By Dietitian Jill Place AKA The Good Gut Queen
“I bought ice cream because there was nothing in the market freezer,” my sister said … quite embarrassed, “are yours bare too?” I had to laugh … my sister is 80 this month … still skinny, gorgeous, and athletic (even though her once bouncy platinum curls are thinning from an old bout with chemo) … and NEVER eats dessert. This is what I call WELL-ISH … approximate wellness while shut-in.
And I say WELL-ISH because … let’s face it … there’s still no toilet paper in my local market (I’m waiting for some I ordered online). And two weeks ago I didn’t have eggs for my banana bread … I had to freeze those overripe bananas for smoothies until eggs (and a new bunch of bananas) were available.
So … if you’re a health- or weight-conscious fanatic and still think you can maintain your rigorous regime … fugetaboutit (this is actually the correct spelling … I looked it up in the Urban Dictionary)! Because doing that may make you BAT-SH*T.
Right now I’m a bit BANANAS from wearing masks (I have the surgical, cloth, and N95 varieties … almost as many as I have hats) and trying to counsel through them. Even though someone recently told me, “you seem to have it all together”. LOL!
Oh … and I had to laugh at my sister’s ice cream confession because I … too … had recently bought some Ben and Jerry’s flavor with many names and many wicked high-cal surprises within. Along with an economy-size bottle of wine. When I say WELL-ISH I mean it!
But here’s some thoughts about how NOT to go BAT-SH*T crazy during this time. Because … let’s face it … we may be in this for the long haul.
1. It’s Not Going to Be Perfect
Get over yourself. We’re home … some foods are scarce (although there seems to be more and more back every time I go to the market … still no toilet paper though) … and getting cacao nibs, acai berries, or coconut flour may not be possible right now.
Not to mention the stress we already have from the whole situation … and the fact that we really don’t know the extent of this and how long. And our lives have changed dramatically.
So if you can’t continue Paleo … try for low-carb or Gluten Free. Vegan? Go lacto-ovo or pescatarian. Your body … and especially your brain … needs nourishment to cope.
I’m listening to 60 Minutes right now and the expert is now talking about a “second pandemic” which will be “the mental health pandemic”. So … please … don’t put extra stress on yourself trying to do diet restrictions that aren’t possible right now. OK is good enough.
2. Get Creative with Cookery
Recipes are terrific … but right now some items are difficult to get. So I’d do this … throw open your pantry and take everything out of it.
Find out what’s been hiding in that pantry (or the freezer) for months (I’d pitch the expired stuff for reasons I’ll talk about later). Then restock it putting the hidden things first (or on a separate shelf). And be creative with what’s there.
I was a chef and considered cooking a passion … and downright fun … my whole life (my mother was a terrible cook … someone had to do it). But if you have no feeling for cooking, just grab some 5-ingredient (super-easy) recipes off the internet.
I just did … and found this terrific one that I’m going to make this week (I also have the red cabbage … and I’m thinking that I can use 1/4 pound of ground beef [browned] instead of the chicken). Here’s 5-Ingredient BBQ Chicken-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes.
It even has a video …you can’t go wrong … even if you don’t cook. Or you can use an online site like Supercook (there’s also an app you can use right in the market). Just punch in the ingredients you have and it spits out recipes using those ingredients. Super-handy.
I also love (and have used extensively) the book, Cooking Without Recipes . It rekindled my passion for creating new ideas with food. And might for you too.
3. Make a Daily Plan … and Include Strategies for Boredom and Boredom-Eating
Years ago I had an unfortunate incident which totally sidelined me … much like shut-ins today. I sat on the couch for a month. I don’t even remember if I ate or not.
How did I get out of it? I made a daily plan. It included specific times for stuff … meals too … and especially exercise. Exercise was what really got me out of my funk.
So here are some things you might plan … and … hint … take some advice from a book with an unlikely title … Eat That Frog … and do the thing you most DON’T want to do … completely … first. Other things to plan might include …
- Your meals. What do you have? What do you need? It might be a great thing to plan out your meals for the week, order or shop for ingredients, and prep (I love the idea of Salad in Five … Minutes … prepping salad in advance for five to seven days). Don’t forget to use the stuff from your pantry too.
- Leisure Time. Play with kids or pets, watch T.V. or videos, journal, spend some time in nature, talk to friends and family on Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, etc., make art (if you can’t draw, do a collage), write your novel, or do that home project you haven’t had time to do until now. Oh … and I love the idea of Virtual Happy Hour … schedule that too … even if your bent is Virgin Marys.
- Exercise. This is so important! It’s the thing that got me out of the worst funk of my life. I don’t want to take time out extolling the benefits of exercise … we all know them. But I’ve scheduled my 7-minute Qigong video and 30 minutes of stairmaster into my day now (right after I finish this … remember to “Eat that Frog” …). Otherwise you won’t do it.
If you have kids, figure out something you can do with them (hint … they love things like yoga …). And my sister (I can’t tell you how many pictures I have of her walking away … she always seems to be in motion) told my yesterday that she’s now walking three times a day. But check out the calves of an 80-year-old woman above.
- Boredom Eating. The worst! I myself find my intermittent fasting window drooping down to 10:30 or so (it used to be 12 noon) and yesterday I was back to the old habit of teaspoons (packed ones) full of nut butter at 10pm. I need to reread my article … Is Intermittent Fasting Backed by Science? … again to get re-inspired!
My best advice to cure this “malady” once and for all … sit with your feelings. Since I’m recovered from an eating disorder, I know the drill. I eat something and my “overeating self (fortunately, it’s only a part of me)” wants more.
If I don’t give it to her, she stages a tantrum. But more and more if I just allow it, it subsides and I can move on. It’s a muscle … and you have time … so try this as a Health Self-Experiment (this link gives you access to the three others in the series … I’d suggest that you read all four and get the PDF form to set up your experiment).
Yes, it’s great to distract yourself with the ideas in “Leisure Time” above. But my experience is that the “overeating self (and … yes … most of us have one too … in varying degrees)” will rear her ugly head and stage a tantrum. So … sit with it … and remember that OK is good enough.
4. Practice GOOD Food Safety
I can’t emphasize this enough. I know that many of us are food insecure in another sense (have money … no food) right now. And if you’re TRULY food insecure … please reach out to friends and family. Or community resources such as food banks, churches, or even restaurants that have mobilized to provide food. I just found one in my area … goodfoodla.com. I’m sure there’s one in yours.
At home, please follow these guidelines I look for in all of my facilities … you don’t want to get food poisoning and end up in the ER for eight hours (my last experience … now it may be much more). Which kinda defeats the purpose of being a Shut-In.
The whole idea here is to keep all foods out of the “danger zone” … between 41 and 135° … where bacteria grow rapidly. That means that you thaw foods safely, cook foods to proper temperatures, and cool them down fast to keep out of those temperatures. And don’t cross-contaminate or eat foods that look funky or are expired.
- Thawing and Cooking Meat. You want to thaw meat in the fridge or completely submerged under running water. Don’t thaw on the countertop. When you cook them, the final temperature should be 165° for chicken (salmonella y’know) and 145° for pork and beef. Instant-read thermometers are less than $10 on Amazon if you don’t already have one.
- Storing Meat and other Cooked Items. Cool down things rapidly by immersing pans of food in ice baths or cutting leftover cooked roasts and such into smaller pieces to about 70°. Then refrigerate in tightly-closed containers or plastic bags. And throw out or freeze after 3 or 4 days. Same goes for stored foods you don’t have to cook.
- Canned Foods. Pitch dented cans (they may have leaks). If you have to eat expired foods because you have nothing else, use your best judgement. But pitch them too if they smell weird, have mold, or taste bad. ‘Nuf said.
- Cross-Contamination. Don’t cut up raw chicken or other meat on the same board that you use for vegetables. Unless you wash and sanitize well (and who does that?) or run through the dishwasher. Also … don’t use the same knives to cut both (again … wash and sanitize well). And wash your hands regularly (have you heard that enough?)
OK … I’m sure there are many more ideas out there. But be creative and hunt them down. You have time now.
Promise yourself you won’t go BAT-SH*T crazy. And … whatever you do … STAY SAFE AND HEALTHY!