When Covid hit in the US it changed life as we know it. I began entirely working from home and was forced to deal with tragedy and unexpected life changes that have altered my day-to-day in ways that I never imagined - the loss of a loved one, another close family member developing a life-long disease less than week later, and staying home in order to avoid contracting the virus to protect those close to me with underlying conditions and weakened immune systems.
That said, during that time my exercise routine was put on the back burner, while comfort food and alcohol became my go-to for dealing with the stress and turmoil of everyday life. I never became an alcoholic, but I typically have a drink or two once or twice a week and during that time it became a daily habit while ordering pizza or fixing quick meals like pasta with way too much cheese.
My shirts began to fit quite a bit tighter, my pant-size went up a few notches, and I felt awful every day. I gained 20 pounds and could feel it. So, in December I decided that a New Year’s resolution was absolutely imperative - lose that 20 pounds and get back to feeling good.
And here’s how I did it.
Starting January first I went on a diet. For the entire month I avoided alcohol, bread, dairy, sugar, red meat, pork, and ordering food out completely. I also purchased a stationary bike online (I opted for a cheaper one around $200, not a Peloton or anything fancy like that). Every morning I stretched for 10 minutes before hopping on the bike for 15-20 minutes at a time - I shouldn’t say every morning, it was more like 3-5 days a week so I could build up strength in my legs again and, of course, get my work done (I’m a freelance writer and I have a full-time job as well).
After two weeks I started to incorporate lifting weights - I own two ten lb. dumbbells and decided it was a good time to dust them off. I alternated days - one morning was for riding the bike, the next was for lifting weights. Once I started lifting weights, I made the decision to incorporate a protein shake into my diet as well - JBN’s Confidence™ Whey Isolate (chocolate of course!) which has 25 grams of protein and 5 grams of dietary fiber. And for an added boost of energy, JBN’s Matcha Boost, a green tea/adaptogenic mushroom blend with some natural flavoring to offset the taste of the cold green tea itself.
For my workouts I started off fairly light - cycling at a modest speed and a few reps of lifting the dumbbells that felt right. As it became easier, I began adding to the reps, and cycling faster until I felt it was time to start doing both in the same day. With my schedule I had to find a way to incorporate this into my routine and not lose the time necessary to get my work done. So, in the mornings I do my stretching and weights, and during my full-time shift, I ride my bike during one of my 15-minute breaks (I now incorporate high intensity interval training doing 30 seconds at a normal speed and 30 seconds fast to get a 3-mile ride in 10 minutes). As the workouts became easier, I started to add push-ups and sit-ups to my routine (I currently do 100 push-ups a day and 50 sit-ups - I recommend starting with an amount that is comfortable for you before building up to these numbers). Eventually I also added held leg-lifts and planks to my routine for added strength.
In the first month I lost eight pounds, and from there it slowed - about one pound per week and now about one pound every two weeks. To achieve losing weight while gaining muscle, you must have a lot of drive and patience, it’s not going to happen overnight. After the first month I let up a little on my strict diet as my workout routine began to get more intense - I’ll have a drink or two once or twice a week, order a meal or two out on weekends, and allow myself small treats like dark chocolate at night. But my diet is still pretty strict.
Here’s what I eat on a typical day:
Breakfast: Fat-free Greek yogurt w/ granola and blueberries, with black coffee and JBN’s Matcha Boost.
Post Workout: JBN’s Confidence™ Whey Isolate with water.
Lunch: Smoothie (fat-free milk, one banana, a serving of peanut butter, a handful of frozen blueberries - I sometimes buy them frozen and other times buy them and freeze them myself).
Dinner: This meal varies, so here are a few examples:
● Organic hard-boiled eggs with a salad (baby spinach, arugula, tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumbers, Craisins, walnuts, and a small amount of dressing)
● Organic chicken cooked in the oven with a salad.
● Whole wheat pita topped with hummus, spinach, arugula, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, red onion, bell pepper, feta, and red-wine vinegar.
I should also mention that outside of coffee, I only drink water - I drink approximately 12-14 cups a day, although this may be too much for some people. But if you are someone who drinks soda or sugary fruit drinks regularly, make the switch and you’ll notice the difference very quickly.
For lifting dumbbells, I include a lot of variety into my routine - bicep curls, military presses, lateral raise, etc. I typically do five different types of lifts with the weights for four reps of 20-40 lifts each, depending on the workout. These are my numbers after a little over four months, I did nothing even close the first month. Take your time!!!!
I’m happy to say I have shed my pandemic 20, and continue to work-out and eat healthy daily.
Please remember, before starting a new diet or exercise routine, consult with a medical professional first. Not every diet or routine is for everyone.