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7 Ways to Keep a Positive Dieting Mindset During Quarantine

You can still feel your absolute best at home.

Around this time last year, I kissed dieting goodbye and stopped restricting myself from eating for good. While I never struggled with a pronounced eating disorder, my relationship with food was incredibly unhealthy and I knew I needed a change. So I practiced intuitive eating habits, and since then, I was actually able to lose the extra pounds I gained in college.

Practicing healthier eating habits is much easier when you have a daily routine. But now that I'm quarantined at home and all of my daily routines have been thrown out the window, it's been difficult to keep up with my normal eating patterns. I've even found myself slipping back into a restrictive dieting mindset. I feel frustrated with my eating habits and can't seem to understand how I've "lost control."

After a few weeks of getting down on myself about my eating, I realized something important: You can't get anywhere with healthy eating unless you're kind to yourself. I was only able to lose weight last year because I started to truly love my body again. Even in quarantine, I need to love and be kind to my body, because things are already stressful as it is.

Once I came to this realization, I sat down with good ol' pen and paper and wrote down a few truths about healthy eating and dieting that I needed to remind myself. I have found them incredibly helpful with my mindset on staying healthy right now, and I hope they also bring you comfort in this trying time.

Remind yourself that your body needs nourishment.

Healthy lunch bowl with eggs
Brooke Lark/Unsplash

If you've never heard of intuitive eating, let me give you a crash course. Intuitive eating is a practice of truly listening to your body, and feeding it what it intuitively needs. Sometimes that will mean asparagus, sometimes that will mean pancakes. It also means listening to your body if it's actually hungry or not, and I find that most of the time I'm thinking about food out of boredom—not hunger.

Your body craves to be properly nourished, and that is going to look different every day. Some days your body is going to crave lots of yummy roasted vegetables, while other days your body is in need of carbs and fats. Really tune in and listen to it and nourish your body well. Practicing intuitive eating is an ongoing process, you won't be perfect at it. But you'll get better at really listening to its needs as time goes on—I promise.

Take note of how certain foods make you feel.

grabbing a slice of pizza
Pinar Kucuk/Unsplash

While it's easy to convince ourselves that we need to be nourishing ourselves with chocolate all the time, I bet eating sweet treats consistently isn't going to make you feel good in the long run. This next step is going to require some hard honesty from yourself. Start taking note of how certain foods make you feel, and write them down. This may seem tedious, but over time as you take your notes, you'll start to realize the foods that really make you feel your best, and you'll start to gravitate adding more of those to your diet. Sure, that could include chocolate every now and then! But that could also include broccoli, strawberries, oatmeal, peanut butter, and so many more foods. Let this time of quarantine be one where you really get to know your body well and nourish it with the foods that make you feel your best.

The scale is a useful tool, not your identity.

stepping onto a scale
i yunmai/Unsplash

I am going to be honest with you: I've gained 5 pounds since quarantining at home. And while I could sit here and stew about how "terrible" I am doing at dieting, I've decided to think differently about it. My body is going through an incredible amount of stress right now, and it's craving comforting foods. The scale helps me to see how my body reacts in stressful situations and helps me to learn about my health in the long run. The scale in no way reflects my identity. It has absolutely no hold on who I am as a person, it's merely a tool to learn about my scientific makeup. That's it.

So when you hop on the scale, look at it scientifically instead of emotionally. Learn about your body right now rather than abusing it. If you're a few pounds up right now, it's okay! Start taking notes about your weight and how you're feeling. Because if you're eating nourishing foods for your body that make you feel your best, I promise that scale will start to reflect that. It just takes time and patience.

Take advice from nutritionists and coaches who get it.

scrolling on a phone
Paul Hanaoka/Unsplash

This is probably the most important point I need to make. Social media is a great place to connect with nutritionists who are going to give you healthy advice not just in quarantine, but in your everyday life. Follow nutritionists that are going to be encouraging for your body and for learning about nutrition, rather than following "influencers" that promote restrictive eating. Some of my absolute favorites to follow include Rachel Paul, Carter Good, Maggie Michalczyk, Casey Seiden, Mia Syn, Melissa Rifkin, as well as Katrina Scott and Karena Dawn from Tone It Up.

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Make your favorite healthy meals.

cooking a healthy meal in a skillet
Kevin McCutcheon/Unsplash

Now that you're aware of the types of foods you love, make some of your favorite meals using those ingredients! You should enjoy what you're cooking and what you're eating, because making food is still a fun experience. If you need inspiration, here are some of our favorite best healthy recipes you can make, ranging from breakfast to dessert.

Treat yourself to something you love every day.

bowl of ice cream with toppings
Jez Timms/Unsplash

I know this is kind of counterintuitive to trying to eat healthy meals, but hear me out. When you have something you truly love to eat that you are saving as your dessert for the day, it's easier to say no to the other junk as the day goes on. For example, I'm a huge fan of ice cream and if I can, I eat it every day. Since I know I'm getting a treat later, it's easier to say no to needlessly snacking throughout the day simply because I'm craving that treat. I know I'm going to have it later, it's part of my nutrition plan, so why try snacking on other things I really don't want when I know I'll get to eat what I want later?

Healthy is the ultimate goal, not skinny.

healthy gal sitting by the window
Daiga Ellaby/Unsplash

I think it's easy to let our minds slip into this ideology that we can "fix ourselves" in quarantine. That with a little bit of restriction and a lot of HIIT cardio, we can lose the pounds and be looking our skinniest when all of this is over. It's easy to go down that slippery slope—I know from experience. But let me be the first to tell you that skinny is not the goal. Being healthy is the goal. You are at your absolute best when you nourish your body, when you learn about nutrition, and when you treat your body with care. Enslaving yourself to food restriction and constant working out will not get you to where you want to be, it will only put your body in survival mode. I promise you're going to feel your absolute best when you strive to be healthy.

Instead of working out to lose weight (which doesn't even scientifically work), work out because it makes your body feel good. Instead of restricting yourself to only eating salads, change your mindset and nourish your body with all kinds of nutrients and food groups. Because you are in the driver seat of your life, and you should feel your healthiest and best.

Eat This, Not That! is constantly monitoring the latest food news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed (and answer your most urgent questions). Here are the precautions you should be taking at the grocery store, the foods you should have on hand, the meal delivery services and restaurant chains offering takeout you need to know about, and ways you can help support those in need. We will continue to update these as new information develops. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date.
Kiersten Hickman
Kiersten Hickman is a freelance health and nutrition journalist. Read more about Kiersten
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