Things are a bit tough and tricky at the moment aren’t they? Doesn’t matter if you’re pre-op, early-post-op, a mid-term bariatric patient or, like me a bit of a veteran post-op – we have all been handed a new set of challenges on our bariatric journey. Normal, as we knew it, is no longer an option on the agenda and I do wonder if we will ever go back to it – maybe we just have to find a ‘new normal’ midst these challenging times.
No one knows better the stresses and strains and the impact this has on the bariatric community than our friends, Lisa Kaouk and Monica Bashaw, registered dietitians and co-owners of www.bariatricsurgerynutrition.com
They explore, in this feature, life in quarantine and how you can bring back some routine and stability to your current bariatric life so that you are fully in the know about your options. They also know first-hand, through their consultations and communications with their patients, that you are not alone in perhaps feeling the way you maybe do at the moment. Read on for some great advice!
GUEST POST: We’ve all been forced into a very challenging time in our lives.
In quarantining at home, some of us have the company of our partners and/or kids, while others of us are completely alone. Some of us have lost our jobs, while the rest of us are trying to figure out a new routine in working from home. While we all understand that it’s a critical time to keep us and those around us safe, it doesn’t make this period any easier.
We’re noticing some common trends in our clients who have been reaching out lately.
The top three types of panicky emails and calls are as follows:
– My weight loss is all of a sudden slowing down dramatically.
– My weight loss is completely stalling or plateauing.
– I’m re-gaining weight.
Firstly, being quarantined or isolated at home has completely toppled our normal routines.
Our habits and behaviours are directly built onto our routines and daily structure. When the structure to our day goes out the window from one week to the next, understandably our habits and behaviours are affected.
And secondly, many people are experiencing intense and varying emotions.
Emotions like stress, anxiety, depression, helplessness, feeling overwhelmed, etc. negatively impact our ability to be resilient and adapt to new circumstances.
Below are the most common changes in behaviour we’re seeing among our clients who are out of work or are currently working from home.
– More comfort foods (most commonly chocolate, cookies, ice cream, and chips).
– More snacking and nibbling on food in between meals.
– Boredom eating.
– Less structured meal and snack times.
– Poor sleep schedules.
– Increased screen time.
– For some, less physical activity, for others, more physical activity.
– A relaxed attitude towards delaying fluids 30 minutes after eating and prioritizing protein.
In all honesty, these are ALL completely normal reactions to a drastic change in routine combined with an uncertainty of when things will return to normal.
None of these changes in habits or behaviours are “bad” they’re just our response to trying to adjust and cope with a new type of normal.
What changes have you noticed in your habits and behaviours?
If you recognize yourself in some of the points above and you feel ready to make some changes, the list below offers some good starting points. Pick just 1 or 2 points to incorporate each week. Go at your own pace.
7 ways to bring back some routine & a sense of normal in quarantine:
1. Establish meal and snack times.
Write down specific times for your meals and snacks. Be realistic. It’s okay if the times don’t match your schedule pre-quarantine. If you’re waking up at 9 a.m. now for example instead of 6:30 a.m., maybe plan your breakfast for 9:30 a.m. Post your new eating schedule on the fridge. The goal is to challenge the habit of wandering into the kitchen and opening up the fridge and pantry every hour.
2. Plan your meals and snacks ahead of time.
Rather than having noon roll around and only then deciding “what’s for lunch?”, be intentional and plan meal and snack ideas for the week ahead of time. It especially makes more sense to plan ahead while quarantined because we’re grocery shopping significantly less often and/or you might have a tighter food budget than normal.
3. Do something active or restorative daily.
Think of the time of day when you struggle the most. For the majority of people, it’s late afternoon or evening. This is the perfect time to schedule in an activity or simply inhale some fresh air.
Some simple outdoor activities include: going for a walk, playing with your kids in the backyard, gardening, reading on your balcony, or simply people watching from your front steps while sipping tea and soaking in some sunshine.
If you can’t go outdoors for whatever reason, find some videos online. There is something for everyone! Maybe your body needs something calming like meditation, deep breathing, stretching, visualization, or yoga. Or maybe your body is craving movement, in which case you might want to try a dance class, a HIIT workout, a Pilates class for beginners, some muscle resistance exercises using just your own body weight (no equipment), or a series of exercises using just your upper body. Regardless of what activity you choose, don’t forget to breathe deeply to reap the full benefits!
4. Pack your meals and snacks the night before.
This strategy isn’t for everyone, but it can be especially helpful if you’re someone who doesn’t make the best choices when you’re at your hungriest. Having food ready and portioned means when it comes time to eat, there are no decisions to be made. All of a sudden, the easiest and fastest choice becomes the prepped option.
5. Eat at the kitchen table.
Did you know that eating quickly and not paying attention while eating can result in consuming more in a sitting and/or eating more often?
Start by picking one meal or snack that you want to dedicate to eating at the table without distractions. Ideally pick the meal or snack that you find the least satisfying or filling. Keep the following in mind: take small bites, chew slowly, really try and savour each bite, explore the flavours, notice the texture, etc. Don’t prep your next bite until you have swallowed. Check in with your stomach after you’ve eaten half of your plate (how do you feel? are you half full or maybe almost full?). Remember how cautiously and attentively you ate in those first weeks after surgery? Aim for this kind of experience.
6. Enjoy your treats.
Why should treats be a part of your plan? Because you’re human!! During this emotional and uncertain time, needing some comfort or fun foods is 100% normal.
You may be feeling like you’ve been treating yourself everyday as it is, so why would you want to continue if you’re trying to get back on track? Intentionally treating yourself DOES NOT mean binging on chips while watching TV to numb your anxiety and stress. Intentionally treating yourself also DOES NOT mean standing in the kitchen pantry raiding a box of cookies while the kids are screaming in the other room.
Treating yourself is INTENTIONALLY enjoying a special food while you’re calm, present in the moment, and truly tasting every bite. It’s also important to pick a food or beverage that you truly enjoy.
7. Catch up on quality sleep.
Poor sleep (meaning either not getting enough sleep or having poor quality sleep), not only negatively affects our mood (often then impacting our food decisions), but is also associated with a higher body weight. Similar to our first point on this list, establishing a daily routine is important. Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. The average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Both too little and too much sleep have consequences. If you know this is one you want to start working on, search for “sleep hygiene tips” online.
If you feel ready to make some changes and 1 or 2 of the points above resonated with you, great! Go for it!!
If you’re barely treading water these days, you likely aren’t ready to make any changes and that’s okay too. We’re all coping differently right now.
Above all, be kind to yourself during this difficult time and remember that the conditions we’re living through right now are temporary. Take it one day at a time.