again every time the pounds creep back. Instead, “diet” should be, well, our everyday better food choices. It took time, but after a while, my mind began to shift from cookies to fruit when I wanted something sweet.

Of course, we want to share good times with friends and family during the holidays and other special events. Sometimes I bring  something to pass, but other times, I eat whatever I want for that one day.  Surprisingly, I discovered that, although I enjoyed my turkey dinner with all the fixin’s, it really didn’t taste that much better than my vegetable stir fry with vegetable dumplings and soy sauce that I ate the next day.

Little changes can lead to bigger changes, which can lead to staying healthy, even in quarantine.