If you find yourself stressed about the extra three cookies you ate and the gym you can’t go to, take a step back and reevaluate. Now is absolutely NOT the time to be dieting. A caloric restriction is not what your immune system needs at the moment. I have seen a lot of posts circulating about gaining the dreaded “Quarantine 15,” and guess what? If the world has turned upside down and the worst thing that happens to you is an additional 15 pounds on the scale, you are doing pretty well. With all that is going on in the world right now, you cannot possibly expect to keep your food and exercise regimen exactly the way it was before your couch became your cubicle.
That does not mean that we should all just give up on ourselves and eat potato chips for every meal. Now more than ever, it is important that we nourish our bodies and do the best that we can to get key nutrients into our diets. Keep in mind that your approach to nutrition during this quarantine should be largely dependent on your circumstances. What works for a healthcare worker right now is going to be very different from what I would recommend for a student taking classes at home (if you want specific recommendations, feel free to set up a free consultation). I have listed a few strategies that might work for you below, but always remember to listen to your body and do what feels best for you.
Focus on Breakfast
I have never seen anyone reach for broccoli as a midnight snack. Many of us see our food choices deteriorate as the day goes on. You don’t necessarily have to ditch the late night ice cream (though you might want to consider healthier alternatives like frozen banana “nice” cream), but make an effort to eat more nutrient dense food earlier in the day. Earlier on in the day is often when we have the most control over what we eat. Our plans for the day often change by the time we get around to eating lunch and dinner. Center your breakfast around eating adequate protein, fruits, and vegetables. If you have the time, prepare an omelet. If you are in a rush, prepare some yogurt with fruit or a smoothie. Do what you can to prep the foods you will need in advance.
Stay in a Routine
Over the last few weeks, your day has probably looked a little different. You might not have access to the same groceries. You might find yourself cooking or ordering in a little more than usual. Some habits and routines will have to change. However, if you have a healthy routine that you were following before this quarantine, do your best to keep it. Do you normally meal prep on Sundays? Keep it up! Do you normally prepare your lunch the night before? Don’t stop now! If you prepare lunch the night before, you will probably eat it the next day. If noon rolls around and you haven’t thought about lunch yet, you will be much more likely to order some food for delivery or grab the first thing you see in the kitchen. It may seem a little silly to keep these routines in place when you are home all of the time, but this consistency will keep you from picking up needlessly unhealthy eating habits.
Drop the All or Nothing Attitude
Do you only go to the gym when you have been eating well? Do you consider the entire day or week to be a failure based on one or two unhealthy meals? This attitude can be really detrimental in general, but this is especially harmful given the current circumstances. There are enough stressful things going on in the world. Your nutrition and fitness regimen don’t have to be an additional stressor. Just because you ate poorly at lunch time does not mean that it is too late to get in a serving of veggies or go for a quick walk. Do not focus on being perfect. Take whatever steps you can to prioritize your health, even if it does not feel like much. The little things really do add up over time.
Find a New Way to Relieve Stress
Have you been stress eating? I get it, times are tough. Unfortunately, the foods we tend to reach for when we are stressed do not tend to be the best options for our health. Eating junk food just isn’t an effective long term strategy for managing stress. Instead, find a new coping strategy that works for you. This will look different for everyone. Exercise can be a great tool for stress management, but it probably won’t work for you if you were on your feet at work for 12 hours. Deep breathing, journaling, and listening to music are all great stress management strategies. Think about the tools that have helped you get through stressful situations in the past.
Disclaimer: I am not a Registered Dietitian or mental health practitioner. The information I provide is based on my personal experience, education, and experiences as a Personal Trainer. The following information is not intended to be prescriptive and is for informational purposes only.