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The quarantine 15: Learn some practical tips from a pro about living a healthier pandemic lifestyle

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Pandemic pounds, the quarantine 15, the COVID 19. You know what I'm talking about.

The COVID-19 pandemic completely disrupted most of our lives and routines; led to spikes in stress, anxiety, and uncertainty; and left many of us with little else to do but sit around. With gyms closed and millions of jobs lost, it's only natural that many of us dropped our healthy habits and traded them in for comfort food.

An October 2020 survey conducted by researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana found that sedentary time increased among nearly 8,000 respondents during the pandemic, while time spent in physical activity decreased. The result, in about 28 percent of cases, was weight gain.

Weight fluctuation is normal, natural, and human. Gaining weight isn't always a bad thing, and fat certainly isn't always a sign of an unhealthy lifestyle.

But for those of you who feel like your COVID-19 weight gain is the result of some bad habits, Stephanie Killen, a certified nutritional therapy practitioner at Sound Body Nutrition in San Luis Obispo, can help. Killen works with her clients to address digestive, hormonal, and weight issues through holistic nutrition and lifestyle remedies.

ASK A NUTRITIONIST Stephanie Killen is a certified nutritional therapy practitioner at Sound Body Nutrition in San Luis Obispo. - PHOTO COURTESY OF STEPHANIE KILLEN
  • Photo Courtesy Of Stephanie Killen
  • ASK A NUTRITIONIST Stephanie Killen is a certified nutritional therapy practitioner at Sound Body Nutrition in San Luis Obispo.

New Times: Have you heard from a lot of clients who have gained weight during the pandemic?

Killen: I actually have not. I've heard it throughout just people in general, you know, as I mingle about. "Oh, you know, I've put on weight because I'm just eating at home," and that kind of thing. So it's definitely circulating and I have heard it. But my clients in particular, the ones that come to me for weight loss, it's been an issue since before the pandemic. So I'm not sure if it's actually made it worse for them or not.

NT: So we had the pandemic on top of the holiday season. I personally always gain weight during the holiday season because there're so many cookies. And then now with the new year I'm seeing lots of posts on social media about resolutions to lose weight and fad diets. So what do you think of fad diets like keto and stuff like that? Do they work?

Killen: Even the word "diet" is something that we try to stay away from when I work with my clients because it's more of a lifestyle change than a diet—because diets fail. And it's a mindset around the word "diet" that kind of is restrictive and freaks people out, and a lot of people aren't successful with it. I mean, there are certain health issues that could benefit from certain specialty diets, like keto, like paleo, like Whole30. Those are definitely warranted in some situations. Then there're also detoxes—you'll see that in the beginning of the year, and I think it could be a good kick-start into the year if it's truly a goal of yours to kind of clean out and lose weight and start again. I do think that those programs can be helpful in kick-starting that, but in all reality, most people don't even make it through and go back to what they're doing, either during or right after any of those programs.

NT: What do you think it is about diets in general that leads people to not be successful?

Killen: I think a lot of it is meal planning, whether it's too time consuming, whether they don't know what to eat, whether they don't know what to eat that tastes good is a big one. A lot of people dislike cooking, or they just want something quick and easy and convenient. And when it comes to actually cooking meals, they don't know what to cook and how to make it tasty and how to make it quick. So I think that that's probably the biggest hiccup for diets. And then another thing is the mentality that, "Oh, well I screwed up. So I'll just start again, like, next Monday." So it's like they screw up once and then it's out the door until they feel like this is a good starting point again, instead of just realizing that progress over perfection. Then you have words like "cheat" and "cheat days" and "I cheated." And I think there's just this really restrictive, almost negative connotation with dieting. And I think that gets old for people, real quick.

NT: As a nutritionist, what kinds of tips do you give to people typically who want to lose weight in a healthy, long-term sort of way?

Killen: Honestly I tell them first and foremost we are not counting calories. This isn't a counting calorie game. I also tell them that it's about nourishing your body. It's about bringing your body back into balance. ... But I say throw your timeline out the door, because if you put a timeline on this, all that's going to do is create pressure and that's not in the recipe for success. Because weight loss is kind of like layers, and it's mindset and it's body and it's soul. There's an emotional aspect to eating and emotional eating, and there's obviously the physical part of exercising and being active, and then there's also the mental part with staying motivated. So it's a multi-layered issue, and you need time to address each layer and build on each layer. ... Carving out a time to meal prep is one. So meal prepping for the week includes making your shopping list, going grocery shopping, and preparing the things that you can do ahead of time to make your week easier. I think clearing the crap out of your house is another. So that you don't have things that are tempting you when you open the cupboard and you open the fridge. If you replace those things with healthier options or healthier versions of those items, you're going to grab those when you're hungry instead of going for the Cheetos that are hidden in the corner. I think that's a big one. Staying hydrated is another one. Water is going to be your best friend, and trying to stay hydrated throughout your day so that your body functions properly is another good one. And taking the time to really go to a health food store and peruse the aisles and see what kinds of snacks they have and what kind of alternative things that would be healthier for you. So I think healthy substitutes for things you would go for during a snack time or mealtime are really important.

NT: Do you have any motivational words for people who are struggling with staying healthy right now or are just coming out of the pandemic and the holiday season feeling bad about themselves?

Killen: I think this is actually a really good time for resources right now. A lot of businesses, as far as like fitness things go, mindset things go, nutrition goes, a lot of a lot of those experts are offering free advice online. They're offering free programs, they're offering paid programs. And, you know, to get someone's support so that you can be successful is one of the things that I think would be the best advice. It's hard to always hold yourself accountable, but if you have somebody like a health coach or nutritionist or a fitness expert, who's going to support you and motivate you, I think that's one of the best things that you could do for your body. Δ

Staff Writer Kasey Bubnash can be reached at kbubnash@newtimesslo.com.

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