In college everyone expected to see the Freshman 15 run rampant across campus and you’d go home and joke about eating (and drinking) a little too much but all the good times that were had and dumb decisions that were made. Times have changed and in the blink of an eye college campuses are closed and students are learning from home. Now, everyone seems to be talking about the Quarantine 15. While it’s all fun and games talking about putting on weight from eating one (or 13) too many snacks during the day, adding even a few extra pounds can be enough to pull your hair out – especially if your gym isn’t open yet and your home workouts have been, well… nonexistent.
This article is going to lay out five tips you can use and implement to help prevent the Quarantine 15 from adding you to its list of statistics.
1. Grocery Shop with Intent
You’ve probably heard it before, but you should never grocery shop when you’re hungry. Make a list of the (healthy) items you need to purchase before heading to the store and stick to the list. Yes, even with the list you may be tempted when you walk past an endcap and it's featuring a new delicious flavor of potato chips you love. Be headstrong and keep walking.
People fail and suffer from the Quarantine 15 when they go to the store, load up on junk food they should have never purchased, and then late at night when they are hungry for a snack, they grab the unhealthy convenience items simply because it’s in their home. If you don’t bring it into the house, you won’t be tempted to eat something unhealthy that could cause you to gain weight.
2. Plan Out Your Meals and Water Intake for the Day
Benjamin Franklin said it best when he was quoted saying, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” It’s absolutely true. Navy Seals don’t walk out into a mission without planning their attack first. If they did, the consequences could be deadly. That’s the same mentality you need to have if you are trying to get in the best shape of your life and prevent the Quarantine 15. If you don’t have a plan, you open yourself up for weight gain and put yourself at a greater risk for health concerns.
Figure out what your meals will look like. Better yet, meal prep for the week on a Sunday where you plan out and make a bunch of meals ahead of time and store them in Tupperware containers, so they are readily available come mealtime. It takes the guesswork out of things while also being extremely convenient. Also, make sure you always have your water bottle full and near you at all times to stay hydrated as well as satiated throughout the day.
3. Make Time to Exercise (Outdoors)
Honestly, I don’t care what your excuse is for “not having time to exercise.” If your health and fitness is a priority, you’ll make time for it. And there’s no better way to fit in a workout at home than to get one in outside. Enjoy the weather and sunshine. Benefit from the free source of vitamin D and fresh air. Your workouts don’t need to be in a squat rack every week, changing things up is key to keeping your workouts fresh and exciting.
Go outside and do sprints for a great HIIT workout to prevent the Quarantine 15. Or, ante up and do sprints up a hill to make your session even more challenging. Use sturdy horizontal poles or tree branches to do pull-ups, do a variety of push-ups, do walking lunges up and down the street you live on, grab something that has some weight to it and do squats or overhead presses – the key is to use your imagination. The great outdoors is your playground if you just think outside the box a little bit.
4. Track Your Nutrition
I saw you roll your eyes after reading the title of #4 but if you want to ward off the Quarantine 15, you need to implement this tip. I think it was Donald Rumsfeld who said, “We don’t know what we don’t know.” It doesn’t matter if you are trying to lose weight or put on lean muscle mass, if you aren’t tracking the food you put in your mouth, how do you know you’re eating the number of calories you need and are on track? And you can’t say the scale will tell you because by that time it’s already too late if you’re going in the wrong direction.
You need to be able to track your calories and macros each day through a tool like MyFitnessPal (the free version is fine). Enter all of your meals, snacks, bites, and nibbles into the tracking software and keep yourself accountable. If you're trying to lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than your maintenance and put yourself in a deficit. If you're trying to put on muscle, you need to be in a surplus (but not so high that you start adding body fat). It's a game of numbers that you need to constantly be looking at and adjusting to continue seeing results.
5. Manage Stress Levels
Stress does all sorts of nasty things to your body. When you’re stressed, you may find your sleep patterns change and you aren’t able to get a good night’s sleep. When you’re stressed you may find yourself emotional-eating and picking at random unhealthy items throughout the day that are sweet and/or salty. Those calories add up quickly. Stress can also raise cortisol levels which may cause your body to hold onto and store body fat. And when stressed, what do you the people around you notice? You’re moody and lethargic.
To combat stress levels and prevent your body from storing fat and pushing you closer and closer to the Quarantine 15, find ways to manage your stress. This can be easier said than done but it's not impossible or overly difficult. If working out lowers your stress levels, hit a workout. If reading a book in a quiet room is relaxing, do that. Meditation, yoga, and deep breathing are also great ways to reduce and manage stress. Find what works for you and implement it into your daily routine.