Whether your saving grace was quarantine or something else for your fitness journey, there are ways to maintain it, we promise. Going back to work and your old routine, doesn’t mean everything you’ve built will be lost.
During COVID, since I don’t have to travel to and from work, I have been able to concentrate more on my health, eating right, and working out.
I am nervous that when regular work starts again, I will lose all the progress I have made. Any tips?
~ Healthy Helen in Hawaii
Lauren, today’s Dear Ellie columnist, breaks it down for us:
Dear Active Ally,
WOW. You go, girl!
Many people, myself included, have gained the dreaded quarantine fifteen. But you have embarked on a health routine! Before reading any further, give yourself a big pat on the back. You have kick-started your life with, in my opinion, the best form of self-love: health and wellness.
I can understand your apprehension and fear related to shifting back to a more chaotic schedule with “regular work and travel.” My goal is to share some tips that you can start implementing to keep you excited and hopeful. Not only will you be able to maintain your new goals, but you will also be able to share them with friends and family. Let’s break this down into a few categories: nutrition, movement, and mindfulness.
Nutrition On The Go
The key to sticking to your nutritional goals on the go is preparation. It’s that simple and challenging all at the same time. I’m sure you heard this a million times, but meal prep is essential. If you have a meal prepared and ready, you will be more likely to prioritize your nutrition. I like to prep a few meals at home and then go out mid-week. Many people will food prep for the week, and that may work for you too.
Often, I find that I get burnt out on my home-cooked meals and need something to excite me mid-week. Whether traveling or going to the office, I like to use a healthy restaurant locator app like Clean Plate or InBloom to identify a few options for clean meals on the go. Pick a restaurant and meal that looks exciting, and then invite a friend to join you on your new adventure!
Having a few trustworthy snacks packed with protein to give you a little more bang for you buck when traveling or in my office can also be helpful.
Here are a few ideas for your health routine:
- Jerky- Look for brands that are grass-fed with no to low sugar.
- Single serving nut butter- Pair this with fruit or add it to a slice of multi-grain toast, or enjoy it on its own
- Protein powder- Buy individual packets of your favorite protein powder and add them to your coffee or water for an extra boost.
- Nuts and seed packs- Check the salt and sugar content
- Fruit and chopped veggies
- Small packets of hummus
- Hard-boiled eggs
Instead of thinking about what you can’t have, think about how you can transform a typically “unhealthy” option into something more nutritious. Burger and fries? Let’s try a burger without the bun, double the veggies on top, and sub the fries for sweet potato fries, a side salad, fruit, or veggies. Frappuccino? How about a cold brew with a touch of almond milk, stevia, and cinnamon instead? Simple tradeoffs can pay back huge dividends in your calorie count and make you feel much more energetic.
In my opinion, most cravings and poor diet choices come from a lack of hydration. The more water you drink, the better you will feel, and the fewer cravings you will have if you are eating proper meals. Keep a reusable water bottle and prioritize finding water stations at work or on the go. Try water filled with minerals like natural spring water, not distilled water. As a treat, I like to add a hydration tab like Nuun or LMNT during the afternoon for a little pick-me-up and variety. If you are well hydrated, the rest of your nutrition will fall into place a little easier.
Move Your Body
When working with a trainer, she said my first priority in a health routine should be something so simple that it blew my mind; walking. 10,000 steps a day and 12,000 steps a day for weight loss. That may sound daunting, but I challenge you to think about every day work tasks and pair them with walking. Do you have a phone meeting scheduled? Why not a walking call if possible. Pre-arrange it and challenge your colleague to walk as well. I am sure they will thank you later.
Brainstorming for a new project? Keep a pair of tennis shoes at your desk and step outside for some inspiration. If your office, or the space around it, is not conducive to walking, could you take your lunch break at a nearby park and spend half your time walking and the other half eating? Get creative and get to know the area around your office better.
Have you ever heard of temptation bundling? It involves pairing an activity you look forward to with one that you may tend to avoid. I have started saving audible books and podcasts that I would typically listen to in the car for walks. Could you binge on your favorite show on the treadmill vs. the couch? Could you save a catch-up with a friend or family member for a walk?
Lastly, I encourage you to reward yourself with non-food items that promote movement throughout your fitness journey. Replace dinner and drinks out with a new workout outfit or hydration belt. It will probably be the same cost or less. Try the app ClassPass and encourage a friend or date to meet you at a new yoga or spin class. A new activity can often seem intimidating, so going with a friend can make it seem a little more approachable. Just remember, movement can be as simple as walking.
I don’t know about you, but this one scares me the most in a health routine. It seems to be the new buzzword and is EVERYWHERE. Let’s take a moment to break it down into something that is a little less elusive and more practical. Mindfulness to me means “pump the brakes.” Have you ever opened a bag of chips while watching tv, looked down, and then the bag was gone? I’m going to raise my hand up high and admit to this. Now, let’s reframe it. You are craving something salty as a late-night snack at home or on travel. If I were to apply a ‘mindful’ approach to this, here is how it would go.
Craving Brain: I need salt, stat.
Mindful Brain: I hear that you need some salt (Acknowledge). Let’s take a second and think about that while drinking a glass of water (Stall for 5 minutes and hydrate).
Craving Brain: I still think I need salt.
Mindful Brain: Okay, let’s turn off the tv, portion out a few chips, and slowly eat them while drinking another glass of water.
Craving Brain: I’m getting kind of full from this water. Maybe just a few chips will do; plus, I want to get back to Dateline on tv.
Does this situation of pumping the brakes before opening a bag of chips work every time? No, and that is okay, but the more you start applying your own brakes (aka mindfulness), the more you will stick to your core goals. The next time you feel stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, pump the brakes for a minute and just stop. Sometime just this act can shift thoughts in a different perspective that serves you. Don’t beat yourself up for any slipups. Simply acknowledge them and move forward.
I wish you the best in you 2021 health journey. I know you can do it!
Hugs + Lashes,
Ellie + Lauren