I wonder how many of you who went to college remember the “freshman fifteen?” The alliteration referred to the weight an average freshman put on over the course of their first year away from home. After all, food was a source of socialization, of comfort, of staying awake, of late-night get-togethers. I’m afraid I was in the “freshman forty” category, hence my grandfather’s question at the Thanksgiving Day dinner table: “If the food’s so bad, how come you got so fat?”
Well. That was forty-six years ago. Clearly, I’ve got to let go.
The fact of the matter is, a lot of people are cooking these days, and a lot of people are eating. Some of the reasons are the same ones those freshmen had. Food is comfort. I am going to a lot of trouble cooking, partially because I don’t have much else to do, and partially because I want to treat Marc when he gets home from his ten-hour days at the hospital. I want to show my love and support, and food is an easy way to do that.
Some of us are jumping on the “carry out” band wagon, trying to support local businesses while getting away from some of our “same-old-same-old” things we can throw together for a meal. It can be a great break but it is also frequently a few standard deviations away from nutritious and healthy.
We did that last night. It was my birthday and I got us a very nice meal from a steakhouse. I attempted to make an angel food cake but that was an unmitigated failure. Nonetheless, we celebrated with “birthday cookies,” until my dear friend June dropped off some leftover angel food cake she had.
Of course, there’s also the boredom factor. Let’s face it, some of us are just munching our way through social distancing. If you’re sitting in front of your computer in your pj’s, you might not even notice that all that munching could be tipping your scale up a bit. There’s also “cooking boredom”: at some point, it just seems easier to grab a box of that neon orange mac & cheese.
If you’re a person who likes to exercise at a fitness center, that door is closed. It might feel like an excuse to just think “to heck with it” and give exercise a bye. I will say, though, that it’s hard to change to a completely different way of exercising without a roomful of shiny equipment to give you a starting point.
So. How do you avoid putting on a few “covid kilos?”
If I’ve learned one thing about living healthy as a semi-retiree, it is that I need structure in my life. I need purpose and direction, even more now when the social isolation is starting to weigh us all down more and more. I realize my idea of structure would make some of you roll your eyes and think “anal-retentive”—but get some sort of basic flow to your day and you will feel better. I promise.
I get up around seven or seven-thirty on weekdays and I have the same breakfast six days a week: one-half cup of Kind granola (which I measure) and one Greek yogurt, accompanied by water and decaf tea. On Mondays I do my dreaded cardio for the week on the elliptical (check-mark that one!) and then I get cleaned up. No pj’s for me, it sends me the wrong message. I have a list of what I want to get accomplished, from laundry to grocery lists to grant applications to clearing out old boxes from our basement. After lunch I take a two-mile brisk walk in my neighborhood which lifts me up more than anything else I could possibly do. Around three or four, after I’ve caught up on correspondence, I start getting a meal together. Yes, I have a menu plan. I do realize that’s pretty rigid, but planning ahead makes my grocery shopping smarter and helps me make good choices for us.
I have found that this routine gives me the exact same kind of comfort that a box of Chips Ahoy might have in my earlier days. No guilt, no vague sense of dissatisfaction. I am doing what I need to do to stay healthy, and staying healthy makes me happy.
Try a little “anal-retentive” lifestyle—you might just find it helps!