Weight can be a funny thing for people—gaining, losing, maintaining—it can be a vicious, lifelong cycle. Regardless of what size pants you wear, keeping a healthy weight (which varies from person to person) is an essential component to aging well.
If you’ve been struggling with your weight during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’re not alone. In a survey commissioned by Gelesis, a biotechnology company, it was revealed that 71 million Americans have gained weight during the nine months since the pandemic began. The sudden change in lifestyle, heightened levels of stress and anxiety, and falling into bad eating habits all have played a role in causing Americans to pack on the pounds.
Since obesity is a major contributor to chronic health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, sleep apnea, and even certain types of cancer, finding a healthy way to manage your weight as you age is ideal. Although the pandemic is not over yet, there are still ways to remain safe from COVID-19 while also practicing healthy weight management.
Create a Routine and Stick to It
It takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit, so consistency is key to creating a new routine that will have long-lasting effects on your health. Commit to eating a healthy breakfast every morning, such as scrambled eggs with spinach and cheese with a side of whole-grain toast, in order to start the day off right. Commit to daily physical activity. And if you’ve been alone or social distancing during these last several months, commit to connecting with others via phone or video chat at least once a day.
Take Daily Walks (or Pledge to Move Your Body)
It can feel impossible at times to get up and get your body moving while also following guidelines to avoid the virus. We’ve lost access to gyms and exercising with friends, but that doesn’t mean we have to let physical activity fall by the wayside. Walking can serve as a great form of exercise for older adults, especially if you do it for at least 30 minutes a day. Consider downloading an audiobook or podcast to help keep you company on your walks, or listen to your favorite music to help pass the time in an upbeat way.
Eat Balanced Meals
It can be easy to resort to eating junk food and ordering in when struggling with the anxiety and stress of the pandemic; however, taking time to eat balanced meals is essential to your long-term health. Every meal should include a protein, whole grains, and fruits or vegetables in order to give your body the fuel it needs to function at its highest level. This also means that when focusing on weight management, it’s recommended to limit your intake of sugar and alcohol as much as you can.
Get Enough Sleep
With anxiety on the rise during the pandemic, sleep disruption is not an uncommon side effect. The body’s response to stress can lead to an increase in cortisol (the hormone that also has been linked to weight gain), which impacts the body’s ability to function, especially when it comes to sleep. The recommended amount of sleep for seniors is seven to eight hours each night. If you are currently sleeping less than that, chat with your doctor about the various options you can pursue to feel more rested.
Try Daily Meditation
Since cortisol can have a negative impact on both mind and body, finding ways to lower your stress levels is an essential component of managing your weight. A regular meditation practice has been shown to naturally reduce cortisol levels, which can have a positive impact on your weight. Additionally, a daily meditation practice can help lower blood pressure, improve sleep, and manage feelings of anxiety, stress and depression.
While it might be overwhelming to take in this list as a whole, making small, incremental changes can add up to big results over time.