In quarantine or not … what diet should we follow?
Before, during and after lockdown … at the moment, everything seems to be revolving around our life while in quarantine. Everything, everywhere, … even diet. Although, if we take a closer look at things, nothing has changed fundamentally, in this respect. What I mean is that basic principles of healthy eating haven’t changed. Whether in quarantine or not, these rules remain valid in emergency situations as well. We wouldn’t have had to change our diet if we had been eating healthy prior to lockdown, if we had been choosing consciously and eating mindfully. This period however, may have offered a chance for initiating changes for those of us that did not. During these months, I have been encouraging my patients, those that wanted to change lifestyle and those that have been experiencing ups and downs in terms of healthy eating alike, to consider this lockdown period as a chance life has given to them to initiate changes. As we have definitely had more time to plan our meals, to write shopping lists more consciously, to start eating healthier and stick to having smaller portions many times a day, to drink more fluids, to try exercising in our living rooms, to take care of what we eat of our bodies. All in all, we have had more time for our health.
Although this may sound nice and easy, this was far not so simple to achieve every minute of every day during lockdown. Our life did turn upside down and this did have fundamental, inevitable, psychological consequences. With regard to diet, the emotional aspects always have to be taken into consideration.
Several studies have proved that the majority of people consume more food when stressed and tend to prefer high fat and high carbohydrate foods to healthier options. Stress also plays a significant role in unsuccessful dieting. By the way, do you know what the processed food hypothesis is about? Some researchers claim that only those processed foods can cause addiction that contain salt, flour, caffeine, fat, refined sugars or a combination of these. (1.) Well, I am almost certain most of us did have such treats in store during the lockdown.
Thus, we may think it is absolutely natural that we have had periods of snacking, of binging on some foods with a higher fat or carbohydrate content mixed with periods of not eating, of trying to stop this coupled with lack of regular physical exercise, the extent largely depending on our stress tolerance.
When this whole situation started, I am sure not many of us gave careful consideration whether to choose white or brown rice for example. I suppose most of us did not calculate the salt and sodium content of the crisps we were munching on while watching film after film in the evenings. Who cared about how much water got retained by the glass/bottle of wine we drank in the evening and whether it would give us swollen eyes the next morning? Did we give it any thought to what extent the Emperor’s crumbs (aka. Kaiser schmarn, Austrian dessert) we prepared between an online maths class and a grammar test would increase our blood sugar levels? While making paper frogs with our kindergarten-age children, how many of us pondered upon the ratio of saturated vs. non-saturated fatty acids? All of a sudden we all embarked upon cooking, baking, kneading, raising kids, educating neighbours and eventually, the entire population. To be honest, I was happy seeing all this effort, it made me smile and sometimes made me laugh. I do know, nonetheless, that for many this baking and cooking mania may have seemed utterly crazy and frustrating.
In June 2020, the results of the study into the impact of the pandemic upon food consumption conducted by experts from the National Food Chain safety Office, Department of Marketing and Commerce, Faculty of Economy, University of Debrecen and the TÉT Platform were published. According to this study, 25% of the population said they had gained weight during lockdown; the amount of weight gain was around 1 kg. (2.)
The most important thing is, that me made it. Some of us gained, some of us lost some kilos in quarantine. … What about now, that it is over? This bothers me a lot more. The news is all about restaurants reopening, eating out has been encouraged everywhere in the media, there’s been enormous emphasis on eating as such, practically anywhere :at markets, at home, home delivery, trying out new recipes, we have been swarmed with news about street food, fine dining, small farm holders, organic food producers, Michelin-stars, bars, street eateries, terraces, life is back to normal… so we should eat, eat and eat… every step on our way. Let’s not forget, summer is here!!! …what about the bikini body we have been striving to achieve??? Don’t worry for a second, the media provides the answer for the sudden shock of realisation too …diet coaches, life style coaches and fitness ’experts’ are ready to give you lots of useful advice, though most of these people may not even have completed a 3-day course to gain all the knowledge they seem so proud of. What’s more, the internet abounds in celebrities giving us ‘useful’ advice, but you shouldn’t forget that live off media advertising.
Then, there are the famous liquid diets, 90-day, 60-day and 30-day versions, even 8- or 16-hour versions exist offering fast and lasting detoxification. We can easily get lost among dietary supplements, pH values of our blood or urine, blood groups, trendy new diets and the world of the new ‘Sharks’.
After a while, after months or years, we realise (if we do) that we haven’t found a working solution. Couldn’t we avoid these extra and useless rounds? Couldn’t we start lifestyle changes now, today even??? I am not saying that we should change everything from one day to the other. It has to be slow process, a process we should follow consciously, guided by rules based on evidence that have been proven to be valid, that ensure we are doing it safely (3.)
Every crisis is an opportunity. I do believe that this pandemic has also been one. So, let’s try to make the best out of it. Choose and hold on to at least one habit you have incorporated into your daily routine during lockdown with the aim to protect or regain your health. If you haven’t done anything like that, do it now. Be it consuming regular meals of smaller portions, increased fluid intake, eating vegetables or fruits more regularly, preparing home-cooked meals, eating together with the family, planning your meals, writing shopping lists in advance, skipping snacks, choosing low-fat foods, preferring high-fibre ingredients, introducing regular exercising or mediation… anything really. Keep up with whatever you have started, and remind yourself of the period of your life when you decided on it. In order to integrate a new habit into your life and for it to become a regular part of your daily routine all you need is motivation, determination and practice. Go for it and don’t give up!
We have all been given the chance now to realise and ponder upon the importance and value of being healthy and staying healthy. I know health prevention has become a commonplace phrase these the past months have made its real importance even more obvious and ’palpable’.
Stay healthy! Start by eating healthier!