I know I am not alone in this, but I am tired of ominous headlines containing the “C” word and the “P” word. So, I chuckled aloud when a friend referred to “the COVID-19” as the amount of weight she gained during the pandemic. Sometimes, you just gotta laugh!
That is, until you are ready to face reality.
At the end of December, I noticed I was wearing yoga pants daily, not because I was regularly practicing yoga, or lazy, or playing with my kids. Unwittingly, I had let “the COVID-19” slip into my life, and my regular pants were uncomfortably tight.
I take a tiny bit of comfort knowing that I am not alone in letting the quarantine disrupt my normally healthy habits. A report from the National Institutes of Health indicates that 22% of adults reported gaining weight during the pandemic. Respondents noted disruptions that lead to weight gain, like lack of sleep, less physical activity, more snacking to relieve stress and boredom. That sounds familiar!
In addition, a survey from the RAND Corporation shows that drinking alcoholic beverages is up by 14% in adults over the age of 30, and doctors are reporting an increase in neck, shoulder, arm, and hand pains over pre-COVID-19 days.
My muffin top was a warning that I had to get back to my former healthy lifestyle before my health began to suffer in other ways. But, returning to old habits isn’t that easy when the gym is closed and you are working from home.
At the beginning of January, I made three simple changes:
- Replaced alcohol with an adaptogenic drink. I attended numerous Zoom happy hours in December, and developed a habit of having two glasses of wine in the evening. Alcohol is loaded with sugar which leads to weight gain, and it also disrupts sleep which can wreak havoc on your metabolism. Adaptogens are herbs which proponents say will increase a body’s response to physical or psychological stress. They are also delicious in drinks, herb-y and earthy rather than sweet, and a good replacement for an alcoholic beverage when you want something special.
- Reincorporated intermittent fasting into my routine. I’ve followed the Bulletproof protocol for several years, but in December I was tempted by baked goods, cheese and crackers, and extra servings of tasty holiday foods. Studies show that time restricted eating is even more effective than counting calories for healthy and sustained weight loss and has a host of other benefits including increased quality of sleep, decreased “brain fog,” and even anti-aging.
- Used my muscles. Muscles atrophy when you don’t use them, and just not leaving the house limits the number of muscles you use during the day as well as the number of times you use them. I started taking regular breaks from the computer and stretching my arms over my head to counteract sitting at a desk for a long time. I consciously used my non-dominant hand to complete daily tasks like writing lists, unloading the dishwasher and opening jars. This not only challenges under-used muscles, but it stimulates brain function because your brain works harder to complete a task with your non-dominant hand. I also made sure to get in a 20-minute walk outside, as many days as possible.
These three simple changes helped me get better quality sleep, increased my mental sharpness and creativity, and got me back in my jeans in about three weeks.
Summer is coming, and I have faith that we will all be back to the beach. A few simple, consistent changes in habits now will help counteract “the COVID-19,” and make sure you are ready for bathing suit season.