For millions of people, life was stressful enough pre-pandemic. And just when things started to look optimistic for the first time since the coronavirus was declared a pandemic in March, stress levels are back up thanks to news reports about a second wave of infections.
Of course one way to cope with stress is to eat comfort food. Stress eating can be healthy, provided that you’re eating healthy food. But most people stress eat by loading up on empty calories in the form of high-sugar, high-sodium, highly-processed snacks. These types of foods suppress your immune system. And the last thing you want to do during a pandemic is to weaken your immunity.
If you’ve put on excess weight during the pandemic, you’re certainly not alone. According to a poll taken by WebMD of 1,000 people, nearly half of female respondents and one-quarter of men reported gaining weight because of COVID restrictions.
Stay at home orders cause both boredom and anxiety, which is why people are eating more than usual these days. Although social media has put a clever spin on the coronavirus weight gain phenomenon–The Quarantine 15–excess weight gain can be dangerous. Besides the threat of becoming more susceptible to viruses, packing on extra body fat can place stress on organs such as the heart.
Best Way To Lose Weight Fast
When people are stressed out, the advice to eat healthy often falls on deaf ears. So how can you lose weight and still be able to enjoy some comfort food here and there?
Obviously, you can’t eat a lot of high-carb snacks like pretzels, chips, crackers, etc. and expect to lose weight. But if you try one of the most popular weight loss trends over the last few years, you may find that it’s possible to enjoy some of these snacks from time to time and still lose weight. And that trend is called intermittent fasting.
Unlike most diets, intermittent fasting doesn’t really restrict what you can eat. Rather, the diet, which is also called time-restricted feeding, limits the amount of hours during the day that you can consume calories from both foods or drinks.
During the first week, try a 12-hour fast. That means that if your last nibble or sip of anything with calories was at 10 p.m., don’t have anything with calories until 10 a.m. the following morning.
Try to increase your fasting time the second week to 13 hours. Then, during the third week, see if you can go 14 hours. Eventually, try to work your way up to a 16-hour fasting window. That means if you’re done with dinner and dessert by 8 p.m., your first meal of the day won’t be until noon the following day.
Is Fasting Hard?
Some things are just not worth trying. Yoga classes in a 105-degree room? No thanks. Cauliflower ice cream? Ditto.
But intermittent fasting is relatively easy. If you’re used to having a midnight snack and then having breakfast first thing in the morning, then intermittent fasting can be challenging.
This is especially true if you eat bread, pasta and other foods with wheat late at night. That’s because wheat can cause an overabundance of yeast in the gut. When your stomach is rumbling in the morning and sends the message to your brain, “Feed me,” what’s really happening is that it’s the yeast that wants to be fed some more carbs. It’s not that you’re experiencing true hunger; you’re not starving.
So to make the transition to intermittent fasting easier, try to avoid late evening flour-rich foods. Instead, eat grilled or steamed vegetables with dinner. Top your veggies with a little bit of butter, olive oil, avocado oil or coconut oil. These healthier fats are high in calories, which may seem counterintuitive if you’re trying to lose weight. But fat helps you feel full. And when you’re full you have less of a chance of succumbing to late-night cravings.
With your veggies, eat a portion of lean protein such as turkey, bison, venison or fish. A dinner plate loaded with grilled asparagus or other veggie that you like, along with meat and some natural fat will fill your belly. If you’re still hungry after dinner, eat a handful of seeds or nuts. Still hungry? Eat a little wedge of cheese. By now you should have a happy belly.
Fasting for 12-16 hours might sound difficult. But if you think about it, there’s only a few hours you have to worry about. After dinner, you usually don’t go right to bed. And then there’s bedtime. Hopefully, you’ll be in bed for at least 8 hours. (And hopefully sleeping for most of that time.)
Surviving the Morning Without Food
When you wake up, to prevent feeling lethargic without food, you can take a trace mineral supplement. Mixing sea salt in warm water is an inexpensive and healthy way to get trace minerals. Trace minerals help support every function in your body. Without them, the vitamins in the food you eat would be ineffective. Drinking warm water (with a squeeze of fresh lemon or lemon juice) in the morning provides your digestive system with a gentle detox.
After you drink your trace mineral water, you can have some herbal tea or black coffee. Try to wait about 15-30 minutes after drinking trace mineral water to have tea or coffee. This is because this will be the one time during the day that your liver doesn’t have to process anything else while it cleanses your system.
If you feel hungry before it’s time to eat, drink some more water. Go for a walk. Do a crossword puzzle or catch up with a friend on Facetime. Do anything to take your mind off of food. But by drinking a full glass of water, your belly will gently expand.
When it’s finally time to consume calories, try breaking your fast not with a huge breakfast but with a smoothie or veggie juice. After fasting for 12-16 hours, your stomach shrinks a little. By drinking a veggie juice or healthy smoothie (blended veggies like celery, carrots, spinach; nut or seed butter like almond butter; healthy fats like avocado and chia seeds all mixed in a food processor or blender) you’ll gently wake up your digestive system instead of overloading it first thing in the morning.
How Long Will It Take To Lose Weight?
Everybody is different. But most people report seeing noticeable results (looser-fitting pants) within just a couple weeks.
In addition to weight loss, there are other benefits of intermittent fasting. Some people report being able to concentrate more intensely and for longer periods of time. In research studies, lab animals on a time-restricted diet have shown increased life spans.
Intermittent fasting helps you lose weight because after a period of brief fasting, your body starts burning body fat for fuel instead of blood sugar. And when you limit the amount of hours you’re eating during the day, you’re usually eating less calories.
And remember, the diet doesn’t really restrict what you eat. Granted, if you eat a ton of junk food, you won’t have much success. But if you go 12-16 hours without eating, having some comfort food here or there won’t sabotage your weight loss success.