It has been more than a year since the Coronavirus pandemic broke in the world. While most of us have learned to live with it, it is important to also learn the must-dos in daily lives for a healthier lifestyle.
The first week of September is here, and so is the National Nutrition week, an initiative to spread awareness about the significance of nutrition in our lives. On this occasion, here's a glimpse of the interview with Mumbai-based clinical dietician, nutritionist and Nutrigenomics counsellor Aditi Prabhu, Nutrition and Wellness Consultant Neha Sahaya, and Sports nutritionist (ISSA) Rahul Prasad, who talked about the "must-dos" in daily lives and the lifestyle changes among people concerning food amid the pandemic.
Aditi Prabhu, a clinical dietician, nutritionist, Nutrigenomics counsellor, and Certified Diabetes Educator mentioned that one needs to focus on creating good routines, healthy lifestyles, eating right, and fitness while considering all the limitations rather than fretting about the whole situation of COVID-19.
Must-dos in daily lives by Aditi:
a) Have set eating, workout, and sleep routines.
b) Eat local, seasonal, and whole foods rather than processed/ junk food.
c) Stay hydrated.
d) Make time for exercise and move often.
e) Remember your mind and body are connected. So, work on your mental health and emotional wellbeing as much as you work on your physical wellbeing.
Things to keep in mind while considering post-COVID nutrition by Aditi
a) Ditch the diet mindset and focus on recovery: For recovery, you need energy and that means eating right. A healthy balanced meal consisting of complex carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats does the trick.
b) Focus on protein: Protein helps in the repair and recovery of the body. Include dals, pulses, dairy, eggs, lean meats, etc in small quantities in all meals as per individual requirements
c) Incorporate healthy fats like nuts, seeds, nut butter, avocados, etc. Have small frequent meals.
d) Eat more colourful fruits and veggies and get vitamin D.
c) Avoid Self Supplementation: Take it as per requirement and only under the guidance of a doctor or a qualified Dietitian-Nutritionist.
Increased consumption of junk food
Aditi stated that the pandemic affected human behavior in multiple ways causing social isolation for many. "No matter how much technology progresses, it cannot replace the physical presence of people. This, in turn, led to people finding comfort in food, mainly junk food. You must have noticed the initial trend on social media, wherein people created fancy dishes during the initial lockdown, which then dwindled in the following months and then people eagerly waited for restaurants to open," Aditi said. "No time to cook or exercise due to working from home also led to ordering and consuming more of junk/processed/ready-to-eat food," she added.
Nutrition and Wellness Consultant Neha Sahaya talked about the lifestyle in the pandemic, and said, "Pandemic made many to adjust to homebound lifestyles. With the loss of routine and social life, people have become more obsessed with comforting high calorie and low nutrient-dense food."
Neha on ways of dealing with a sedentary lifestyle
"The best way to deal with the negative effects of this pandemic is to have a routine and more important is to stick by it," Neha said. She also emphasized the following ways:
a) First step to a routine is to make a list. Try making a list before you go to bed of what you need to accomplish the following day, even if there are only a few items on the list. Do each one in order, if you can, and tick them off, VOILA you have made a small routine.
b) Make sure to eat and sleep around the same time (circadian rhythm), otherwise, your body hormone fluctuates, thereby affecting your mental health.
c) Exercise to release endorphins, your happy hormones, and this will keep you more energized, and let’s face it, there are numerous physical and mental health benefits. One does not need a gym or some expensive equipment but only some music to dance or simply switch on a YouTube video and do the workout that suits your body goals.
d) Try to keep a normal routine for work. Avoid the pyjamas and get dressed for work in the usual way. Start and finish at the same time, as you normally would, take breaks, walk around the house every 30 mins for at least 2 minutes for good blood circulation.
e) Learn to Relax. Find ways to still relax even though you can’t socialize at the moment. Meditate, read a book, watch TV, talk with your family and friends to stay connected, or listen to music or a podcast.
Food habits of people in lockdown
Neha said that two sets of people emerged in the lockdown. "The two sets of people include ones, who preferred the process and packaged food, found comfort in them and let go of their health. The other type took advantage of becoming more healthy and fit and make the most of the fact that restaurants and alcohol are no more easily available," she said.
Must-dos in daily lives by Neha
a) Eat wholesome food like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and lean protein. Avoid packaged food coming from a box, plastics, or tin.
b) Exercise daily to build stamina and boost metabolism. Remember consistent exercise will help build your stamina.
c) Yoga and meditation help to improve your lung function and ability to handle stress. When you have mental peace, you are physically even stronger.
d) Create a hobby and invest time in it, that will keep you busy and prevent your mind from wandering.
Neha said that there are a lot of myths surrounding nutrition. The top ones she mentioned are:
a) Carbs make you fat: "Anything eaten in excess can make you fat not just carbs" Neha said.
b) 'Calories in, calories out is all that matters when it comes to weight loss: Busting this myth, Neha said, "Though creating a calorie deficit by burning more calories than you take in is the most important factor when it comes to weight loss, it’s not the only thing that matters. Other issues like hormonal imbalances, insulin-resistant hypothyroidism, genetics, etc are just some of the factors that may make weight loss harder for some people even if they are on a calorie deficit."
c) Low-fat food is better for you: "Skip fat and you are skipping out on the most satiating nutrient. Fats help to absorb fat-soluble vitamins and balances our hormones. Plus, low-fat food is often higher in sodium and sugar to make up for the taste", she added.
Rahul Prasad is a certified sports nutritionist (ISSA) who is also doing another certification course based on exercise science and physiology. As he helps athletes and other people with their nutrition habits and training structure, he talked about what has remained the same for athletes even in the pandemic.
Athletes at home
"From what I have observed, most of the people who play a sport have ensured sufficient practice time even at home. That is the beauty of shadow practising, sport athletes can do it anywhere and everywhere," Rahul said. "Moreover, this is a temporary phase and athletes need to be in top physical condition to be prepared for the competitive season and hence, most of them take their home workout sessions very seriously," he added.
Apart from this, Rahul also mentioned that people have become more conscious about the word “immunity”. "This word has popped up quite a lot amongst people, whether they play sports or not. People are realising that their best bet at protecting themselves in the future from viruses and diseases, is having a strong immunity system, which, sadly, is not just sold in a bottle. It is like compound interest, just accumulates ever so slowly. The best way to achieve this is by keeping your nutrition simple, effective and sustainable", he added.
Must-dos in daily lives by Rahul
Rahul says that even though staying at home is a good time to introspect, spend quality time with family and enrich one's hobbies. "Even the most motivated individuals have questioned their passion of staying fit within four walls. However, it's about doing what is necessary," he said. He gave a few suggestions for a normal and healthy lifestyle which includes:
a) Do your best - Stretch, eat mindfully, sweat it out at home, learn a skill, try to stay busy.
b) Accept your off days - The days you don’t feel like it, you just don’t. Stop beating yourself up.
c) Cardio is important: It is not just to make one look a certain way, but it is crucial for heart health and stamina.
d) Not being lazy: Walk every day, climb stairs instead of always taking the lift. Improving running technique and time, perform breathing drills should be some of the must-dos in daily lives.
Rahul said that misconceptions are often a result of most of the people looking for quick solutions to the fitness problems and some people creating a ruse to market their “solutions”. "If I could erase one misconception from everyone’s mind, it would be, you cannot spot reduce body fat from one area of your body. So many of us, including me, wanted to remove fat only from our belly or from our thighs or our arms. Equipment, exercises, supplements, drinks, etc., are being sold with the promise of doing something that is scientifically not possible.", he said adding, one cannot choose from where they lose fat.
Nevertheless, talking about the only possible solution, he said, "The only way to get rid of fat from an area of your body is to stick to your process, which includes, staying in a state of calorie deficit- through training and your nutrition so that it does not cause other problems. Most importantly, be patient until you eventually lose fat from that area. This is why I emphasise the process because it takes its due time." "One needs to fall in love with the process," Rahul added.