This year has been up and it's been down, but as we finally limp towards the 2020 finish-line, Amanda Cassidy reflects on the things we need to maintain as well as those we need to cast away.
Our day to day lives have changed dramatically over the last few months. And while we adjust to our new normal and try to salvage some kind of Christmas, it is time to reflect on what has and what hasn’t worked when it comes to our new routine.
Many of these habits appear to be food and exercise-related. People either found solace in food and put on the Covid stone…(I’m looking at you, banana bread). Or else they found themselves doing more outdoor activity than usual (quick, hide the Dry Robe). We spoke to celebrity nutritionist, Kim Pearson about the lifestyle habits she’s now reconsidering.
“On the upside we have been cooking from scratch more, eating more vegetables and wasting less food," explains Kim. "However, many have reported that they are baking more cakes, drinking more alcohol, and experiencing erratic sleep patterns."
With lockdown measures starting to relax, it's worth taking the time to consider which lockdown habits you would benefit from keeping, and which would be better left in lockdown.
Habits to keep
Cooking from scratch: Research from Flora has found that almost half of us are now cooking from scratch more often. With the lack of high street lunch options or restaurants to languish in at the weekends, we have been dusting off the pans and following recipes more.
“Cooking gives you more control of the ingredients you put into a dish” explains Kim. “You can also adapt it to your nutritional needs and tweak recipes to make them even healthier if needed. When there is less time, cooking dishes in batches to freeze is also a great habit to continue.”
Eating more veggies and fruit: We’ve always known they are good for our health but it seems as if our ability to gobble the greens has increased over lockdown. Perhaps with the focus constantly on health, the message is being slowly absorbed. Kim says that eating plenty of vegetables can also aid weight loss for those whose weight has crept up during the restrictions. “Choose organic and seasonal if possible, signing up for a weekly veg box is a great way of doing this. While fruit is nutrient-dense, remember it is also high in sugar so focus on low-sugar fruit like berries.”
Wasting less food: Because we are trying to avoid being out and about as much as possible, it means we are starting to ‘run-down’ what’s in the fridge and as a consequence, we are now wasting less food. As well as focusing on the environmental impact of this, the financial fallout is also surprisingly big. “Shop carefully, plan meals in advance so you only buy the ingredients you need,” explains Kim. “Don’t overlook frozen and tinned foods that also have a longer shelf life.”
Getting out more: Have you ever availed of your local park, playground, pier, seafront, forest more? I’ve been out and about more than ever now that shopping malls and retail parks are off-limits. The exposure to the great outdoors has been of huge benefit to many with natural light boosting health by enabling us to synthesis vital vitamin D. It also regulates our circadian rhythms. Seeing friends outside and having a daily walk are great habits to maintain now that we know the rain doesn’t maim.
Prioritising self-care: While sheltering from the viral storm, some of us have realised that we need minding from the inside out. Being kinder to ourselves post-lockdown is something I know I will want to keep once restrictions ease. Kim says it is about identifying what feels restorative for you and then implementing a strategy to ensure you consistently make time for that activity. “It is easy to put work commitments and the needs of others above our own needs. Self-care takes many forms – taking 20 minutes to read a magazine with a cup of tea, carving out time to go for a walk, journal or meet a friend. Looking after ourselves is vital for our health and happiness”
Habits to leave behind
The sugar and carb fest: We laugh about the banana bread extravaganza but we won’t be chuckling when it is time to pull on the Christmas pleather. Making pizza from scratch has almost overtaken the baking craze we saw last March and April but chowing down on carbs isn’t the way forward. “Find healthier alternatives” suggests Kim. “That might mean baking pizza bases from cauliflower or finding healthy baking ingredient swaps. It also means you don’t have to stop baking to your heart’s content, just cut down from a couple a week to a few a month instead.”
Increased alcohol intake: Are Tuesdays the new Thursday when it comes to opening the vino? New figures show that over 30% of us are drinking more at home. Knowing how much you are drinking is the first place to start if you want to cut out this habit, especially as Christmas approaches. Keep a journal if possible and find other ways to reward yourself.
Poor sleep habits: Binging on Netflix is now a national pastime but when it starts to affect your sleep it is time to pare back The Crown obsession. The pandemic has also triggered some pretty out there dreams which can also interfere with your z’s. Kim says that getting into a sleep routine is key. “Go to bed at the same time every night. Set an alarm to remind yourself to switch off the box and go to bed”. Your morning-self will thank us!
Comfort eating: Where do we start? If there was ever a time to turn to pizza and cakes it is while we are locked in our homes as a killer virus pandemic surges outside. Don’t beat yourself up too much about those extra lbs. “Start off by keeping a food diary” says Kim. “Note down everything you eat, at what time and how you feel. This will help identify non-hunger triggers for eating so you can find healthier strategies”
Kim Pearson is a qualified nutritionist and weight loss specialist based on London’s Harley Street