In a recent research published in the Journal of Eating Disorders, it was observed that the current COVID-19 pandemic is likely to increase eating disorders (ED) while decreasing the factors that protect against them. The authors attributed this to three major reasons: first, disruption of normal life: a necessity to stay indoors which is leading to weight gain, thereby negatively impacting the way we eat, sleep and our exercise patterns. Second, an exposure to negative social media, especially regarding the pandemic, leading to an increase in anxiety which may trigger bad eating patterns. Third and final reason: an increased fear of the infection itself without recourse to clear answers, social support, or a natural means to overcome the anxiety. Work from home and online meetings don't seem to help either.
My personal experience with my patients has been interesting too. Initially, there was a somewhat positive reaction, with everyone wanting to know about healthy eating, healthy recipes, immunity-boosting foods and good exercises. But as time of staying indoors kept getting extended, there is now a feeling of exhaustion, both mental and physical. The reaction to this has been just flopping down and giving up.
Now is not the time to do so, we are almost at the end of the tunnel, worldwide data tells us that six to eight months is the cycle of the virus. The world is slowly opening, we may even have a vaccine by the end of this year. Those of you that believe in astrology, well, apparently, even the stars say so.
So, buckle up and get ready to make a comeback.
Here are some tips to help you get back on healthy eating and lifestyle:
1. Eat at proper times: Eating at home and eating home-cooked food is the best thing that could happen to us. Think of this time as a detox from the junk we usually land up eating - all you need to do is to eat at the correct time and close your kitchen by 9 pm. Even those working night shifts must eat an early dinner and keep one or two snack time at a gap of two hours, drinking only water in between. This will get the digestion in shape, while helping you avoid extra calories.
2. Weight gain can be tackled with simply keeping an eye on the portions. As we aren't moving a lot, eating smaller amounts while ensuring that all major meals have at least one component representation from a minimum of three food groups, is a good thumb rule. The 5 food groups are:
Cereals (Carbs): Choose whole grain 50% of the time; Proteins: One in every meal and snack; Fats & oils: Half litre/head/month; Nuts and seeds one ounce daily; Vegetables and fruits: At least 5/day; Milk and milk products: 500-600mls/adult
3. Exercise: Some outdoor activity, in a place not very crowded, would be nice. Although gyms have started, be cautious! Outdoors would be safer. Getting some sunshine will help alleviate the SAD- Seasonal effective disorder, feeling
4. Join a hobby class or spend time away from your electronics perusing some activity that relaxes you and make you happy.
5. Keep away from news that makes you agitated or saddens you. There are a plenty of contents online that are positive and happy, choose those.
6. If you are feeling anxious about the contagion, then speak to a medical expert or reach out to a life coach to get the right answers. If it is any help, we all are anxious and, but that doesn't really help. Take precautions and stay happy.
7. Get some 'me' time, we are all locked in with our family for six months now, we need a break. Get into your car and go for a drive alone. Do the same for each of your family member, when everyone is relaxed the home is a happier place.
This pandemic is a reality we are all facing together, so don't think of yourself as being alone. This will pass to. Till then, eat, pray and stay happy.
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About Rupali DattaRupali Datta is a Clinical Nutritionist and has worked in leading corporate hospitals. She has created and lead teams of professionals to deliver clinical solutions for patients across all medical specialties including critical care. She is a member of the Indian Dietetic Association and Indian Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.