As we move into month 6 of social distancing and fighting COVID-19, I have to admit that my healthy habits descended down a slippery slope this summer. I had a whole stack of excuses I used to justify not exercising as frequently and not eating as healthfully, including…
- I’m sick and tired of working out at home
- I went back to work in April and my work gym didn’t reopen until July
- We didn’t have a hiking trip to train for and justify weekend hikes
- Ordering takeout two times a week was a service to our favorite restaurants
- Ordering lots of beer from our favorite breweries was, likewise, an honorable cause
Needless to say, I found myself in the same boat that (I’m guessing) many found themselves in: feeling pretty unhealthy at the end of summer and feeling my jeans get tighter. I’ve talked before about my weight loss journey and attempt to make healthier habits just that – habitual. I really don’t like diet culture and strongly resist the idea that entire food groups are bad for you. I truly believe in the lifestyle of moderation, but when you’ve been moderate only in your exercise and living to excess in the things you eat for months on end… well, the consequences are hard to avoid.
My goal since I started my healthier lifestyle journey in 2018 has been to maintain numbers in a healthy range at my yearly wellness exam. I’ve been able to maintain that for a year and a half, but I see that after six months of non-routine behavior, my numbers are creeping higher toward unhealthy territory. I see the direction where things are heading and I’ve decided to take the next month to reset and embrace some healthier habits. So, what does that look like?
1. Cutting out Alcohol
This is not a forever thing for me, but my commitment to only drinking on weekends really blurred when we were home all the time. Our new house has a full size beer fridge in the basement above which we’ve filled with craft beers from our favorite local breweries, and that wine subscription we signed up for, while fun, has meant we’re drinking a lot more than we used to. I’m taking a 30 day break from alcohol (at least) to focus on drinking more water and tea. The cool, fall-like weather we’re experiencing is helping make that a more attractive decision, too. I’ll be done with this reset in mid-October, just in time to enjoy my one glass of wine with the Bachelor on Tuesday nights and then back to my pre-COVID-19 ritual of no other drinking on weeknights.
2. Reclaiming my Exercise Routine
As I mentioned above, my work has an on-site gym which has been an amazing asset of working there. The gym is not frequently used over my lunch hour (I almost never see anyone else in there at that time) and has a good variety of weights, machines and floor space). I had a good routine of exercising 3-4 days a week instilled last year, but that fell apart when the gym (and all facilities) closed in March. It reopened in July and I’ve gone at least two days per week since then, but an incredibly busy summer at work meant I was working through my lunch too often. I need to take a pause and remember that there is no excuse for working through my lunch. My lunchtime workout refreshes and reinvigorates me, helps me work through stress and come back better prepared for the after lunch hours. I even find that I’m less tired (weirdly) after working out than I am then when I eat my lunch at my desk and continue working. I go home over lunch one day each week to let our dog out, so I need to recommit to exercising 3-4 days weekly (preferably 4!) over my lunch hour. I’m also focusing on doing non-routine activities on weekends – such as extra long walks with the dog, hikes at local state parks, or things like yard work or bike rides before it gets too cold.
3. Staying Hydrated
This is one area which is usually not a problem for me, but I’ve found if I don’t keep track of how much water I’m drinking, it’s usually not enough. I bought an inexpensive plastic pitcher that holds 30 oz. at Target. I fill that each night before going to bed and throw some lemon slices in. In the morning, I fill my 24 oz. water bottle and drink the remainder with breakfast before heading to work. I strive to finish my water bottle at least twice (48 oz.) before I come home in the afternoon. I usually get one more water bottle (up to 72 oz.) in by the end of the day, plus at least one more glass to have between 80-90 oz. of water daily.
4. Recording what I’m Eating
I had really good success in losing weight by tracking what I was eating each day. I find (and science supports) that keeping a food diary helps to keep me attuned to what I’m eating and to be more conscious of if I’m eating more unhealthy foods one day, to follow them with healthier foods the next. I bought a small notebook that I keep at the dining room table where I’m jotting down each day what I’m eating, how many minutes I’m meditating and what activity I did that day. I’m also tracking it on my WW app (which I fell out of the habit of using). I’m a free Lifetime member (which means I don’t have to pay for the membership if I stay below my goal weight), and it’s a great tool that doesn’t calorie shame you, but encourages moderation – I have no reason to not be using it!
5. Making time for Mindfulness and Better Sleep
I’m committing to meditating at least 5 minutes a day, but preferably 10 minutes plus. I engage in five minutes of meditation right after I wake up and then use the Breathe reminder on my Apple Watch a few more times throughout the day. I also am focusing on getting 8+ hours in bed each night. I can’t control if I sleep soundly throughout the night each night, but I can at least focus on winding down and setting myself up for sleep success. Here’s a post I wrote last year about 10 steps I’ve taken to foster better sleep habits.
6. Staying off of Social Media
I’ve deleted the Instagram app off my phone as I know it’s something I waste a lot of time on (mindlessly scrolling). I don’t have a rule that I can’t download it again if I want to check in – but if I do, I need to uninstall it when I’m done. I think that making this extra step of having to download an app will keep me from spending a lot more time on my phone and hopefully will free up more time for activity and doing non-screen things I enjoy – like reading.
7. Taking a Break from Takeout!
While I leaned into the “ordering takeout is my civic duty” mantra during COVID-19, I never expected that this would go on for 6 MONTHS. And I don’t see an end in sight. I’m taking a break from takeout for the next month and focusing on cooking clean meals at home. Our weekly vegetable deliveries go through the end of September and then converts to a bi-weekly delivery (that we can add extra items to in order to stock up). I’ve got plenty of fresh vegetables and plenty of fresh meat, too. It’s great timing to take a break from cooking, because my in-laws gifted us just shy of 1/4 of a locally raised, grass-fed cow, so we have about 45lb of beef to use up. It’ll help keep the costs down on cooking with so much more meat by only having to buy fish and chicken to supplement our large supply of beef.
8. Focusing on Vegetables and Staying Away from Foods that Don’t Make me Feel Good
Like I said in the intro, I’m very opposed to the idea that entire food groups are “bad”. I think if a food is a real food (a la – not a chemically manufactured food with unrecognizable ingredients, it’s probably okay for you in moderation). I do know though that my body reacts very strongly to certain foods and I feel better if I’m really moderate with them. For example, my body really dislikes dairy and reacts poorly to it. Same with really processed starches – like hamburger buns that you get at the store with enough preservatives to have a multiple week shelf life.
I’m following a loose version of Whole 30 over the next month. It’s loose because I am incorporating a bit more fruit and still keeping legumes in my diet. This diet is in a nutshell, high in lean proteins (eggs, meat), high in vegetables, high in healthy fats and low in natural sugars (fruit) and removes alcohol, added sugars and starchy carbohydrates. I know that my body needs more natural forms of fiber to feel full and be in my best digestive health, so I’m maintaining those items. I realize this is not officially Whole 30, but it’s a diet I can live with and I know will serve me well from a health standpoint, so hopefully the die hards won’t come for me here!
I started these new habits officially on Thursday, September 10th and I plan to continue through Friday, October 9th. At that point, I’ll reintroduce some whole grains in a healthy form and reintroduce alcohol at some point later in October in moderation. I hope to kick my sweet tooth a bit in this month as I’ve never intentionally taken a month off of added sugars. I am really feeling my body react to not having sugar – on the first three days I had a minor headache, which I assume was in part from not having my usual added sugar in my coffee creamer, in my Diet Cokes and in the sweet treats I allow myself. I know I need to limit / remove dairy from my diet again, too, because despite my love-hate relationship with it, it makes me feel crappy. Hopefully after a month without it, I won’t be missing it too much!
I can’t wait to follow up with you in October and share how I’m feeling, what changes I’ve noticed in my health and wellness and what recipes we really enjoyed in this time. I’ll still be posting my blog posts twice weekly and am excited to check in on the health from in October – hopefully feeling refreshed and reinvigorated as we move into the cooler months.