By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
In times of uncertainty and disruption, can there be positivity during the coronavirus pandemic? My friend is celebrating her loss, which she has dreamed of, working at home. Actually, it’s excellent news.
Pearl (not her real name) has lost ten pounds during the lockdown. Struggling with weight issues, since I have known her for more than 20 years, she looked great when I saw her last week. Isn’t a lockdown a perfect excuse for gaining weight due to overeating from anxiety and stress? How and where do we burn off our calories with gyms closed?
I have a confession, too. I have lost three pounds during the past four months, though it was never my intent. The assumption is, when we work at home, we tend to gain weight because we are confined, and have little chance to be active. Many have turned to home activities like baking and cooking—enhancing calories. Yes, I am one of those who cook a lot more at home. So we eat more?
Not true. How do we lose weight? What we discovered is, the pandemic creates an environment for us to get fit.
It’s not enough to have healthy eating habits yourself. How do you encourage your family and loved ones to pursue healthy eating? If all family members in the same household are to be on the same page, it diminishes a lot of conflict.
You are the real boss
During the pandemic, the world has turned upside down, and everything around us shifts. The only thing we have control over is ourselves. You are in charge when you work at home, not your boss. My friend decided this was a good time to lose weight. She made a stay-at-home resolution, to lose weight as her personal goal.
You can do so by writing down your daily goal to discipline how and what you eat. Once you write it down, you show commitment and are more inclined to make it happen.
Have a fixed meal and exercise schedule
Regularity breeds success, especially for weight loss.
Since everybody is supposed to be social distancing, it cuts our chances of dining out with friends. When I entertain friends at lunches and dinners, I tend to order an abundance of food. I end up eating more. When I attend events, the meals are usually late. I dish up lots of butter for my rolls even though I realize it’s unhealthy. What can I say, I was hungry! Cooking at home has eliminated our chances of extravagant and excessive eating. Plus, I eat every meal on schedule, with dinner no later than 6 p.m. “No more food after dinner” is my motto. Stick to your meal schedule.
The same applies to your exercise routine—schedule it. I exercise three times a day, morning (aerobics), late afternoon (walking in the neighborhood), and evening (on treadmill). If I miss one routine, my penalty is to double my workout in my next round. Just don’t make any excuses for skipping.
Change your snacking habits
One of my staff members realized that she likes snacking, she has got to change her habit of eating. The first step is to think about reducing her carbohydrate intake.
In the past, potato chips were one of her favorite snacks. No wonder PepsiCo sales have soared in potato chips, tortilla, Cheetos and Doritos. Not only are chips unhealthy, they have tons of calories, fat, and sodium. The food companies make chips addictive. I don’t know exactly what ingredients they put in the chips, they definitely stimulate and manipulate your taste buds. After you eat one, you want to swallow a whole bunch in your mouth. You are not only hooked, you are being tricked! So don’t get started on those unhealthy snacks because chances are, it’ll be challenging to stop.
To replace chips, she buys healthy nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, cashews, and pecans. Look for the unsalted ones. It tastes great, especially the roasted yet unsalted nuts. You can eat a big chunk and never have to worry about getting fat. Nuts contain antioxidants.
Rewind my brain
I am not a saint. Yes, I love all those goodies, such as chips, bacon, and double chocolate ice cream with cookie dough! What’s my secret to resisting temptation?
I rewind my brain to enjoy eating healthy stuff and only crave fattening foods once every two months or longer. I have taught myself to embrace foods that I actually hated before. They have won me over by their nutritional value, and thankfully I have developed a taste for them.
Envision your skinny self after you succeed in making those changes, reinforcing those happy emotions in your head when you succeed.
Alcohol harms your body
Not too long ago, a study said moderate drinking is good for your health. Baloney! On July 14, a New York Times article said even moderation consumption of alcohol is not good for our bodies. Alcohol is high in calories and raises the risk of some cancers.
I have seen what it did to my parents’ brains. They couldn’t even do simple chores like buying something on the phone when they were 70 years old.
I was raised around booze and smoke. My aunt, who lived with us when I was a child, was a chain smoker. My parents were heavy drinkers, not beers and wines, but hard liquor.
Drinking was a status symbol and lifestyle choice. When their peer group indulged themselves in expensive cognac, it was hard for my parents to say no. After I graduated from high school, my stepfather invited me to join them drinking. He told my husband who doesn’t drink, “You don’t know how to enjoy life.”
Knowledge trumps over temptations
So what kept me from drinking?
When I was in my 30s and 40s, I enjoyed a glass of champagne or dessert wine occasionally with my friends. But strong liquor tastes like bitter medicine to me. I used to think, “Why do people drink this when it doesn’t even taste good?” Drinking is more fun with company. My husband doesn’t drink, and I never liked to drink by myself. After a while, my body developed a violent reaction when I sipped alcohol.
Another reason for me to abstain is I have been studying many health issues, including how alcohol can damage our brain cells. I learned about brain health and the right foods for our brain. The wine in my kitchen is for cooking only. Knowledge convinced me to give up alcohol, and I am thankful.
Food as therapy
Understand how different foods affect your body. Choosing the right foods can control your weight gain, and build up your muscles and strength. It is also effective in preventing pain and diseases.
Besides pleasure, I look for foods which can give me what my body needs, such as fiber, good fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Vegetables and fruits provide a great source of fiber. I love the natural sweetness of root vegetables, such as sweet potatoes and purple yams. They are good carbohydrates —filling and satisfying. Since I have osteoporosis, I make a lot of soups with fish, chicken, and pig bones for calcium.
If you have high blood pressure, you shouldn’t eat a lot of beef and rich foods. Also, meats are harder to digest than vegetables. My blood pressure has been normal for the last two decades, and I can afford to eat more meat. Thanks, but no thanks. I can go for days without eating meat and not feel deprived. Yet, I can’t survive without vegetables for one day.
My lunch is often a salad, with a pink lady apple, almonds, sunflower seeds, and avocados. With a few drops of lemon and extra virgin olive oil, and Miracle Whip, the salad tastes divine.
Kids don’t like vegetables?
Many kids hate vegetables. Their parents have to entice their kids with all kinds of incentives just to get them to take a bite or two. I never had that problem when I raised my two boys at home. They love vegetables, even at a young age. What I did was simple. When they were little, I just told them vegetables were delicious. If they didn’t want them, I would have them all to myself so I had less competition. It worked. Seriously, I could eat a whole plate of vegetables just by myself. The fact is, my kids love my cooking. They eat everything I cook.
So make your healthy food delicious so you and your family want to eat it and not go to the fridge right after dinner.
Hide with other foods
A long time ago, my relative hated garlic and scallions. But his family loved them. So his family hid those ingredients by cooking them altogether and dispensed them later when they served the entree. My relative didn’t know that he has been fooled all these years.
Take foods in pill form
I also cook ingredients which boost the immune system, such as garlic, onions, and ginger. What to do for those who don’t like garlic? Turmeric fights inflammation. Some people are not used to it.
Did you know that there are turmeric and garlic pills you can get at health food stores and Amazon? There are all kinds of supplements containing onion, mushroom, ginseng, goji berries, broccoli, cranberry, green superfoods, and even apple cider vinegar. Just go online, and you will discover all kinds of capsules to suit your needs.
Exercise at home
During the stay-at-home order, exercise was high on my priority list. You can’t lose weight without working out. I exercise not because I want to lose any pounds, I just want to stay fit mentally and physically. Exercising can improve your brain and fight aging.
Most folks make the mistake of sitting too long at their computer, staring at their iPhone or watching television. The rule of thumb is to get up every half hour. For me, it’s every hour when I write. I usually drink water instead of eating during my breaks. The more liquid you drink, the better it is for your body.
So don’t wait, start your health plan to begin losing weight today.
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.