I recently saw a meme on Facebook in response to the pandemic with the text “I’m either going to leave this self-quarantine 100lbs heavier or 50lbs lighter. Only time will tell.” While this statement was made in jest, I believe there is some truth to the underlying text. We humans are accustomed to a certain way of life. Our routines allow us to take certain functions for granted (our daily commute, eating lunch at the office, etc.) and free up our minds to focus on other uncertainties in our lives (for example, problems at work, debating whether we will enjoy a night out over the weekend, etc.). With the shift to stay home as much as possible, our bodies and brains are now forced to adjust to a new lifestyle.
It can be hard to maintain a healthy diet at home. A study has shown that one quarter of Americans consume snack foods when they are bored. Spending every livelong day in the confines of your abode is likely to be less stimulating than even a mundane day out in the world. Less activity and easy access to the pantry can be a toxic combination for many. However, there are a few ways that we can quell our unsatiated brain and refrain from mindless snacking.
- Make it harder to snack. If you work at the kitchen countertop, getting up every so often for a cookie may already be a part of your routine. However, if you are able to physically remove yourself from temptation, perhaps by situating yourself in a bedroom or keeping all snacks out of eyesight, you can better help control your cravings.
- Schedule your activities.Sometimes hunger feels like a mental game. If you are accustomed to eating a snack in the lull of the early afternoon, then your body may send you food-craving signals whether you are genuinely hungry or not. If we are lacking in activities, large chunks of unstructured time can lead to boredom. Scheduling your downtime with chores or engaging pursuits (ex. doing a crossword, yoga, reading, etc.) can help stave off the mental idleness, which can lead to fewer trips to the kitchen.
- Schedule your meals. If you know that you are going to eat dinner at 6pm, then you may think twice about snacking in the late afternoon. Sometimes our snacking is haphazard. We grab some pretzels now and then a few cookies later. Calories (surprise, surprise) add up. Mindless snacking can total a full meal if we are not careful. Planning our mealtimes in advance can give us enough awareness of our eating habits that may be necessary to help curb our snack food cravings.
In addition to diet, maintaining a healthy exercise regime can feel daunting when we are limited in space. Despite the constraints, we can and should consider finding ways to break a sweat at home.
- Bodyweight exercises. Even if you do not own any fitness equipment, you can still feel the burn with nothing more than your body and a motivated mind. The classics like jumping jacks, pushups, crunches, leg lifts, and squats shall never go out of fashion. Each of these moves can be modified with beginner and advanced variations. A simple search for “bodyweight exercise routines” in Google yields a plethora of hits with step-by-step descriptions, posters, videos, and gifs.
- Live workout videos. In the wake of the pandemic, yoga and fitness studios have been moving some of their fitness sessions online. I was excited to see opportunities crop up on my Facebook feed offering live group yoga sessions at designated times. Participating in a live workout session is an easy way to give yourself an extra dose of motivation to complete your routine. Some virtual classes are offered for free, however, if you struggle with completing workouts…I suggest you pay for your course for added motivation.
- Exercise equipment. There are many low-cost home exercise options. A yoga mat is a good addition to your home equipment; it can provide a little extra padding for floor exercises but can also protect you from an unvacuumed carpet. In my collection, I also have some ankle weights (which can provide extra resistance for squats and leg lifts), a jump rope (for cardio), and exercise bands (which can help with stretching or provide resistance for workouts). Acquiring a few bits of equipment can allow you to perform a greater variety of exercises, strengthen even more muscles, and follow a greater number of online routines.
- Workout buddy. Do you have a friend or relative that is struggling to maintain a fitness routine? Consider a simultaneous home workout! Following the same routine either through a set of instructions or a video can help keep yourself accountable for your fitness, while also adding in another dose of socialization.
Humans work well with routine. Establishing good habits now and maintaining them is important both for our physical and mental health. It’s hard for me to workout at home. My level of motivation is highest in the morning, so I have made it my routine to exercise first. Sticking to this routine has relieved me of exercise ‘guilt’ and allows me to feel a sense of control over my health during the crisis.
If it was not already obvious, the pandemic has surely taught us that our health is the most important thing. So, in addition to washing our hands and not touching our faces, it is important, Dear Reader, that we do our best to keep up with healthy habits during this crazy time.
Toilet paper may be scarce, but motivation and will power are ever abundant!