From what I read on social media, a lot of you have given in to the notion that this order to stay home will inevitably lead to weight gain which can wreak havoc on your overall health.. I for one am determined not to let that happen. I am healthier and fitter now than I was 10 years ago and I refuse to let COVID-19 take that away from me. A lot of what is happening to us during this Pandemic is beyond our control. Whether or not we turn into junk food eating couch potatoes is entirely up to us.
What follows are just a few commonsense suggestions to help you stay healthy under the stay at home orders.
The first step to a healthy lifestyle begins in the grocery store. Leave the chips, candy, ice cream, and pastries in the store. If you cannot resist snacking between meals, stick to low sugar fruits and veggies and SMALL quantities of nuts and seeds. Make an effort to have at least 90 percent of what you eat be real whole foods instead of processed fake food with ingredients you can’t even pronounce. Make wise decisions when ordering foods from restaurants and try to prepare your own food at home as much as possible so you know exactly what is in it. Take advantage of this opportunity to try some new healthy recipes for you and your family now that you have the time. Think of eating a healthy diet as something you can do to help boost your immunity during this Pandemic.
Consider using that cell phone that is constantly with you to journal what you are eating and your exercise habits. Apps like My Fitness Pal and Lose It will keep you honest if you track everything you eat and how much you are exercising. It may sound like a pain but studies have proven that journaling is a very effective tool in the weight control arsenal. You can even use old fashioned pen and paper to accomplish this. If you are on lockdown, don’t tell me you don’t have time.
Practice portion control. Simple strategies like using smaller plates and utensils fool your brain into thinking that you are eating more than you really are. A saucer sized plate or small paper plate will hold as much as you need to eat at a meal. This is a good time to learn to eat more slowly to give your brain a chance to signal your stomach that you are full. You will automatically eat less when you do this. Remember, there is no reason to rush through your meals when there is no place to go!
Drink more water, especially when you are tempted to do mindless snacking. Sometimes what we perceive as hunger is really thirst. Aim to drink at least 64 ounces of water daily. All those trips to the rest room will help keep you off the couch.
Make a concerted effort to wait until you are stomach growling hungry before you eat. Try to distinguish between head hunger due to boredom and physical hunger. If you are already full but craving to eat something else, distract yourself by getting as far away from the kitchen as you can. Why not go out and walk around the block? As you are walking, the craving will likely go away. Getting some fresh air every day is important to prevent “cabin fever” and depression. You might also use the moment to call and check on a friend or loved one. Social distancing does not mean disconnecting from the people you care about.
Make staying active a priority. Even those of us who are allowed to go to work are still home more than usual. We now have more time to go for walks and runs, do home workouts and try the many workout videos that are available. If you don’t enjoy structured workouts, why not make a playlist of your favorite upbeat music and dance like no one is looking. This is also a great time to tackle some of those household chores you have been putting off. Even if you chose to binge watch your favorite series, you can get up and march in place for a few minutes between episodes. The point is just to get you to move as much as possible. Not only is activity good for your heart and your blood pressure, it can also ward off anxiety and depression. Like I always say, “movement is therapy.”
Last but not least, one of the best things you can do for your long term health is to GO TO BED EARLY! A lot of us are so conditioned to staying up late that we have forgotten how to go to bed early like we did when we were children. We have made it a habit to stay up watching late night television and often find ourselves mindlessly snacking. The average adult should get 7-9 hours of sleep per night yet most of us are lucky to get six. Look at it this way. You are going to wake up at whatever time you are used to getting up regardless so the easiest way to work toward getting adequate sleep is to get it on the front end. You will be amazed at how much better you will feel once you start getting adequate sleep!
I hope these tips will help all of us get through these difficult times without letting stress eating and inactivity get the best of us. If you have other tips you would like to add, feel free to leave them in the comments section. Be safe everyone!
Yvonne Moore, MD
“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.” 3 John 1:2 (NLT)