Doesn't matter if you're a parent, a professional or both - always feeling busy has become the norm. Worrying about your family, your home, your job and all of your other responsibilities - it compounds together to create levels of stress that are quite exhausting. The reality is that you are going to have days, even weeks, where you feel too busy and too stressed out to focus on yourself.
Even if your intention is to exercise and meal plan for the week, life has a way of interrupting our plans. The path to success is rarely a simple and straight one; it is often complex and takes you for a few twists and turns. Luckily, there are a few strategies to help you progress in the right direction. When it comes to weight loss, you should consistently maintain high non-exercise activity thermogenesis or NEAT.
Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis
NEAT is the cumulation of all the energy expended for everything that you do that is not sleeping, eating or planned exercise. This includes energy that is expended from walking to work, typing on the computer, cleaning the house, shoveling the driveway, fidgeting, brushing your teeth and cooking food. To read more about NEAT, go to this publication written by James A. Levine in the National Library of Medicine.
Besides proper nutrition, expending energy or calories is the most critical component to losing weight. If you are too busy to schedule times throughout your week to exercise, you will still want to maintain an active body. Any and every movement counts towards your NEAT, from the most trivial of tasks to physically demanding activities. Even after an hour of exercise, you still have the rest of your day to participate in other activities and contribute to your overall energy expenditure.
Increasing your NEAT puts an emphasis on effort and movement. The more effort you must put in and the more you move, the greater the NEAT. This contradicts the desire for convenience and the old saying of “work smarter, not harder”; but there is great value in doing things yourself, rather than relying on technology or others to do it for you. You will use more energy going to a grocery store to buy food and then cooking for yourself, rather than ordering dinner from an app on your phone. You must consciously decide to move, considering what activities would require greater effort. This process will be different for everyone, so stay focused on what is available to you.
Decreases in NEAT, as a result of being in quarantine, can be another contributing factor to recent weight gain. We are expending less energy because we are moving less in our daily activities, while we are consuming the same amount of food or possibly more. On top of not working out and not playing sports, we are not leaving the house to socialize, go shopping or go to work as often.
Of course, most of us were not prepared because we never imagined being in a lock down. However, the silver lining is that you get to learn from this experience and use it to alter your perception of movement. There are many ways to stay active and expend energy outside of working out or playing sports and in some cases, NEAT can contribute to greater energy expenditure.
Take a few minutes to think about what you can do around your house right now and see where it takes you. Remember: small changes will eventually make a big difference!