Updated: Dec 8, 2020
COVID-19 has affected so many of us in so many ways, one of which has been coined “the Corona 19". Apparently a creative spin on the "Freshman 15." You’ve seen it, you’ve heard it, maybe even joked about it yourself.
It seems like every other social media post is about gaining weight during quarantine, eating your entire food stash in two days, drinking every day starting at noon. There are endless memes of before and after quarantine photos, “fitness enthusiasts” trying to give you advice on at-home workouts and how to eat healthy during this time and prevent what they think is dreaded weight gain.
Everyone, myself included have been trying to make light of the situation which isn’t bad because laughter is one of the only things that will get us through this crazy, uncertain time. But, just because I laugh at the memes and have cracked my own jokes about falling into some less than ideal nutrition habits during this time, it doesn’t mean I think it should be that way. I am a dietitian, but I am less than perfect when it comes to nutrition. Well, what society thinks is perfect, I should say. I don’t believe there is a perfect way to eat. It depends on the person, the day, and the situation. In today’s world, I think some treats, comfort foods, and a few extra drinks with your friends over virtual happy hour IS OKAY. Are you having a difficult time figuring out how to approach your nutrition during this time? Here are some of my thoughts, a few of which might surprise you.
This could be a great time to make substantial health and nutrition modifications. If you’re furloughed, laid off, have less work to do, or maybe still working full time but at home without a commute, you’ve got a bit more time on your hands. Plus, you simply must cook more. Sure, we can order out from restaurants, but it isn’t an option nearly as much as it was prior to this. We simply have more time and more opportunity to cook at home.
Cooking at home often leads to a more balanced meal and more control over portions. Not to mention, there isn’t the constant temptation of going out to eat or drink for social purposes. Parents, your kids are at home and you’ve suddenly become a teacher. I don’t know about you, but I think cooking and learning to love and appreciate food is a life skill that children would benefit immensely from. So, make it a family activity and involve the kids!
Further, nutrient dense food can help decrease stress levels and improve energy and mood. If any of this describes you, then there is no better time than the present to kickstart your nutrition modifications. In uncertain times you can take control of something that we have to do regardless each day.
This could be a challenging time to make substantial nutrition modifications. Life is uncertain, finances are stretched thin, groceries aren’t as available, you’re stressed, worried, stuck being a full-time employee, teacher, parent and athlete all in one. Or, maybe none of the above are true but you’ve got more time on your hands and want to fill it by becoming the next Martha Stewart and bake like there’s no tomorrow.
In times like this, focusing on nutrition related goals can seem like the most unrealistic thing in the world. That is okay, and it certainly doesn’t make you a failure. Rather, quite the opposite. It takes a lot of self awareness to identify challenges and make realistic goals. I admire my clients who have been able to identify that right now is not the time to try to force things or make drastic changes all at once. There is no need for added stress right now. If a cookie will make you feel better, eat the dang cookie. If an at-home wine and charcuterie tasting makes you happier than a plate of vegetables right now (speaking from experience…) then please, just do it.
Maybe you had some health and nutrition related goals that you made prior to this pandemic and are feeling guilty for not achieving every one of those goals. Turn that guilt around and prove that you have resilience by focusing on some smaller, more realistic goals that may not be nutrition related at all. Instill confidence in yourself by showing that you can make adjustments in a less than perfect situation. Kind of sounds like what we have to do during races… Remember that better times will come again in the future, so forgive yourself and recalibrate.
Whichever situation you find yourself in is okay. Going back and forth between the two depending on the day is fine. If you identify with situation one seek out some guidance to try dialing in on your nutrition, finding strategies to cook in quarantine, and how to bring the whole family together in the kitchen. If you identify with the second situation, it can be powerful to ask for some guidance in finding those small things you can focus on. If you feel it would be helpful, don’t be afraid to reach out for help and learn how to let go of weight related goals without feeling guilty. Either way, please, give yourself some compassion. This is an extremely tough time and every individual is experiencing their own set of emotions and struggles.
Everyone is handling this differently and there is no perfect way. If you follow social media accounts that make you feel bad about yourself during this time, unfollow. If you find some fitness or health social media accounts that make you feel better about your body during this time, keep following. And if it makes you laugh or it makes you angry when you see the memes about the Corona 19, there’s nothing wrong with you and it doesn’t make you a bad person either way. Just remind yourself that your body is wonderful the way it is and if your body is changing during this stressful time, it is normal.