By Justine Friedman
Daily, social media inundates us with memes and messages claiming that by the time we leave lockdown status our health status and physical bodies will be worse for wear. I constantly see pictures of what we will supposedly look like on the beach, on our couches, merely wearing a mask and gloves that fit our new bodies as no clothes in our wardrobes can cover our expanded forms.
As a dietician and holistic coach these images concern me as it depicts quite clearly what people are emotionally experiencing. In making light of the need to throw caution to the wind and give into all kinds of physical cravings and urges when it comes to food and drinks we are falling prey to potential chronic diseases that will last longer than the corona epidemic.
It is very frustrating to be trapped indoors and not be able to do regular exercise, either due to lack of motivation or due to lack of access. I am very grateful that I have my trusty treadmill and that we are now allowed to move a distance of 500m within proximity to our home. The problem is I still need to motivate myself to utilise these avenues. In the first week or two of lockdown I found myself more motivated. But as time goes on and the full weight (excuse the pun) of this experience takes its toll, it becomes harder to stay focused and really set goals that will keep one healthy both physically and mentally.
There is a clear relationship between sun exposure and the ability to produce hormones in the body that trigger feelings of well-being and emotional calm. Then there is the food component that either enhances or detracts from this balance that we so desperately need at this time.
I have always educated my clients on the effect that food plays in our physical and mental well-being. We literally are what we eat! When making food choices that are less processed and are preferably void of simple sugars and simple carbohydrates, our bodies respond with better energy levels and we produce higher levels of serotonin (the “happy” hormone) in the body. This follows a pattern of better thought processes and leads to our actions being less reactive and emotionally charged. The opposite is also true, by eating processed foods, high in sugars, salt and saturated fat we, in fact, produce less serotonin and as a result, our thoughts, emotions and moods jump on the roller coaster of being more irritable, reactive and causes further cravings of the foods that made us feel this way to start off with. It becomes a terrible cycle of cravings, low energy, anxiety, depression, irritability and frustration.
Our bodies, however, are amazing vehicles that have the ability to regenerate. Just a few days of staying off foods that cause rebound cravings and mood cycles allow for a calmer and more focused state of mind. We also start to feel our energy levels improve and sleep patterns are also enhanced.
So how does one get into this mindset? How do we pull ourselves up off our couches and find the motivation to make better choices? The old adage that life is not a sprint but a marathon that must be tackled one step, or a couple of hundred meters at a time fits perfectly. We cannot look too far ahead and compare our position today with our final goal. Expecting instant results is what trips us up every time and sets the stage for failure. There are very few people who can just put their minds to it and never lose focus. Does it take effort YES, is it always easy NO! But all it takes is one day at a time and sometimes one hour at a time.
I have found that ensuring that I set a daily alarm and break the day down into sections of time helps immensely. Literally saying by a certain time such and such needs to be done clears the path for building a routine. Don’t wait for mealtime when you are hungry to start preparing food. It is moments of hunger like this that triggers impulse eating and before you know it you have made poor choices based on a body/ emotional response instead of a well thought out mind response.
Ask for help!
Today more than ever there is are an abundance of dieticians who are working online and who are medically trained to give individualised and realistic advice on meal planning and food preparation. Most people who say they never have the time to address this due to lives that are busy with work, lifts and travel are now in the best possible position to implement positive lifestyle changes that can be long lasting. It’s not always about being weighed and measured by a dietician. The relationship with a dietician goes far beyond this. One of the aspects of my work that I am most passionate about is working with a client to truly bring about positive lifestyle changes in all areas of their life not just when it comes to food choices.
Each and every one of us has the ability within the scope of our unique situation to take one step in the right direction. Don’t use the excuse that when this is over I will start (…fill in the blank…). Each day and moment that we have now is a gift (that’s why it is called the present). Believe in yourself enough to give yourself the gift of coming through this time a healthier more motivated person and your time behind closed doors would have been very well spent.
Justine Friedman (née Aginsky) made aliyah from Johannesburg, South Africa in November 2019 with her husband and their two children. In Johannesburg she was a successful clinical dietician, coach and speaker who ran her own private practice for 17 years. Justine is passionate about helping people, and women in particular, achieve greater degrees of health in their mind, body and soul. She is based in Modi’in and loves the challenges and successes that living in Israel has to offer.