Staying Healthy in Isolation

Our Associate Wellbeing Coach, Dom Haigh, gives advice on staying healthy during these current challenging times…

I think we can all agree that being stuck inside or working from home is not ideal. Any routines we previously had have been significantly altered, but it is vitally important for our physical and mental wellbeing to stay as healthy as possible, especially considering why we are in the current situation we now find ourselves in.

Structuring a new routine will give your day purpose and meaning. It allows us to work productively and finish each day with a sense of contentment. In creating structure, we master the new environment we find ourselves in and can seamlessly return to normality in time. Getting up at the same time we normally do, going through the same daily processes such as getting ourselves ready for work, normal lunch and break times etc. There are key areas to consider when structuring a new way of working, and indeed a new way of living during isolation.

Physical Activity

A massive component of overall health is physical health. Current circumstances dictate that we can’t use gyms, but we can exercise at home or go outside for a walk or run. I would highly advise all of us to keep on top of our physical health in this period. This could be going out for a long walk, aiming to hit those 8-10k steps per day. Possibly an even better alternative is going for a run if hitting those 10k steps takes longer than an hour or so.

The added benefit of getting outside, especially as the weather gets nicer, is the exposure to Vitamin D. This vitamin is something that many of us are deficient in. It helps to regulate the absorption of calcium, phosphorus and helps to facilitate normal immune system functioning. It’s made from cholesterol in the skin when exposed to sunlight. Research has also suggested that vitamin D also helps to fight depression. Food sources that contain vitamin D include salmon, sardines, egg yolk, milk and fortified cereal and yoghurt.

For those who are passionate about resistance training, it’s important to keep as much of your old routines as possible. Simple bodyweight or minimal kit at-home sessions are very beneficial to not only maintaining physical health, but also mental health.

Improve Your Sleep Routine

Poor quality sleep leads to a weakened immune system, which is never desirable at any time – but even more important now. As we are now homebound, it is a good opportunity to try and create better sleep routines.

We Are Wellbeing has provided some great tips for improving your sleeping routine. This includes improving your sleeping environment, taking time to relax and unwind before going to bed, keeping your sleep / wake cycle consistent throughout the week and being aware of factors that could hinder your sleep quality (such as alcohol or caffeine).

Consider Nutrition

One of the positive things to come from this situation is the fact that we now have more control over our nutrition than before. Despite the well-reported panic buying, there is still plenty of wholesome and nutrient-dense food available to purchase. With some thought and planning, healthy and nutritious meals can be devised that will nourish our bodies.

Some of the non perishable foods I would suggest stocking up on (whilst being mindful not to stock up too much) are:

  • Canned fish (tuna, mackerel and salmon)
  • Canned beans, pulses and legumes (baked beans, kidney, cannellini, borlotti beans, chickpeas and lentils)
  • Canned soups (the Heinz chicken and veg soup is only 200kcals per can and around 12g protein)
  • Tinned tomatoes
  • Frozen fruit
  • Frozen veg (both frozen fruit and veg keep their vital micronutrients upon freezing)
  • Nut butters
  • Oats
  • Rice
  • Whey protein powders (these are a great source of convenient, quality protein that isn’t just for those that lift weights)
  • Protein bars
  • Pasta
  • Rice cakes

Many people may also have frozen meat in the freezer, or you could buy some to freeze. All of the above gives a nice balance of proteins, carbohydrates, fats and fibre and can be combined in various ways to ensure wholesome and nutrient dense meals and snacks. The below meal provides an example of how to create a simple, nutritional meal using basic store cupboard ingredients: Tuna and vegetable pasta

Ingredients – Serves 4

  • 3-4 cans of tuna
  • 2 tins of chopped tomatoes
  • A good serving of frozen vegetable
  • Pasta
  • Olive oil

Method

  • Heat a little olive oil in a pan
  • Add chopped tomatoes and tins of tuna
  • Add frozen vegetables and cook with the lid on until veg is cooked
  • Season to taste and turn hob down to low
  • Portion out some pasta and cook on the hob
  • Once pasta is al dente, add to tuna, tomato and veg mix and combine
  • Serve

The tuna could of course be substituted for any other form of protein such as chicken or beef. This meal could also be made vegetarian by replacing the meat or fish protein source with chickpeas.

Food environment

Managing your food environment is very important as there is a tendency when at home, if bored, to eat for the sake of it. Often we gravitate towards highly palatable foods that are high in sugar, fat, salt and starch… essentially junk food. A little junk is fine and is part of a normal daily food intake that is sustainable long term. However, it can be problematic when snacking gets out of control.

Try to avoid trigger foods, which are foods that you simply cannot have just a little bit of. Out of sight out of mind is the best policy here. A good tactic is to remove them from their food packaging and place them in a nondescript tupperware container. Research has shown that food packaging plays a massive role in the appeal of hyper palatable food. We associate certain packaging with how we feel when we consume those foods. If you remove the packaging then the association disappears.

If you are at home and feel the need to mindlessly snack, do something to keep your mind occupied. Go for a walk, do an activity, watch television or play a boardgame. If you don’t feel bored, you won’t feel the need to keep busy by eating.

Medical professionals have stated that there is no food, special diet or supplement that will stop you from catching Covid-19. However, by keeping yourself as healthy as possible you are most likely bulletproofing your immune system and being proactive rather than reactive. This is something we should keep practicing during our day-to-day lives.

Snacking

Snacking is something that many have a problem with, even before this period of isolation. People isolated at home, or working from home, are potentially bored – and with boredom comes mindless eating. One strategy is to simply not have high calorie junk food snacks around your house, but if you have children this may not be possible.

Firstly, ask yourself this if you are actually hungry. Most of the time the answer is no, and it’s simply boredom. If you are hungry and it’s been a while since your last meal I encourage you to reach for one of the following:

  • Greek yoghurt
  • A boiled egg or two
  • A piece of fruit

Snacks that are hyper palatable are often not that filling and high in calorie and can be consumed on mass without even thinking. Snacks that are higher in fibre and protein are more satiating.

Portion sizes

It’s important to keep control of your eating, even if you’re isolating or working from home. A good way to do this is being consciously aware of exactly how much you’re eating. Try not to put too much on your plate, and learn to control your portions. You’ll still get all the nutrition you need, without overindulging. As a general rule, you should consider these portion sizes:

  • 2 fists of protein for men (one for women)
  • 2 palms of carbs for men (one for women)
  • 2 thumbs of fats for men (one for women)
  • As much veg as you want (within reason)

Achieve your goals remotely

You can continue many of your day-to-day activities from home. Use the time wisely to learn new skills, develop and improve your physical and mental health. The gyms may be shut for now, but you can still look after your fitness and nutrition.

As a Rnutr Nutritionist and personal trainer, I provide an online coaching service. Within that I work with clients purely on nutrition who want to lose weight, or those that are keen gym goers who want to combine the two. My thorough approach is a flexible one, setting personalised daily and weekly nutritional and activity targets based on that person’s lifestyle/goals, whilst also designing a customised training plan for those that would normally use a gym.

Accountability is the glue that ties commitment to the result and, with a supportive coach who’s invested in your success as much as you are, we get those results.

Visit Dom Haigh Fitness for more information on these services.

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