Lighten up after coronavirus lockdown: how to lose weight, get healthy and boost immunity with food – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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Now that people are emerging from the coronavirus lockdown, many are feeling the reality pinch of pants with non-elastic waistbands. A few brave souls are stepping on the scale.

Confined at home for weeks on end experiencing freakish anxiety while comfort chowing on toaster strudel, frozen pizza and home-baked bread is a hefty recipe for weight gain. Some are calling the unwanted body bulk the covid 10 or quarantine 15, transforming homebodies into hunkering-down hulks.

Food is not the enemy 

If you are overweight or obese, just remember: if you can eat your way into bad health, you can eat your way into good health, according to dietitian Bridgett Wilder.

No one knows this better than Wilder, a former diabetic who was so heavy she refused to weigh herself after reaching 300 pounds. Now, after overcoming both obesity and an inordinate amount of trauma and grief. Wilder has succeeded in keeping off over 165 pounds . . . and she’s not done yet.

She’s also on a mission to help others through food. “Health is wealth by way of nutrition,” is one of Wilder’s mottos. The Milwaukee widow and mother of nine living children is the owner of Perseverance Health and Wellness Coaching, where Wilder works as a consultant for corporate and community wellness programs, motivational speaker, and nutritionist for individuals looking to achieve weight-loss goals.

An author with a dietetics and psychology degree from Mount Mary University, Wilder’s memoir, “Why Me? A Question I Refuse To Ask God,” (KRL Publishing, 2018) tells of the obstacles she’s dealt with while seeking to get healthy.

“I always had a weight battle,” Wilder said. She went through years of yo-yo dieting and weight fluctuations while having children and experiencing family trauma. In 2006, Wilder lost her 6-year-old daughter Beatrice to a neurological disorder. Three years later, her husband, Anthony, died at age 37 due to heart disease.

Left with nine children to raise on her own, she remembered feeling deep despair but looked to her faith. “I believed God wanted better for me. He wanted me to live my best life — mind, body and spirit,” she explained. “He gave me the confidence to take the step.”

Concentrating on losing five pounds at a time, Wilder said, she ate her way out of obesity by focusing on foods her body needed, not reaching for foods prompted by emotions and strain. “Feelings can mislead you,” she explained, and set off stress-cravings for high sodium and heavily processed foods such as potato chips and boxed mac & cheese. “The repercussions of that are weight gain.”

Wilder encourages her clients to write journals to help understand their food choices, portion sizes and snack attacks. “That way, they can identify their trigger,” she said. “Food in and by itself is not the enemy.”

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Be like Bridgett

People are struggling with food in many ways, Wilder said. Some are overeating or making poor food choices due to the stress of not knowing when they will work again or when their children will return to school and day care. Some are worried about stretching grocery dollars and have not yet received any stimulus funds.

Others are dealing with weight-related health conditions such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, depression, respiratory problems, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis and some types of cancers.

Many are looking to simply boost their immune system or live their best life.

Being overweight “makes us more prone to disease,” Wilder explained. “This virus attaches itself to weak immune systems.”

For eating well at home to give your body what it needs, here are some tips from Wilder:

  • Be strategic when grocery shopping. Never go when hungry; prepare a full list and stick to it.
  • Read the ingredient list on food packages. Impulse foods are often highly processed with a long list of ingredients packed with sodium and sugar.
  • Consider frozen foods that can be handy and beneficial, such as fruits and vegetables.
  • Use a slow cooker to prepare meals, particularly if time or fatigue is an issue at dinnertime.
  • Bag portion-controlled wholesome snacks in advance, including sliced carrots, nut/seed mixes, berry mixes or sugar snap peas.
  • Remember nourishing foods needn’t be expensive. A bag of dried beans cost a little more than a dollar and can help feed a family for days.

When time allows, prepare vegetables ahead of time and freeze in bags, such as cut-up sweet potatoes to bake later for fries or spiralized zucchini to stand in for pasta.

For restaurant eating, Wilder recommended venues with healthy menu items, such as FreshFin Poke with two locations in Milwaukee, one in Brookfield and another in Madison. She also likes Urban Beets Café & Juicery on Mayfair Road in Wauwatosa, and Blue Bat Kitchen and Tequilaria on Milwaukee’s North Water Street.

Obesity is a common problem in U.S.

Unfortunately while the coronavirus may be novel, being overweight or obese is not. The pandemic comes as about seven out of 10 Americans are overweight or obese. Weight-related risk factors and weakened immune systems are also currently a serious concern.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, someone who is 5 feet 9 inches tall weighing between 125 and 168 pounds is considered normal weight. They are now a minority in modern America. Those weighing 169 pounds and up are considered overweight; those over 203 pounds are obese, according to the CDC.

It also states nearly one in five children and more than one in three adults find themselves in the heaviest category of obesity. Almost one in four young adults is too heavy to serve in the military. Wisconsin mirrors national trends; figures as of 2016 show 69% of adults are overweight or obese, an upward trend from years past, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

For males, a whopping 77% are overweight or obese in the Badger State; females are at 62%. Only about three in 10 adult Wisconsinites are considered normal weight.

Change your life with food

Just two years ago while in her mid-40s, Wilder delivered an inspiring talk at her commencement ceremony at Mount Mary University about overcoming obstacles. Now, part of Wilder’s calling is to help others live their best life in mind, body and spirit.

“Healing the community by way of nutrition,” is one of her goals at Perseverance Health and Wellness Coaching. Last year, she taught classes on disease prevention through diet for the American Cancer Society.

This month Wilder will be hold nutrition classes on Saturdays, June 6, 13 and 20, at Walnut Way, a nonprofit neighborhood organization at 2240 N. 17th St. Cost is $25 per class, no registration is necessary.

Also, during the lockdown, she had been posting free video tutorials on Facebook at Perseverance Health and Wellness Coaching.

One recipe she recommends is Bridgett’s Yogurt Parfait, with one cup each of vanilla or plain yogurt, chopped strawberries and blueberries layered in a glass for an individual serving. Top with a tablespoon of crushed almonds and drizzle of honey if desired. Wilder recommends it for breakfast as a nourishing start to a new day.

RELATED: 10 foods to help reduce the coronavirus lockdown weight

Jennifer Rude Klett is a Wisconsin freelance writer of history, food, and Midwestern life. Contact her at jrudeklett.com.

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