This time in 2020 not many of us were planning summer vacations or traveling much further than our own backyards. Now, in 2021, with more and more Americans vaccinated and a more positive outlook in some locales, many of us want nothing more than a packed suitcase, a ticket to somewhere, sand between our toes and all the vacation we can stand!
Some of us are just a little concerned about how our new swimsuit will fit after a year under pandemic conditions, so many hours at home, so many delivery and curbside pick up dinners and more than a little bingeing on Netflix and family game nights. And snacks. So many snacks! Strangely, now that the end is coming into sight, it seems to have gone by so fast. Too fast to jump back to our old healthier routines. And yes, many who switched into high-gear with new rigorous fitness and healthy routines are shaking their heads at the rest of us.
But let’s stop all of that now. it’s more important that we feel good; that we feel good about how we feel. So, let’s take a look at our pantry, at our grocery list and where our workout clothes and sneakers are. Now is the time to shop for that new bathing suit. Start taking steps – start taking those 10,000+ steps every day. Summer is just a few weeks away. And though it’s really an arbitrary timeframe, it’s nonetheless a significant and symbolic one. Summer is freedom!
To help you to whatever degree you want or need, we’re going to look at some ways to get closer to whatever our goals are this year – from how to get your body moving to getting a helpful menu board started.
Step One. Find the kind of workout that will take you to your goal and keep you motivated.
Step Two. Whether it’s a “diet” or a “lifestyle change,” let’s find what works for you.
We’ll save exercise strategies for next time. First let’s talk about the fitness that comes from eating a balanced, healthy variety of foods. There’s a saying in high-level fitness circles – “80% of your physique is in your tummy.” Translation: You can’t get fit, lose weight, firm up and other fitness goals if you don’t eat “right.” (We’ll talk about what that means in just a minute.)
Coronavirus in the Context of Food
The maker of Oreos and Ritz Crackers had a very good 2020. Sales in North America leapt almost 20% over 2019 revenues. The one big reason: When we started to go into lockdown, Americans stocked up on so-called comfort food. And why not? We thought it would be a matter of weeks. 10+ months in, that includes some extra pounds for many of us. One survey done found that 76% of Americans have gained weight, as much as 16 pounds between March and July. Another survey, done by the running website RunRepeat, found that 41% of its audience had gained 5+ pounds since quarantine began — and those people are devoted to running, presumably less prone to weight fluctuations.
A recent WebMD article interviewing its Chief Medical Officer and Columbia University’s Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry presented tips to “Eat Healthier During the Pandemic.” In it, the Cleveland Clinic’s dietitian explained that “back then it was a shock to the system, the challenge of staying home.” “Now we’re seeing people struggle with stress, boredom, and the inability to focus on making a lifestyle changes when there are so many other changes happening.”
The Flip Side – the Pandemic Solution?
But that’s just part of the story of food and covid-19. Some people are changing the narrative, looking at all this time at home, more time overall, as an opportunity. Not going to the workplace means there’s no long commute, which makes time for exercising and cooking healthy meals.
The WebMD health professionals reported that about half of their patients see this time as the worst thing ever. The other half feel like they can finally make a true lifestyle change. They’ve finally got the time to do it. To plan for it. To make it happen.
Such was the case of one female patient in Maryland who has lost 40 pounds on WW (formerly Weight Watchers) during the pandemic. “COVID made me look differently at how I have no control whatsoever over many things. But there are some things I can control,” she says. “I think I needed something to focus on that allowed me little victories going along. It makes 2020 feel a bit less dire.”
How the Fad Diets Work – and When They Don’t
Vegan. Keto. Paleo. Plant-based. Raw foods. Flexitarian. Probiotic-Rich foods. Intermittent Fasting. Volumetrics.* Plus, the old standards like Vegetarian, Mediterranean, South Beach and Atkins.
Some fads will help you lose weight or eat “clean” or help with specific conditions (high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, but not covid – see end of this article.) Most experts suggest that you take from them what you need and leave the rest. Use what works and skip the rest. And don’t become a slave to any diet or “lifestyle”. Everything in moderation – including moderation.
A great resource for handling stress, food and a healthy lifestyle during the pandemic is The Pandemic Diet: How to Lose the ‘Quarantine 15’ WebMD, Oct. 29, 2020.
There’s no single “pandemic diet” that will help shed those pounds. But the article’s author does offer suggestions — including specific ways of eating — that take into account the times we’re living in. Complicated diets that require extensive shopping and meal prep may be too difficult or stressful to tackle right now.
To start, all the usual weight loss advice still applies: Focus on healthy eating, regular exercise, and a good night’s sleep. But given the realities of pandemic life, that may not be enough. The article goes on to offer 12 actionable and the not run-of-the-mill suggestions.
A word about legit
The original definition of the word diet is “the kinds of food that a population (or person, animal or community) habitually eats”. Certain foods are better for the human immune system and therefore, those foods are a better diet during a pandemic or when one is susceptible to a virus.
The World Health Organization put out a message as part of its #HealthyAtHome – Healthy Diet campaign that states –
“Eating a healthy diet is very important during the COVID-19 pandemic. What we eat and drink can affect our body’s ability to prevent, fight and recover from infections.
While no foods or dietary supplements can prevent or cure COVID-19 infection, healthy diets are important for supporting immune systems…” [LINK]
That is the extent of the link between food and drink/diet and the coronavirus/covid-19. An overall healthy, balanced diet will support a healthy immune system. There is no specific food/drink (except staying generally hydrated), supplement or other diet-related factor that will prevent, cure or curtail covid-19. By keeping your body nourished, you will support your immune system which helps your body fight off infection. So, while there are certain nutrients that may better support the immune system than others, there is no cure-all, no magic bullet to protect one from covid-19.
See also “Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Food safety and nutrition” (LINK)