“Let food be thy medicine” – Hippocrates
Much have been discussed about mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic and I totally agree with such concern. However, I have been listening to many complaints of people who are putting on weight during the quarantine, despite the raising awareness of how the food we eat can either boost or lower our immune system.
First things first and before I receive criticism on my personal health, please allow me to provide a little background on my overall diet and body type. Although I cannot complain about my shape, like any woman I would not mind losing a few pounds to look my best. Compared to my family members and Chinese friends, I gravitate towards average and chubby. On the other hand, compared to my Brazilian friends, I am skinny. Comparisons aside, my doctors say I am lean and healthy, but could definitely build more muscles. In the beginning of last year I put on some weight and could say I was my “biggest” I had ever been, including the period between 2008-2010, when I was about the same weight and size. I mentioned size because I am aware weight alone means nothing, as fat and muscles weigh differently and one can be slim and unhealthy for example. The whole point here is to say that I am prone to gaining weight (not much, but still) if I don’t watch out my diet and lifestyle. And I can honestly say that during the first month of quarantine I felt anxiety and the change in my routine made me gain 1-2 kilos.
Now I can start my train of thought.
We are approaching the 4th month of quarantine in São Paulo/Brazil and now I can affirm that most people’s routines have settled regardless of being positive or negative. The thing is that we have had a decadent amount of time to create new habits and get used to a reality. This means that there is no real excuse now to improvise and we must stop behaving as if the current situation is temporary. Please don’t get me wrong – I hope the pandemic ends and that our lives get back to normal, but it is nonsense to carry on with fast-food, no exercise and ignoring basic health and beauty routines.
Speaking of food, I do understand that baking and cooking have become more popular during the pandemic and many people have discovered their inner master chef, but depending on what one is cooking, this reflects on their health and body. I love cooking too, but I have developed an awareness that speaks louder towards preparing nourishing and fresh dishes to improve my immunity. I might have started this journey a few years ago, but just like any human, I have my ups and downs, and I can’t help forgetting my goals once in a while. That is why I have sought help from a plant-based nutritionist who is supporting me through my healthy journey and reminds me that balance is key to everything.
We must remember that most people have reduced the amount of exercise during the quarantine, which has also been my case. This is basic math: to keep our weight, we must consume the same amount of calories we burn. Simple as it is: I have lost some kilos because I am eating less than I usually eat when I go to the office, despite the fact that I am burning less calories than usual. To be honest, at first I was not so aware of my calorie input, but if I dig in, I am kinda practicing mindful eating in the sense of eating only when I am physically hungry instead of binge eating due to boredom or anxiety. For those who prefer a bullet-point list, here are some highlights:
- Seek help from a health professional
If you believe you are an emotional eater, perhaps a therapist. If you are feeling well and positive, a dietitian or nutritionist may expedite your health goals;
- Eat less calories than you burn
Say you don’t care about the actual nutritional properties of the food you eat, but you can still maintain or lose weight if you follow this math (although I do not recommend quick-fixes);
- Prioritize fresh food over frozen food
Eating fresh vegetables and fruit will do your body and health wonders. Besides detoxifying your organism, it will immediately boost your immune system.
- Load your fridge with the rainbow
Variety is key to a nourishing diet and the more colors your plate has, the best! If you think of the rainbow colors, you are in the right path. Note that white and beige are not included, as they are most likely processed foods, like sugar, bread and pasta.
This might sound cliche, but if you think about it, there is nothing more logical than finding balance whenever you need. You may want to skip a workout, eat an ice cream or watch Netflix all day, but it must be an exception instead of the norm. Got it?
The concept might be easier said than done, but it consists of awareness of the present moment. Mindfulness can be applied to eating, working, playing, etc. and the aim here is to avoid anxiety and focus on what you are doing, eliminating all distractions. In terms of eating, try to eat light (70% full) and do not use your phone or watch TV while you dine. You will notice you will feel more satisfied and probably even taste the food better.
Well, I wasn’t planning on writing that much, but I enjoyed sharing my “secrets” on why I am not gaining weight for the past months. Good luck!