The abrupt adjustment to working from home (or “at home trying to work” as a friend’s twitter status more accurately described it) has resulted in most of us spending inordinate amounts of time in the one space. I’ve been eating meals, working, exercising and relaxing all from the comforts of my rather small living room. While I certainly wouldn’t compare it to being in jail, as Ellen DeGeneres awkwardly did, life is starting to feel like Groundhog Day.
The lack of routine, combined with stress, boredom and sitting 5m from the fridge has also led to a big increase in eating. I’ve been living in tracksuit pants for the past month, which has somewhat disguised the effects, but at some point we will return to normal life and I would like my jeans to still fit.
They say you should only focus on what you can control and now is a great opportunity to focus on your health.
Here are some diet and fitness tips to help you benefit from social isolation, instead of suffering from it.
Before lockdown, many of us would dine out regularly, consuming meals that often had hidden ingredients (sometimes the “healthy option” is worse than a McDonalds meal).
One of the benefits of being at home is that you can cook your own meals, knowing exactly what’s in them.
If you’re anything like me, you probably have piles of beautiful recipe books used for inspiration and decoration, rarely actual cooking. Rather than trekking to the supermarket for specific ingredients or buying 200g of coriander for a recipe that requires 20g, I prefer to stock up on my favourite FODMAP friendly ingredients. That way, when I want to try a new recipe, I simply search for a few ingredients on Google and see what I can make with them. Eg. I enter “soba noodles, salmon and cucumber” and I get this awesome result. You can usually make do without every single listed ingredient and just substitute any high FODMAP ingredients.
When we’re stressed (as most of us currently are) our bodies release cortisol, which research has shown may cause us to eat more. There are things we can (and should) do to reduce stress, but nonetheless, if our appetites are raging, let’s at least eat things that are good for us.
The easiest way to avoid junk food is simply not to buy it (note: the Easter bunny did not help the situation – I’m staring at a giant chocolate egg as I write this). Stock up on lots of nutritious snacks so that the next time cravings hit, you have no choice but to munch on something healthy.
Here are some healthy substitutes:
Instead of: Potato chips
Why: You’ll get the same salty crunch, without the fat and calories – plus added fibre!
Instead of: A cookie
Try: Gluten free toast with 1 tablespoon of nut butter and and sliced strawberries
Why: Whole grains provide fibre; nut butter has protein and healthy fat; and berries add sweetness with fewer sugars than jam.
Instead of: Ice cream
Try: Froyo or Cocofrio.
Why: Cocofrio is all natural, dairy free, gluten free, sugar free, organic and certified FODMAP friendly.
Instead of: A chocolate bar
Try: A protein bar
Why: Protein bars taste like a treat but much healthier. They’ll keep you full so you’re not tempted to snack on something else an hour later. Fodbods are great because they’re all natural and FODMAP friendly so they won’t make you bloated.
On average, people make about 200 food-related decisions every day and research shows we make better choices when we plan ahead. Before you go to bed write a plan for everything you’ll eat the following day. The intention is not necessarily to cut calories or eliminate treats, it’s to help you avoid overeating and prioritise healthy food. This may feel strange but hey, we’re living in strange times.
Social isolation does not mean sitting on the couch all day. In fact, in many ways, now is the perfect time to up your fitness game! Exercise has so many health benefits that will help get you through these crazy times and ensure your jeans look terrific at the end.
In addition to burning off calories and lowering stress (which might kerb your snack-attacks), according to the Journal of Happiness Studies exercise has been proven to make you happy! It doesn’t matter what type of exercise you do, or even how long you're active for, people who work out even once a week or for as little as 10 minutes a day tend to be more cheerful than those who never exercise.
Here are few fitness activities that are perfect for isolation time:
Cycling is enjoyable, but it can be pretty time consuming – luckily time is something we have plenty of at the moment, so get pedalling! It’s easy on your joints, you get lots of fresh air and it’s unlikely you’re going to come into physical contact with anyone. You don’t need to fork out thousands for a fancy bike, you should be able to snap one up on Facebook Marketplace for pretty cheap (and don’t forget a helmet!).
Running is great for burning calories and you release happy hormones called endorphins (you may have heard of a “runner’s high”). One of the benefits of working from home is that you don’t have to worry about washing your hair as often so you can sweat it up as much as you like. Set yourself a target distance and build up to it each day - here’s a great guide to get you started.
Yoga is my favourite exercise. I’m not going to lie, I miss visiting my favourite studio every week - feeling zen in the heated room with nothing to focus on but not falling over. But thanks to modern technology, most yoga studios now offer online classes. All you need is a yoga mat, a heater and a chill Spotify playlist and you can recreate the zen at home. In fact, with no one to witness how uncoordinated I am, I’ve been playing around with poses I’d never dare attempt in class.
Social isolation is unfortunately not a time for meeting new lovers, but if you’re cooped up inside with your partner, there are worse ways to pass the time. Provided neither of you have COVID-19 symptoms and neither of you falls into a high risk category, experts say it’s A-OK!
Research has found that men burn approximately 101 calories and women 69 (jokes aside) during an hour of love making. While this isn’t a hardcore workout, “[sex] may help to relieve stress or anxiety, stay connected with your partner and release natural-occurring endorphins, allowing you a sense of peace and calmness during these stressful times” according to Dr. Diana Hoppe, an OB-GYN and author of “Healthy Sex Drive, Healthy You.”