I have a sticker on my car that reads, "Salt Life." It has a sea turtle with a dive flag on its back. It is six years old and falling off now. I have already purchased a new one to replace it. I love the idea of Salt Life. The ocean brings me easy breathing, peace, beauty, amazing sunrises designed by a most creative God. I love the sand, the surf, the shells.
I would never put a sticker on my car reading, "Pandemic Life," however. Would you?? I highly doubt it.
I was recently interviewed for an article in the Saratoga Business Journal. It was an honor and I enjoyed the process as I was asked questions about how people can lose weight they may have gained during pandemic life. We first discussed why the pandemic would impact weight at all. You may think it is because people were home and bored and it was just natural to eat... but it goes deeper than that.
As humans, we have three basic needs: love, safety, and belonging. Pandemic life threatened each of these. Our ability to hug, kiss, or even offer a handshake to a friend was suddenly gone. We stood at least 6 feet away from each other and oftentimes visited relatives from the other side of a window. Many people in group homes, long-term care facilities, and nursing homes were unable to have family visits for far too many months. It was easy to feel unloved and unattached.
Belonging goes hand-in-hand with that as community centers, places of worship, sports arenas, and even schools were closed. No one to play with, sing with, learn with in that real sense of being in the presence of like-minded individuals or peers. As love and belonging suffered, our need for a feeling of safety was stolen away as no one seemed to know who would become ill or when it might happen. No one knew who might wind up hospitalized or who they might lose to this virus. Political unrest was all heightening during this COVID storm, making the ground we stand on feel even more shaky. It has been a frightening time, there is no way to deny that.
It is a natural default to turn to food for comfort. When we feel sad, we look for foods that will bring us a little joy. Fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies will make most anyone smile. When we feel alone, food can be a friend. Ben and Jerry bring Sara Lee along for a little visit on a lonely night. And then they come back the next night and the next.
The term "comfort food" was coined for a reason. When we feel afraid, food can bring back memories of happier times and restore a little safety. There is nothing like pie that tastes just like the one Grandma used to make, back when we were kids and the world felt gentler and kinder.
The issue is that eating habits can bring life or devastation to our entire body. Learning new ways to use food for health is vitally important. It doesn't have to be and shouldn't be drastic. Adopting a whole new eating plan overnight or going on a fad diet does not work, not in the long-term sense. Making continual, small pivots, however, is where change happens and new habits form. As you begin to love foods that your body loves, make meals that engage all your senses and put a smile on your face, your brain rewires. These are the changes that can last a lifetime. This is the road to health.
While some people did use Pandemic Life to seek better health, find a new career, learn a new hobby, or meet people in online spaces, many others suffered negative impact physical and mental health. It is important to break out of this trap and open your eyes to new possibilities and new habits.
In the interview, we discussed exercise. I responded with a greater emphasis on getting out and moving in ways that feel fun and feel good. I think it is far better to blast some music and dance around your room, chase your kids outside and play tag, chop that wood pile you need for winter fires, or dig out your old roller skates than it is to feel forced into an exercise routine that feels too hard, boring, or routine. Find things that will bring joy as they move your body and keep looking for new ways!
How did your health change during Pandemic Life? If you could change one thing about your physical or mental health right now, what would it be? What thing could you pivot in your current eating habits or movement habits that would feel good to you today?