Balancing healthy eating and activity in the time of social distancing

One of the many jokes circulating the internet recently is about whether or not people will gain the “Quarantine 15” (akin to the “Freshman 15”) during this time of self-isolation and disruption in our normal routines thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak. As much as the internet likes to poke fun at the idea of weight gain during this time, a few extra pounds is not the be-all, end-all of everyday life right now as people try to keep themselves and their families safe and healthy.  More importantly in this time of social distancing, we need to focus on nourishing our bodies and minds by finding balance in both eating and physical activity during our “new normal.”

While the whole of America is staying home, it seems like the only activities available are working (if able), binging Netflix and eating. The first tip of balance when it comes to eating is to think about where the urge to snack is coming from. Are you hungry, or are you bored because you’ve scrolled through your Facebook feed for the 50th time before 10 a.m.? Oftentimes, we are just looking for something to fill the time, and with limited access to the outside world, snacking seems like an easy time-filler. Next thing you know, the entire bag of chips is gone, and you weren’t even hungry to begin with! Along with taking a second to inventory your actual hunger levels, make sure you are staying hydrated. Fueling our bodies with water will help keep energy levels up, ward off unnecessary hunger cravings and will make the body feel regulated (not to mention the glowing skin which comes along with proper hydration!). 

One potential obstacle to balanced eating right now is the availability of food in grocery stores.  Meal planning before shopping is helpful because it keeps the grocery list focused and families will more likely cook a healthier meal if they have all the ingredients at home. However, during this uncertain time, certain food items can be scarce depending on where you live (who knew potatoes would be so popular in social isolation?!). While we should still make meal plans and grocery lists, we need to be flexible when we actually get to the grocery store. Don’t give up just because the item you wanted isn’t in stock. Have a back-up plan and do the best with what you can find. One tip is to shop for high protein foods, which will keep you fuller longer as it takes the body longer to process proteins than simple carbohydrates. Meat has been a hard find for some, but if you like seafood, the frozen section or canned section has lots of options. Beans and other legumes also provide protein, fiber and multiple micronutrients. This would be an excellent time to try a new Pinterest recipe with alternatives from your normal protein regime.

Keeping our bodies active is also important during this unprecedented time. Many of us had our daily routines upended when gyms and health clubs were forced to close. People are also finding themselves spending a lot more time in the sitting position than they are used to (those FitBit steps are dwindling as the days pass by!). Whether or not you were a regular exerciser before social distancing, we are all stuck on the couch far too much right now. Getting up and adding purposeful activity to your day will not only help an hour pass by quickly, but also will have health benefits as well — physical and mental. Obviously, moving our bodies and working up a bit of a sweat is good for our hearts! Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Along with balanced eating, adding activity to the days can help strengthen the heart and cardiovascular system. Exercise has mental health benefits as well, giving women a chance to clear their minds from the anguish of balancing telework, childcare and relationships while being cooped up in the house. If you can move your activity to the outdoors, a little bit of sunshine and fresh air is good for the soul!  Otherwise, YouTube is full of exercise videos of all kinds, for all people and all ability levels.  Instead of paying $50 for a gym membership right now, we’ve got unlimited fitness classes for free thanks to the power of the internet!

Balance is key when it comes to social distancing, eating and activity. All in all, do your best to buy healthy options, but remember, comfort foods are a real thing, so don’t swear off all those “feel good” snacks and sweets; we need some comfort in this stressful, unsure time. Make sure to incorporate purposeful movement every day. Your body and mind will be thankful for it. Allow yourself grace during this abnormal time: have the snack, binge the latest series, but add in a few veggies and extra steps along the way! 

Jackie DeMatos Murray, EK


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