7 Habits That Helped Me Lose 20 Pounds During The Pandemic

Like many, I struggled off and on with my weight throughout my life. It’s something I felt insecure about since middle school. Over the years, my weight has fluctuated up and down as I tried adding a regular physical activity or blending green smoothies, but then struggling in turn with depression, ultimately gaining all the weight back.

Most recently, I finally felt like I was getting my weight loss goal back on track as I signed up for fitness classes at Equinox. But after awhile progress slowed.

Until San Francisco announced the stay-at-home order.

On March 16th, San Francisco announced a “shelter-in-place” order. Everyone was advised to stay at home and only leave for essential needs like food and medication. As I learned how to slow down and adjust to the new routine at home, I found that I actually was more successful than ever at achieving my weight loss goals as I developed these seven habits.

1. I Used Jordan Syatt’s x12 Rule to Decide My Daily Calorie Limit

Even though I just called this a rule, I don’t mean to say you need to stick to this every single day. I try to live by the 80/20 rule. I went into this phase admitting I’m human. The only way to make lasting change is to understand this is not a diet, this is your life. 

How did I decide on a calorie limit?

I follow Jordan Syatt online, he has an insightful video on YouTube to help you calculate how many calories you should eat for fat loss. I encourage you to watch the full video but here’s the short answer so you can start now.

Take your goal body weight in pounds and multiple it by 12. Example: 150 lbs x 12 = 1800 calories a day.

For your protein intake, he recommends you take your goal body weight and multiply it by 1. Example: 150 lbs x 1 = 150g of protein per day. I rarely ever met this amount yet still achieved progress.

Track everything you eat and stick to your calorie limit 80–90% of the time for 30 days and you will see a difference on the scale and in your clothes.

It’s important to include foods you enjoy within your calorie limit. For example, I find a way to include french fries (specifically the Alexia brand) or a protein cookie nearly every day as a treat. The main reason most diets fail is people go to the extreme and eliminate every “bad food.” This might work for a while but eventually, your self-discipline will run out. This is a lifestyle, so find ways to incorporate foods you enjoy and you will find success.

2. I Prepared and Ate Every Meal at Home

All restaurants were closed. The only option for food was the grocery store. Not only did this save money, but it naturally encouraged good nutritional habits. While everyone was panicking and stocking up like crazy on canned foods, I shopped the abundant produce aisle.

3. I Tracked Everything I Ate

And I mean everything. I used the free app Lose It! to scan and input every bite of food I consumed.

Tip for tracking: Buy a food scale. The only way to be exact with what you’re putting in your body is to measure. Measuring cups can be misleading, use weight in grams instead.

Most people have no clue how much they’re overeating. Simply by tracking what you eat for a week will help you lose weight. Once you realize how much a serving size actually is, you’ll start choosing healthier options.

4. I Ignored Every Single Fitness Metric Except One

Before the shelter-in-place order, I went to the gym 5–6 times a week, focusing primarily on strength training and reached 10,000 steps most days. During shelter-in-place, my activity dwindled to almost nothing. Rather than beating myself up about this, I chose to focus on one thing at a time. Physical activity was never a problem for me. Instead, I narrowed in on the most difficult part of weight loss: Food habits and the mindset behind them.

Spending all my time home alone, except for my cat, meant I had a lot of time to think. The motivation behind choosing unhealthy food vs a healthy one became obvious to me. I used a sweet treat or salty snack to ignore a stressful situation at work or feel better after a bad day. I allowed food to soothe my anxiety and depression. By working with a therapist, I learned better ways to cope with my stress and anxiety that didn’t involve food.

Despite the fact there is a world pandemic going on, I actually found more peace at home. I focused on my mental health, investing in myself, and making better decisions, all actions I know will lead to lifelong change including weight loss.

5. I Didn’t Only Rely on Myself

I believe in working with experts especially if you want to reach a new level. I knew I needed guidance so I searched a few nutritionists in my area, called and made an appointment.

The first nutritionist I met offered a few nuggets of wisdom, such as adding more protein into breakfast by drinking a protein shake. She also educated me about the plate method.

The plate method is based on a 9-in diameter plate to help you keep portions sizes in check. Fill 1/2 your plate with non-starchy vegetables, 1/4 with grain and starchy vegetables, and the last 1/4 is your lean protein. I’ll admit I’m still working on getting to this ideal plate but as I said before I aim for the 80/20 rule, not perfection.

Especially while we’re stuck in a rut at home, getting an informed outside opinion on your eating habits can give you exactly the perspective shift to change your eating habits.

6. I Didn’t Expect Instant Results

I weigh myself every morning. Not because I expect to lose weight every day but because I like to look at the data. In quarantine, you’re the only accountability partner you have. It also helped me realize how and why weight fluctuates. For example, if I consumed more carbs one day the scale might go up a pound the following morning but eventually, it would go back down in a day or two.

I also highly recommend you take before and after progress measurements. The scale isn’t the full story. You may notice the scale doesn’t budge but you lose inches in your thighs and waist.

If you focus on food and psychology first, you will notice a difference in your clothes. Remember this isn’t temporary, it’s a lifestyle. Focus on small, attainable changes and give yourself time to see results.

7. When My Weight Loss Slowed, I Didn’t Panic

You’ll lose the most in the first 2 months then less the following. I lost 15 pounds in the first 6 weeks, 2 pounds in May, and 3 pounds in June. You might feel disappointed with slow progress but it’s still progress.

If you take into account that your life will be throwing you off — especially in a pandemic — an average 2-pound weight loss per month actually is the average. Setting attainable expectations will keep you going. It doesn’t matter if you lose 30 pounds in the first month if you gain it back the next when you lose motivation — by setting attainable goals, you can continue to make small changes you can live with.

The Pandemic Was the Perfect Time to Reach My Weight Loss Goals.

In conclusion, after struggling with weight loss motivation, depression, fluctuation for years, it turned out that the shelter-in-place orders were just what I needed to develop these 7 sustainably healthy habits.

If you’re feeling unmotivated but still want to lose weight, you don’t need to go for all seven at once. The first habit I suggest you start with is tracking. Buy a food scale, download a food tracking app like Lose It! and track everything you eat for one week.

That’s it. Start with this one habit and you will learn so much about yourself. You’ll notice connections between what you eat and how you feel. You will make healthier choices and it only gets better from there.

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