If your motivation to exercise and eat right has flatlined, you’re not alone.
Falling out of routine is a normal reaction to change at the best of times, and we’re certainly in unique times. Having more time to forage through the pantry or refrigerator between Zoom meetings is wreaking havoc on fitness plans — and waistlines — everywhere.
It’s easy to get frustrated and upset with circumstances outside of our control. Look, I get the need for the government to crack down (reduce the burden on our hospitals and save lives) and the impulse from people to feel their civil liberties are being taken away.
But considering our ancestors were shipped off to war in a previous generation, it’s hard to complain about being asked to stay home and watch TV. I still believe there’s a right and wrong way to make use of the time here, and that’s what this column aims to address.
Case in point, I went to grab a couple groceries and the lineup to get into the liquor store next door was 30 people deep.
(Don’t get me wrong, I know how critical access to alcohol is for those in our community. Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome is very serious).
But this is directed at those who are tempted to turn casual drinking into a daily habit. I’m not suggesting you stop, but consider moderation. Alcohol is a known immunosuppressant (not a great thing to consume in excess when a virus is lurking around!)
But it’s not just our dietary and lifestyle choices that are suffering. I’ve seen more hate, finger pointing, and name calling than ever online. I won’t get political on this (I’m a fitness coach staying in my lane!), but I will get human about this.
In one of my daughter’s YouTube teaching videos, this quote (I believe from Stephen Covey originally) jumped out.
“Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.”
This is a lesson for someone in kindergarten that many of us need a reminder on.
Meaning, attempt to understand those who are in a different situation and may see things differently.
Said in a different way? Have empathy for your neighbours.
It’s a sign of emotional intelligence. And it defines us as humans. No other creatures on Earth show empathy and compassion for other living creatures.
It makes us unique. And too often, when faced with adversity, we immediately revert to our reptilian hard wiring and forget to practice empathy.
The way social media is designed just reinforces it. When you engage with content that sees things a certain way, it only shows you more of the same.
It’s designed to keep your attention – but it makes it difficult to see things objectively.
I’m writing this as much for me as you. I get sucked into the vortex on the nightly.
But before you engage in negative chatter online, I’d suggest you take a step back.
Just scroll by that post you want to challenge. Turn off the phone if necessary. Be present with family. Take a walk. Hit the weights. Meditate.
And come back when you feel refreshed with a clear head and you can refrain from stooping to name calling. And of course, when all else fails, please refer back to the quote I shared earlier:
“Seek first to understand, and then to be understood”
Your life will be much better off with this simple mantra, which is taught to children in Kindergarten.
That should tell you something.
Now let me round out this column with something I’m better suited to discuss!
Your Lean During Lockdown Game Plan
It’s easy to get down right now and point blame in every direction. This may have disrupted your life, but it can’t stop you from eating good food and moving your body (home workouts on Zoom, baby!). From working hard on your business (I get it – I had to shutdown all in-person services again). From cultivating positive relationships, just at a distance and virtually.
This should be all the more reason to wake up with purpose and gratitude. To focus on what you CAN control and cope with what you CAN’T. To stop making excuses. To stop missing workouts. To stop tanking your immune system with processed foods, poor sleep and alcohol. To stop obsessively watching the news and getting more and more anxious.
Not saying it’s easy. Our brains default wiring is negativity when things outside of our control happen. But I’m asking you to try and do better. There’s always a silver lining if you look hard enough.
Now, here’s a quick checklist to survive the remaining time in isolation with your health and waistline intact.
If it’s not immediately in your environment, you’re probably not going to eat it: So keep it out. Yes, you may need to stock up on snacks for the kids, but limit exposure to your kryptonite foods.
If it has to be in the house, put up “walls” in front of it. Keep the junk food in less visible and less convenient locations. For example, if you need it in the house for your kids, keep ice cream in the downstairs freezer and hide it under a stash of frozen vegetables if necessary.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, take down the “walls” in front of making healthy food choices. For example, keep a fruit bowl out on the counter, not a bowl of candies. Keep refrigerated vegetables on the front and middle shelves of your refrigerator, and keep more “off plan” refrigerated items near the back (or perhaps in the drawers).
Keep to a schedule of planned dinners you prepare and food prep some lunch essentials ahead of time, particularly proteins and starchy carbs, which can’t really be figured out on the fly. If you order in, try to make modifications to save calories, i.e. side salad instead of fries.
Don’t buy super-sized portions you might binge eat — only indulge in controlled amounts. I.E. Small snack sized ice creams not tubs.
If you live with others who bring junk food home, get their support by at least getting them to agree to hide it in a place only they will know to find it.
Prepare your meals as you normally would for commuting to an office and have them ready in the fridge, eating meals on the same schedule.
Eat more whole, fresh, minimally processed foods with a balance of macronutrients, protein, carbs and fats so you aren’t “shortchanging” your brain from much-needed nutrients (i.e. limit cravings)
Eat slowly and mindfully. No matter what you eat, slowing down will help your digestive system do its job and also help your brain get the signal from your gut that it’s full.
The best kept secret is not to depend on willpower but to have an alternative option at the ready that meets your goals. Find your go-to healthy meal or snack options and make sure they’re staring at you when you open the fridge or pantry.
Hey, and if you slip up, don’t see it as a failure. A few slices of pizza aren’t going to ruin your progress if you see it that way and do better next time.
Mitch Calvert is a Winnipeg-based fitness coach for men and women like his former self. Heavyset in his 20s, he lost 60 pounds and now helps clients find their spark and lose the weight for life. If you want to make the most of the last month of the year and boost your overall health and sanity during these challenging times, visit mitchcalvert.com to grab yourself a free diet cheat sheet or inquire about his Lean During Lockdown 30-day virtual coaching challenge.