The last few months have been quite turbulent for many, with huge changes in our work, family, fitness and social lives.
These changes may have had a huge impact on our overall health, from adapting to new routines, increased stress and a reduction in our physical activity levels.
Nutrition can play a huge role in successfully adapting to these changes.
Grange’s Laurann O’Reilly (pictured below), a qualified nutritionist and Managing Director of Nutrition by Laurann explains the process behind how we may have quickly gained weight and most importantly, practical steps on how we can lose it and regain our health in time for Christmas.
Laurann says: “Our first instinct is to go into survival mode when faced with something like the pandemic. Survival mode is a natural human instinct when faced with something unfamiliar. The ability to plan, stay positive and remain motivated can also be challenging during these times and a result people can gain weight quickly. She continues: “Like every game changing plan, with the right strategy we can gain back control of our health and wellbeing. Using these 14 strategic nutrition tips, you can create your own five week strategy and get yourself prepared for a healthy Christmas. In addition you can also download your free meal planning guide on https://link.nutritionbylaurann.ie/yourmealplanningguide”
1. Control your Environment – We all have the best intentions but if we know that there are treats in the house then the temptation is always there. I recommend doing a cupboard and fridge audit and removing any chocolate, sweets, biscuits and fizzy drinks. By doing so we remove temptation. Tip: Prepare healthy snacks to take at short notice to beat the sugar craving.
2. Routine – Our bodies love routine and many may feel that some of the structure of our daily lives has recently changed. For this reason it’s also important to set work and life boundaries whilst working at home. We can achieve this establishing our working hours, our breaks and avoiding working (and eating) late into the night. We need train our bodies to eat when it’s time to eat. Tip: Try to develop a meal schedule, this also includes scheduling in your breaks.
3. Meal Planning – It helps to be organised through planning, shopping lists and batch cooking your meals in advance (for instance Sunday could be your meal prep day). When planning be sure to include 1) a good quality source of protein such as lean meat, chicken, turkey, fish and/or plant based sources of protein 2) wholegrain brown bread/rice/pasta or oats and 3) a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. These meals can then be frozen in tupperware boxes or sealable bags and placed in the fridge to defrost the night before. Tip: Aim to get organised through meal planning as it makes healthy eating effortless by providing you with pre-prepared meals throughout your busy working week.
Free Guide: you get download your Free Meal Planning Guide on https://link.nutritionbylaurann.ie /yourmealplanningguide
4. Portion Sizes – Many of us have lost the concept of what a true portion size really is or have ‘portion distortion’. Tip: We can use our hands visual aids to identify portion sizes. For example the palm of your hand = 1 portion of protein (1/4 of your plate), a fist = 1 portion of carbohydrates (1/4 of your plate) and 2 fists = your 2 vegetable portions (1/2 of your plate).
5. Avoid the Takeaway Foods – It can be very tempting to opt for a takeaway after a long day of work. Unfortunately many of these are high in calories, sugar and processed ingredients. Remember your end goal and what you are trying to achieve. Don’t undo the hard work. Tip: Meal planning and preparing your foods in advance can help take away the temptation of takeaways.
6. Comfort Eating and Boredom – We must remember that we eat to fuel our bodies. However, having constant access to foods whilst working from home can definitely be a challenge and the added stress can also increase our cravings of sugar and fatty foods. Also eating by association can be another issue, such as popcorn with a movie or chocolate with a cup of tea or coffee. Remember if it’s not there you can’t have it! Tip: Remove any tempting foods and have pre-prepared healthy snacks in your home instead.
7. Passive & Mindful Eating – Did you know that eating is a sensory experience involving sight, smell, taste, touch and texture? Many of us are guilty of eating at our desks, on the go, whilst watching television or on the phone. This is what I call ‘passive eating’ as our body is distracted from what should be that sensory experience. It is through the senses that our body properly digests our food by releasing digestive enzymes. It is also through these senses that our body registers that we are full (satiety). Tip: If you find you’re always hungry, try being more mindful at mealtimes through concentrating on your meal, slowing down and removing distractions (how many of you pick up something to eat and before you know it, realise it’s eaten and you don’t remember even tasting it because you were too engrossed in a movie?)
8. Sugar Cravings – Sugar is highly addictive and can have a huge impact on our blood sugar levels, causing us to crash and crave more sugar – it’s a vicious cycle. Also be cautious of fizzy drinks which can be high in sugar as well as being high in energy or ‘liquid calories’. Tip: Aim for foods which are high in fibre such as porridge, wholegrain foods/brown breads/pasta/rice.
9. Hydration – Be sure to drink plenty of water with a minimum of 2-3 Litres per day (depending on your bodyweight), starting with 500ml first thing in the morning. Remember if you’re thirsty, you are already dehydrated! We can also often mistake thirst for hunger, so if you’re feeling peckish, try drink some water and see how you feel. Tip: If you’re not a fan of water on its own, you can try different varieties of fruit infused water.
10. Caffeine – A little tea or coffee is fine but we do have an upper limit of 140mg of caffeine per day, which is 4 shots of coffee. Caffeine can also stay in our bodies for 3-4 hours after we consume it, which can have a big impact on our sleep. It can also impair us from absorbing some of our valuable nutrients such as vitamins B and C along with the minerals calcium, iron and magnesium which are vital to our bodies functioning. Tip: Aim to have no more than 4 cups or shots of coffee per day, and avoid caffeine late in the evening and at meal times.
11. Keep Moving – Our bodies weren’t built to be stationary and as many of us are now working from home and no longer commuting to work or going to the gym, our energy requirement has decreased significantly. The volume of food you used to consume previously may not suit your current energy expenditure levels. Tip: Try to move in whatever way you can, be it a walk/run within your 5km radius or commit to an online exercise class. I find it helpful if you schedule this in to your working day. Remember as long as you’re moving you are burning!
12. Sleep – This is where the magic happens! Your body is meant to go into a state of starvation whilst we sleep, we are meant to be repairing and not digesting. It’s also important to get an adequate amount of sleep for healing, energy and optimising our health. Tip: Avoid having heavy/complex meals 3-4 hours before bedtime.
13. Avoid Meal Replacers and ‘Diet Products’- Our bodies are made to eat real and pure foods and to extract the valuable nutrients from natural sources. Unfortunately diet products and meal replacers are often targeted towards individuals attempting to lose weight as a quick fix, some even with a monthly subscription. Don’t fall into this trap. Tip: Avoid weight loss products and instead use real food to achieve your goals.
14. Get a pal involved – I find that my clients are definitely more motivated and happier to be involved in something like this with a friend. Ask a neighbour or friend within the 5km limit to get involved with you. On the days you’re not motivated s/he will be, and vice versa. You can also get ideas from each other and you have some form of accountability with your daily check ins!
FREE MEAL PLANNING GUIDE
To help you achieve your goal download Laurann’s Free Meal Planning Guide on her website www.nutritionbylaurann.ie
About Laurann: Laurann O’Reilly is qualified and experienced Nutritionist with a BSc. Degree in Human Nutrition from University of Nottingham and a Masters in Public Health Nutrition from University College Dublin. She has over 10 years of experience including working community and clinical care, personalised nutrition consultations (dealing in healthy eating, weight loss, digestive health and sports nutrition), teaching and developing nutrition courses at FETEC level, nutrition education talks and workshops (corporate wellness, schools, sports teams, public and private talks), previous food manager of the Coeliac Society of Ireland and is part of the roll out team for the Healthy Ireland Smart Start health promotion programme for pre-schools.