Maintaining a Healthy Weight with, and in Spite of, the Stay-at-Home Orders

Cartoon of a couple exercising with dance moves.

COVID-19 has been a punch in the gut for the whole world. It’s resulted in an unprecedented shutdown of normal life for people in many different countries as healthcare workers and scientists do their best to heal people who have caught it, study it to find a successful vaccine, and discover ways to exploit its weaknesses for potential cures. 

For those working to keep the rest of us safe and healthy, we’re thankful. But for those under stay-at-home orders, it’s been, well, difficult. We’ve spent more time with our spouses and partners than usual, and reaped both connection and inevitable disagreements. We’ve had to become teachers for our children as they finish their school lessons online (even if teaching isn’t really our calling). We’ve had to become multitaskers who turn out professional quality work from home while keeping our children occupied and resisting the temptation to watch the online news every minute of the day. We’ve wondered if there would ever be toilet paper on the shelf in the grocery store again. We’ve dealt with a number of emotions, from fear, anxiety, cabin fever, gratefulness, isolation, connectedness, and joy, just to name a few. And yes, some of those emotions are direct contradictions of the others.

We’ve had to cook our own food instead of relying on quicker takeout options – even when we’re exhausted and the last thing we want to think about is cooking and cleaning the kitchen. Alcohol has become an enticing option to just get away from it all, if only for a few minutes. And you can forget going to the gym, because, for many of us, that’s not an option right now. 

In spite of all that, the health professionals tell us we should be eating a well-balanced diet and getting exercise during the lockdown.

Let’s be honest. Maintaining your normally healthy diet and some semblance of a workout routine during the stay-at-home order is difficult at best and downright impossible at worst.

Here are some suggestions. We invite you to try those that seem like they might be helpful in your situation and discard those that aren’t. Most of all, we don’t want to add to your stress in an already stressful time.

  1. Eat two-fers as much as possible.

    Strive for nutritionally dense food at every meal (that’s fruits, veggies, beans/lentils, whole grains, and lower fat cuts of meats). This is not the time to go on a junk food eating spree (though it sounds oh-so-yummy!). This is the time to nourish your brain and your body, because you want both in tiptop condition, to help you sail through this and come out as healthy as possible on the other side.
  2. Look for ways to both exercise and relax your mind.

    If your area allows it, getting out of the house for exercise in nature works wonders (socially distanced, of course). Walking, cycling, or running out in the sunshine, in the woods, or in a field of flowers lifts the spirit as well as the body. If this isn’t possible for you, consider yoga. The stretches and poses in yoga have been used for centuries to help align the mind and body.
  3. Exercise in several smaller chunks throughout the day instead of one big session.

    Small bits of exercise throughout the day wasn’t a possibility for many of us pre-COVID-19. But under the stay-at-home orders, this may be something to try. Say you’ve got fifteen minutes between meetings. Maybe that’s a time to practice yoga poses in the living room or take a quick walk around the block. You may find your post-exercise brain feels a little more ready for that next videocall.
  4. Reach for a new goal.

    Maybe you find yourself with much more time on your hands under the stay-at-home orders. You’ve already binge watched your favorite shows on Netflix and one more minute of COVID coverage on the news, you’ll scream. Is now a good time to set a new fitness goal? Maybe it’s time to start training for a 10K you’ll do when all of this is over. Or maybe it’s time to shake it like never before in an online Zumba class from the comfort of your own home. Or perhaps it’s time to try to cook the Indian dish you love at restaurants but have never been brave enough to make yourself.

Whatever works for you, remember that we here at GastroIntestinal Healthcare are walking through this with you. We hope that together, we can make our burdens a little easier. Take care. Stay safe. Stay healthy.