Feeling snug after lockdown? A survey of more than 22,000 people across thirty countries shows that you are not alone. It established that one-third of respondents gained weight amid the Covid pandemic.
Like many others, stress, takeaways, and working from home must sound familiar. With the new-gained freedom of movement, the possibilities are endless. And eventually, some of that extra weight will go down naturally. But for the pre-lockdown weight, your body may need a nudge and getting started now is advisable.
Harness your inner ‘fat brake.’
With minimal deviations, we tend to maintain a steady weight over time. Supporting this claim is a scientific theory called the set point theory. It states that the body’s defence mechanisms are activated to take us back to base whenever we diverge from the setpoint weight. These reactions include:
- Minimising feelings of hunger and the food amount we need for satisfaction. Basically, this is changing appetite hormones.
- Enhancing the propensity to be physically active by involving conscious activities like walking and even subconscious ones like fidgeting.
- Increasing your metabolic rate. Some people experience it more than others. An instance is when you feel hot under the collar.
These physiological responses are called the “fat brake” and slow fat gain. It has been documented in experiments involving the overfeeding of adults for certain periods, from several hours to several weeks (similar to feasting over the holiday season).
That means after a period of overeating, less interest in food may be a result. This window of opportunity means your body can back you up in your weight loss endeavour.
What happens if we overeat for months?
A long classic study involving seemingly slender young men is an example. They were fed a total of 4200kJ or 1000 calories daily for 100 days consecutively. Eventually, their metabolic rate was higher than before the overfeeding started. Additionally, four months post-experiment, they shredded off 82% of the weight and 74% of fat gained. That only means that the fat brake effects can remain active even after several months of overeating.
Identical to most nice things, animal studies revealed that the fat brake effects alleviate over time. As of now, it hasn’t been determined if and when it happens to humans. But we are sure that genes play a major role in regulating how our bodies respond to overeating. Additionally, losing excess weight is more permanent in children and younger people and related to the flexible weight set point.
Whether genes or age favours you or not, adapting proactivity and embracing the window of opportunity from our fat brakes promotes the least resistance from a more physiological point of view.
How to go about losing COVID kilos
Your body’s signals are of the essence, so listen! Eat only when famished, and as soon you feel satisfied, take no more.
When hungry, also aim for smaller portions, preferably lighter foods. At mealtimes, prioritise clearing the vegetable end of your plate first. With your fat brake activated, you’d be surprised how fast you will feel satisfied.
To help learn your body signals, iPhone users can use the free app (Wink by Amanda Salis).
The Australian Dietary Guidelines also has recommendations on the foods to eat with their quantities providing evidenced-based information. For more customised details, this free quiz will give you a quick assessment of your diet and personalised ideas that you can improve on.
Note your list of active and exciting things to ensure you are not eating when not hungry. Consider team sports, dancing, or any other activity you were banned from during lockdown.
‘Mindless’ grazing is another enemy of progress, so be sure to eliminate the snacks and temptations around your home.
If you think you’re dealing with anything more than a few excess kilos, opting for professional help is the best way to go. Young people tend to benefit from a dietician and lose more weight than older adults seeking the same assistance.
Weight loss can improve other medical conditions for adults. Fortunately, more intensive treatments are suitable and effective for most, including liquid meal replacement diets.
Gaining a healthy weight can be a lot of work, but you can look yourself in the mirror each day knowing you are one step ahead by utilising the window of opportunity and being proactive.