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Conquer the Quarantine-19

Working from home is common now, and over the past year the Quarantine-19 has become real. VERY REAL. When faced with extra time at home,  surmounting stress, and a daily side-by-side relationship with our pantry, a lot of new habits have been created in what could have been under a different pretense, a simple workplace transition. Packing on extra pounds has been easier than ever for no other reason than you AND your pantry are at home, together. All. Day. Long. What can you do about it? More importantly, what can you do about it now? Read on to discover five new approaches to side-step your urge to throw your hands in the air in defeat when passing by your stash of goodies and kid treats, and regain control of your eating pattern.

Solution #1: Snitching jar- If you’re a chronic treat thief, make it cost you! Use the swear jar concept to create a snitch jar by giving yourself a consequence for snitching foods that you know aren’t in-line with wellness. Assign monetary value to your frequent impulses. For example, make a big bowl of ice cream cost you $10, while a small bowl costs only $5. Or, you could decide that any snitch will cost you a flat $5. Empty your jar every Monday morning, and pool your cash for a non-food reward at the end of the month (new yoga pants, a session with the dietitian or trainer, or a new kitchen gadget!) 

NOTE: A “snitch” references any impulsive pantry/freezer/fridge grab that is not predetermined in your day. If you decide in the morning that after lunch you’d like a cookie from the kid-treats, that’s fine. The point is to avoid the impulse grab.

Solution #2: The Grab Basket: Make the pantry off-limits in business hours by creating a basket of appropriate grabs for stressful moments. 

Whether you’re still spending a lot of time at home or are truly back to pre-covid normal, create a basket of snacks that are appropriate for an impulsive grab and stash it in your work space. You know if stressful zoom meetings (or wild kiddos in general) lead you to get up and walk around. Then mid-stride you’re sunk: low-and-behold, your pantry is looming just ahead! Surprise! You know what happens next: the door opens, calorie-dense salties or sweets are magically in your hands, wrappers are off, and the chow down is uncontrollable. Step in with solution #2. Create your grab basket every Sunday night and design it to last you the week through. Load it with granola bars, pre-portioned trail mix, apples/oranges, and a few small sweet decadent treats (less than 100 calories each). Portion enough for you to ration through your week and pay attention to how frequently you make a grab. If you eat all the goodies by end-of-business Wednesday, you have two workdays of nothing to grab! So, ration wisely.

Solution #3: Apply Mindful Eating Strategy

Mindfulness applied to food means developing a sense of awareness in what you are eating. What if you want to grab a handful of M&Ms after your kids’ e-learning session? That’s an easy 140-280 completely non-nutritive calorie grab, depending on the size of your hand. And, if your body requires 1700 calories, you’ve just spent 8-16% of your calorie allotment for the whole day!  Application of a few mindfulness strategies can let you have your cake and eat it too. 

Mindful eating involves the senses, taking in everything that a food presents to the eyes, hands, tongue, and nose. Look at 1-2 M&Ms. Ponder the color, how did they make it blue or green? If you have a peanut M&Ms, how is the blue one shaped differently from the green one? Does it smell? Now put one in your mouth. Can you feel the bumps of the candy coating as it starts to melt? Can your teeth separate the candy coating from the chocolate? Can your tongue separate the peanut from the chocolate? Can you coat your entire tongue with the chocolate of one M&M? Swallow and consider how long does the taste actually linger in your mouth?

Consider how long it would take to eat five M&Ms this way. Then, consider the calorie difference between five-ten M&Ms (17-34 cals) using mindful strategy vs a handful of M&Ms impulsively.

Rewards- reward your successful efforts with a treat. Not a food treat, but a NON-food treat. It may sound counter-intuitive, but giving yourself a pat on the back with a donut is like treating a former smoker with a cigar for their smoking cessation milestone. Appropriate non-food treats can be a predetermined amazon purchase, a new book or music download, a gadget or tool, ect. Just make it a reward that you would otherwise not give yourself. If you make your reward a mani-pedi every time you have a good week, but you already get your nails done monthly, it’s not really a reward, is it? If you need help determining a good goal, an appropriate reward, and/or a timeline to structure your anti-impulse efforts and rewards, contact me. Believe it or not, there’s true-to-God strategy involved in creating a good reward system that guides you toward your goals in a way that maximizes your ability to actually reach them!

Accountability- find a buddy, a spouse, a professional, your mom, etc, but tag someone that will come alongside you to ask “how is day, food-wise?” Some people do well with a food tracker as accountability, but some need extra help. You know yourself, your motivations, and your pitfalls. Just remember, without a buddy, no one’s there to keep you accountable to the snitch-jar (or other strategy) but you. Be honest with yourself to get the accountability partner that you’re comfortable with. You don’t have to share weight numbers, but you do share things like how many times you’ve snitched in the day, if you rationed your grab-basket right, or if your chips and queso was a predetermined treat.If you’d like any help creating goals to drop that Quarantine-19, email me. Together we will create a plan to transform you back into you!

Eat Well to Live Well,

Terri Elizabeth Chapman MS, RDN, LDN

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