How to lose the weight gained during coronavirus

How to do it for real? Start changing the way you think and eating less

SHIRA WASSERMAN, owner of Half Shira (photo credit: OFIR HAREL)
SHIRA WASSERMAN, owner of Half Shira
(photo credit: OFIR HAREL)
 It’s springtime. The weather is changing and the world – at least in Israel – is starting to open up again. People will want to wear shorts and swimsuits and celebrate their renewed freedom.
But according to several studies, people gained weight during quarantine and throughout the coronavirus crisis – people who most likely never had an issue with being overweight, including young people.
“People gained between 10% and 30% of their weight,” according to Shira Wasserman, a health and weight loss lecturer who owns the business Half Shira. She described a friend who weighed 55 kilos before the pandemic and now weighs 61 kilos – that is almost two pants sizes. She said her own young daughters, ages seven and 10, also put on some weight.
“It was the stress,” Wasserman said. The pandemic “just happened one day; one day they announced that coronavirus had come and we just had to deal with it.”
It also did not help that people were sitting at home in their sweatpants.
A WebMD survey published by Missouri University polled more than 1,000 readers and found that nearly half of women and also one-quarter of men said they had gained weight “due to COVID restrictions.”
In addition, 68% of readers reported snacking more, 74% cooking more and 54% exercising less.
A similar but more scientific study was offered by the National Institutes of Health in May that showed at least 22% of survey respondents had gained five to 10 pounds (around two to five kilograms). Within those who had gained the weight, there was a significantly higher portion who said they increased eating in response to sight and smell or stress. Others took up eating snacks after dinner.
A KEY factor in weight gain is emotional eating, Wasserman said. Her business, which she started in 2008 after losing 150 kilograms herself, combines the support of a dietitian with a personal coach. It is a fully online program that includes access to a new, real-time application through which clients can submit pictures of their meals and fill in a food diary and get real-time feedback.
“The only way to actually do a real [weight loss] process is to start changing the way you think and eating less,” Wasserman said, noting that it is essential that intentional eating happens every day.
She said that with things opening up again, people seem to want to get healthier again. But at the same time, there is all the excitement of being able to eat out at restaurants and entertain.
She said Passover, too, is always a holiday that centers on food. This year, it was even more about gathering around the table, since last Passover people spent the holiday alone.
“If they were on an exercise or eating routine and gained weight during COVID, that’s because their situation changed and they did not know how to shift their habits along with the situation,” said Tova Eastman, owner and CEO of Ignite Fitness Academy, an online health and wellness program.
TOVA EASTMAN, CEO of Ignite Fitness Academy. (Photo: Courtesy)TOVA EASTMAN, CEO of Ignite Fitness Academy. (Photo: Courtesy)
“The advice I give someone coming out of COVID is the same advice I would give people during COVID.”
She said the most important thing is to take on new things slowly and gradually.
“Fast is unsustainable,” Eastman said.
For example, instead of jumping into six days a week at the gym, commit to two days doing a specific home workout. Instead of going on a crash diet, take on something small like hydrating more with two liters of water each day.
“The more specific and smaller the goal is, the more likely you are to continue with it and build up from here,” Eastman said.
Wasserman also offered tips for getting back on track. The first is to plan your days and your meals, she said.
“Just think a little before you eat,” Wasserman explained. “This was mostly the hardest problem with COVID. People just ate because they were home next to the refrigerator. Plan ahead. Even if you do not 100% stick to the plans, it is still better than not planning at all.”
Another tip is to try to feel whether you are hungry. She said that a lot of people grab food when they are sad or happy.
“You can prevent putting many calories into your body if you think about it first,” she said.
Finally, she recommends not dieting or giving up the sweets and other junk foods that you love. She said it is more about portion control and how often you splurge on these foods. Wasserman recommends eating something like sweets once a week, so you have something to look forward to.
“The question should not be how to lose weight after COVID,” Eastman advised. “It should be how can you prepare yourself the best so when a situation like this occurs again you have the tools available to go through it.”