Many Americans have developed unhealthy coping mechanisms to combat stress and anxiety caused by the trauma associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of those negative behaviors include eating disorders and alcohol or drug abuse. This addictive pattern is true, especially for women. According to a RAND corporation study during the pandemic, “women have increased their heavy drinking days by 41 percent compared to years prior.”1 There have been similar traumatic events such as 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina that have caused the same behavior issues, but not to the extent the pandemic has. It’s no surprise, as many Americans are still experiencing economic insecurity on top of grief, loneliness, and the prolonged stress of uncertainty about the future.
Now that America is opening and moving in the right direction, you may be wondering how to get your life back on track. While the pandemic is fading into the rearview mirror, are you still stuck with an extra 10 or more stress pounds and struggling to find the motivation to get in shape? The Nike slogan “Just Do It” has a lot of wisdom but is easier said than done without help. Whether mental or physical, any healthy change starts with action and repetition of that action and can be easier with inspiration from others. Connecting with your community and friends, attending group fitness classes, finding a workout buddy or hiring a personal trainer can be helpful in maintaining consistency with your workouts. For people suffering from depression due to isolation, social interaction with groups can be especially beneficial.
If finding the time in your busy schedule to do 30 minutes to an hour of exercise is overwhelming for you, start with baby steps. Try “fitness snacking” by starting with just 15 minutes two times a day — morning and night — for three weeks to create a good fitness habit. Just 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, or 75 minutes per week of high-intensity exercise, will have a profound benefit on your health. The key is to commit to some physical activity on most days.
If weight loss is one of your goals, pay attention to what you eat and write it down. Keeping a food diary is a major component to increasing a person’s success rate for weight loss. You might be surprised to find out how those calories add up. A sensible diet including fruits, vegetables and lean protein is essential to a weight loss program. In other words, you can’t out-train a bad diet. One way to get your daily servings of fruits and vegetables is to create delicious green smoothies or colorful soups and salads. At the end of the day, you want to create a calorie deficit of at least 500 Kcals per day to lose one to two pounds per week safely.
Finding motivation for self-care can be a huge challenge for many people, especially those suffering from depression. The key is to know yourself and what works for you. If you are one of those people who needs support, don’t hesitate to reach out to a friend or professional. Group or one-on-one therapy has become popular for many people post-pandemic as it gives them a sense of being connected. After all, we are pack animals. It is human nature to stay consistent with things we enjoy. That is why it is important to find an activity you can look forward to, such as tennis, hiking or golf, as a supplement to a weight training program. Another proven tool is to keep your exercise routine at a specific time written into your calendar. And finally, find someone who will keep you accountable because accountability is the key to consistency which is the key to success. As always, we are better together.
Michele is a certified personal trainer and yoga instructor, nutritional consultant and founder of the Michele McCord Method. She can be reached at (310) 923.3237 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.michelemccordmethod.com.